Refreshing and Versatile Summer Shrubs

Shrub: a fruit, herb and/or spice-infused syrup preserved with vinegar, sometimes referred to as a “drinking vinegar.” Commonly used in drinks, salad dressings or other additions.

I was craving a fresh shrub soda the other day, and oh my goodness I love an icy shrub on a hot summer day! Mixed with club soda and infused with fresh herbs, I am instantly refreshed and ready to tackle (most) anything the day holds.

Interestingly, drinking vinegars date back to ancient times, and Colonial sailors employed its concentrated dose of Vitamin C and antibacterial properties to prevent sickness while onboard. Derived from the Arabic word sharab, shrub concoctions have stood the test of time–and with good reason!

Surprisingly versatile, most anything can be made into a shrub: cranberries, apples, basil,
turmeric, grapefruit, rhubarb–the possibilities are truly endless. Use shrubs in cold drinks, salad dressings or glazes this summer, and you might just find yourself creating new combinations of flavors with tasty health benefits on the side. Below are 3 shrub recipes to get you started…

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Refreshing and Versatile Summer Shrubs
(Cold process)
SERVINGS
3cups (serving size, 2 oz)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cups (serving size, 2 oz)
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
15minutes
READY IN
15 minutes + 2 days

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Prep ingredients: chop fruit, slice roots, roughly chop or muddle herbs
  2. Combine shrub ingredients in a non-reactive bowl such as glass or stainless steel.
  3. Add sugar and stir to thoroughly combine. Cover and chill 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Remove from refrigerator and leave at room temperature, stirring occasionally 2-7 days. The longer the ingredients are combined, the more concentrated the flavor will be.
  5. Strain remaining solids and add vinegar. Stir to combine.
  6. To serve: Pour 2 ounces of shrub into the bottom of a glass. Layer with ice and 6 ounces of club soda or unflavored seltzer water. Add fresh mint, basil or herb of your choice. Stir to combine and enjoy!

Springtime Borscht

Recently, another Sister and I shared our borscht recipes and memories! Like any well-loved food, memories play a part in its enjoyment. Our experiences of eating borscht are different but surprisingly parallel. Sr. Monica spent two months living at a Convent in Estonia when it was still part of the USSR. She has vivid memories of being there as the coup occurred when Gorbachev was still in power. I remember it too, because I was in Poland at the time, singing with our choir, Gloriae Dei Cantores. We had no way to communicate with our Sisters in Estonia since cell phones and e-mail were unavailable to us in 1991. We relied on prayer for their safety.  Often, a particular recipe is a vehicle for comfort, even solace. We have had difficult times in the past, but we know God’s love is available to us. We offer this heartwarming recipe to you, along with our prayers for a healthy spring.

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Springtime Borscht
SERVINGS
8
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
1hour
PREP TIME
4.5hours
READY IN
5.5hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Put the meat in a crockpot with 8 cups cold water, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and 1 Tbsp salt. Set on high for 4 hours. Cook until fork tender. Remove meat and strain and reserve the broth. Set aside
  2. While the Beef is cooking, wrap beets in foil and place in a 400 degree oven—roast for 1hr. until fork tender. Cool slightly, but while they are still warm, remove the top, bottom and skin with a pairing knife (skins should come off easily if properly cooked) and either grate or julienne the beets. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large stockpot and add 4 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter and sauté onion for 2 min. Add diced potato and sauté another 5 min or until beginning to soften. Add the grated carrot, cabbage and garlic and 2 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to med/low and add the beets, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved strained broth and extra 2-3 cups beef broth. (I used' Better than Bouillon' Roasted Beef Base)
  5. Simmer and cover until vegetables are tender. Add the diced, cooked Beef and 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill. Remove from heat and leave covered until flavors meld. Add 1/4 tsp pepper (If desired), and salt to taste. Adjust flavors to taste (you may want to add a bit more vinegar or sugar)
  6. Serve warm or cold with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.

My Grandmother’s Green Tomato Mustard Relish

One of my strongest childhood memories was watching my grandmother​s​ in the kitchen preparing meals for our large family ​gatherings ​on Sunday afternoons.  Both my grandmother and my great-grandmother were influential figures in my lif​e and instilled a quiet passion ​in me for bringing your heart and soul to the table.  They would create memorable and delicious dishes ​that would cause us to want to sit at the dinner table for hours, not just minutes, and share together.  ​They were wonderful and patient teachers and, like a sponge, I would absorb their body language, their knife skills, and their innate sense of creating something out of nothing as I worked alongside them.  They were frugal, but they would never let us know it, as we sat down to a meal fit for kings.

When my great grandmother died, I inherited a few of her cookbooks.  They have her notes in them from World War I, when she was a cook for the soldiers.  They hold a place of honor on my bookshelf.  It helps me to remember what an important role food has to play both in life and in death.  I thumb through the fragile pages from time to time, half expecting to hear grandma’s voice whisper a secret direction to me.

This is among one of my grandmother​’s signature recipes–a relish made with green tomatoes.  We put our gardens to bed this past weekend and pulled up our tomatoes–​now it’s​ time to take a stroll down memory lane.​

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My Grandmother's Green Tomato Mustard Relish
SERVINGS
6-7pints
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pints
COOK TIME
30minutes
PREP TIME
1.5hours
READY IN
2hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Grind and drain for 1 hr. the first 4 ingredients (green tomatoes, green and red peppers and onions).
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients together and add the vegetables.
  3. Cook until it boils and thickens, stirring constantly.
  4. Pack in sterilized hot jars.
  5. Store in a cool, dry place.

Crisp & Crunchy Cauliflower Salad

The Sisters have so grown to love and appreciate fresh vegetables, that if occasionally we do not have a full salad bar for lunch they actually feel deprived.  Each day they look forward to new and interesting combinations of ingredients which keep the lunches from becoming dull or boring. Their enthusiasm gives incentive to the cooks to creatively come up with bright new healthy additions. One of the more popular combinations of late that has made a hit with most everyone is a crisp cauliflower creation.  It’s color appeals to the eye while it’s crunch and zesty flavor pleases the palate.

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Crisp & Crunchy Cauliflower Salad
SERVINGS
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COOK TIME
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut cauliflower in half and slice fairly thin crosswise.
  2. Slice black olives.
  3. Chop red peppers and scallions.
  4. Crumble cheese.
  5. Combine all ingredients and toss with oil and vinegar dressing.
  6. Sprinkle with parsley.
  7. This can be eaten immediately for a fresh taste or served the following day if you prefer it marinated.