A couple of months ago, I had this brilliant idea: pumpkin shrubs. I wrote it down in my little Evernote list, and kept it in the back of my mind, just waiting for it to be pumpkin season.
"I'll use apple cider vinegar and turbinado sugar, to give it even more fall-ish flavor. I'm so smart!" I said to myself.
Well it's finally pumpkin season, so I was pretty excited to try out this recipe I'd invented. I bought all the ingredients I needed, and then I decided to check on Pinterest. Just in case. Nope, nothing. Just a whole lot of "pumpkin scrubs." And then I googled it.
Not only is there already a recipe for a pumpkin shrub using apple cider vinegar and turbinado sugar, but it's by the guy who literally wrote the book on shrubs. So let this be a lesson to me: someone else probably thought of it first. Which is a good thing, because I hadn't been planning on roasting my pumpkin, and now having made one, that's a pretty important part of the process. So thank you, Michael Dietsch, for having done this before me.
But backing up, what exactly are shrubs? They're drinking vinegars. I know that sounds strange, but they're really good. (And super trendy right now, which is obviously our foremost concern here.) Shrubs were originally intended as a means of preserving fruit, and were especially popular during colonial times, when refrigeration wasn't an option. They almost disappeared for a while, but luckily, much like my favorite gum, they've come back in style.
To make a shrub, you combine fruit or vegetables, herbs, spices, sugar, and vinegar, and let it sit overnight, and then strain out the solids. What you're left with is a tart-but-sweet liquid that you can serve with a splash of club soda, or mix with spirits. Personally, I love drinks like sour ales, so I kept my sugar on the skimpy side, but if that's not your thing, you can always add more at the end to sweeten things up.
This recipe, tweaked slightly from the Serious Eats one, has a light sweetness from the apple cider vinegar, and a warm, round undertone from the pumpkin and spices. It does not taste like a pumpkin spice latte; it tastes like actual pumpkin.
Adapted from this recipe.
- 1 small baking pumpkin (I used a sugar pumpkin)
- 1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3-4 cardamom pods
- 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
- 2 tbsp grated ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 and place rack in center position.
Slice the top of your pumpkin off and then cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. (Save the seeds for cinnamon-sugar roasted pumpkin seeds—recipe below!) Put the pumpkin halves face down on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, or until the flesh near the top is easily pierced with a fork. Set the pumpkins aside to cool.
Once the pumpkin has cooled, scoop the flesh out into a large glass bowl. Add the sugar, vinegar, and spices, and stir to incorporate. Cover and set in the refrigerator overnight.
Place a plum-sized amount of pumpkin into a large square of cheesecloth.* Thoroughly twist and squeeze, wringing out all the juices into a separate bowl. What's left in the cheesecloth should now be about the size of a walnut. Repeat for the rest of your pumpkin.
Pour the shrub into a sealed glass container. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.
*If you're lucky enough to have a food mill or sieve, this is where you'd use it to press the liquid out of your pumpkin mixture. I'm not, so I used cheesecloth.
Roasted Cinnamon-Sugar Pumpkin Seeds
- Seeds from one small baking pumpkin
- 1-2 tbsp grapeseed oil
Preheat oven to 300.
Rinse your seeds to remove all the stringy pumpkin bits. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes to dry.
Remove the seeds from oven. In a medium bowl, combine the seeds, grapeseed oil, and cinnamon-sugar and salt to taste. Return the seeds to the oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until golden brown.