Remember last year when I attended Food Blog South? I walked away from that experience with a few new friends and a number of key learnings...
...not the least of which was a new appreciation for the life of a food trend courtsey of the super-savvy Kara Neilsen of The Center for Culinary Development and Innovation. Kara is a "trendologist" and literally makes a career out of being in the know when it comes to food trends. One of the trends she shared during her session was the growing (re)appreciation for "shrubs".
For those of you - like me - who thought shrubs were only those bushy plants that adorn your garden, pay attention. A shrub is a colonial age drink, composed mostly of vinegar, and it's experiencing a revival among high-end barkeeps everywhere. When we were initially handed a small taste of "shrub" in Kara's session, I thought "no way." I'm a fairly adventerous drinker & eater, but drinking vinegar?
I was shocked at how pleasing it was. More than just the red wine vinegar variety you toss in a salad dressing, the one Kara served had been at some point muddled with fruit and allowed to sweeten. It was so appealing. And legacy holds that one of the many reasons it was enjoyed so abundantly in years past was because of the digestive aid drinking vinegar provides.
And that brings us to this month's ReDux - fermented foods.
Fermented foods are - in my opinion - to your digestive system, what a good moisturizer is to your face. You need it every day and you need it because it helps to foster the type of gut integrity that many experts believe helps with everything from digestion, to nutrient absorption and possibly even allergy alleviation.
Fermented foods have achieved a certain mainstream appeal these days that wasn't there 10 years ago. The popularity of foods like kimchee, kefir, kombucha and of course Greek & Greek-style yogurt is hard to argue. And while vinegar may not be your first thought, don't overlook it as a mainstay in your kitchen that warrants a new role.
Let me add, though, that much like the first time you try, for instance, plain, unflavored yogurt, the taste of this drink isn't run of the mill. Would you pound down three or four of these during happy hour? I hope not for many reasons, but I suspect the answer is "not likely." With a tug of war between sweet and savory, this is a drink to be savored and appreciated for its unique heritage and apéritif appeal
I really hope you'll give this and all of the other fermented food creations from other ReDux members a try. Your tummy will thank you.
Southern Gimlet Shrub
Ingredients (1 to 2 drinks)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stalk celery, cut into ½" pieces, plus shaved celery to garnish
- 1 1/2 ounces gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
- 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 ounce cocktail-ready agave nectar (I used Tres Agaves)
- 1/2 ounce white wine vinegar
- 1/2 ounce okra pickling juice
- Pickled okra to garnish
Muddle celery with salt in cocktail shaker until as much juice is released as possible. Fill shaker with ice and add gin, lime juice, agave, vinegar, and pickling juice. Shake, then strain over fresh ice to serve. Garnish with shaved celery & pickled okra.