Cherry Shrub with Black Pepper and Vanilla

An old-fashioned method of fruit preservation yields a tangy, fruity syrup that can be added to soda water, cocktails, and more.

Cherry Shrub with Black Pepper and Vanilla

A shrub isn't just a bush you might find in your front yard -- it's also a method of fruit preservation that has existed in various forms since the 15th century, and is making a big comeback today. A shrub uses vinegar and sugar to preserve the flavor of fresh fruit, creating a refreshing syrup that is both sweet and tart, and can be infused with various other flavors to enhance the original taste of the fruit.

This version takes advantage of cherry season by combining fresh cherries with vanilla and black pepper, which bring out the dark, juicy flavor of the fruit while adding spice and depth. Stir a few tablespoons into sparkling water to make your own soda (with much less sugar than a storebought version!), use the shrub in a cocktail, add it to a salad dressing, or even use it in a meat marinade. It'll keep in the fridge for up to six months, so you can enjoy the flavor of cherries far past the end of their season.

Spices used in this recipe

Vanilla Extract
Peppercorns, Black



  1. If using fresh cherries, pit and halve fruit, and measure 1 lb. of roughly chopped cherries. If using frozen, pitted cherries, roughly chop and measure out 1 lb. of cherries.
  2. In a non-reactive saucepan, combine sugar and water and heat over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add cherries and black peppercorns and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the syrup has taken on the color of the cherries, and the fruit is beginning to lose its shape.
  3. Stir in the vinegar and vanilla extract and bring back to a low simmer. Remove from heat once the mixture begins to simmer, and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl or other container. Reserve fruit to serve over ice cream, to use in baking projects, or to throw into the dehydrator, if you have such a gadget on hand. Pour the syrup into a jar or other container and store in the fridge. Add to sparkling water, cocktails, sparkling wine, dressings, marinades, or anything else that could use a punch of fruity, vinegary flavor. Will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Makes around 3 cups of shrub.


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