I recently started listening to Evan Kleiman's podcast of her radio show Good Food on Los Angeles' KCRW and I'm loving it. On the 1/7/2009 episode, she and her guest Toby Cecchini discuss drinking vinegars. He mentions a Thai restaurant in Portland called Pok Pok that serves up a selection of them; and he calls his first one "the first adult-tasting, non-alcoholic beverage I had ever had."
Toby wrote an article about it in the NY Times last November that can be found here. He details making "shrubs" using fruit and unpasteurized, unfiltered commercial vinegar to start it - like the commonly found brand Bragg.
You begin making a shrub by (1) macerating fruit, (2) adding the vinegar, and (3) storing covered at room temperature for a week. The top to your container must allow oxygen in, but keep bugs out. People often use cheesecloth or muslin. The dominant genus in these vinegars are acetobacters which need oxygen to work their magic. Wait a week.
After a week is up, (4) add sugar. Toby doesn't go into how much sugar to add, so we'll assume that the amount is just to your liking - then (5) boil. The boil freezes the shrub's acidity where it is at; by boiling it, you are killing off anything that would continue to grow and change the shrub over time. (6) Strain it and (7) bottle it. He says you can keep the shrub in the fridge for months.
In the article, Toby also goes into the results of using different fruit, raspberry, blueberries, black currant, and sour-cherry. I'm not sure what I'm going to try first, I'll go to the store and let the fruit recruit me.
Keep you posted...
- Dave Koch