Strawberry Balsamic Shrub

My childhood summers had one constant; my grandparents. Although maybe not the true reality, I remember our last day of school coincided with their arrival; The Grandparents, all 4 of them (yes, both sets) ready to take on the summer in California. My Grandma Grace, oh how fitting that name was for this amazing woman; each and every summer night wandered into the kitchen with pin curls in her hair in a perfectly pressed house dress, and served herself a tablespoon of vinegar. She drank it with the flair
of pouring herself a nightcap. She passed a few years ago and was well into her 90s. Healthy as an ox until the day she died. Sturdy and strong with peaches and cream, wrinkle-free, skin. She ate fresh food all of her life. It was all that she could afford. I believe her nightly vinegar shooter, was her secret weapon.

I like vinegar, but I take mine moderated in a shrub. A shrub marries the sweetness of fruit and sugar with the acidity and brightness of vinegar; in a way that makes that little shot every night, very palatable. A shrub is typically meant to be mixed with soda water, but
it is great in cocktails too.

Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub

2 cups ripe strawberries-cleaned, hulled & sliced
1 tsp fennel pollen (optional)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 black peppercorns-slightly crushed
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Place strawberries, sugar, fennel pollen (if using), and peppercorns into a glass crock or wide-mouth jar. Allow to sit for about an hour, then macerate to break up the strawberries. Cover and allow to sit 24 hours. (i let mine sit at room temperature, but if you are concerned, it is okay to put it in the fridge). After 24 hours macerate the mixture again, aiming to crush the strawberries. You can move on to the next step, or allow to sit another 24 hours at this point. Add to the mixture the balsamic vinegar and the cider vinegar and stir well. Allow this to sit 7-9 days at room temperature, stirring daily. The sugar should eventually “melt” into the liquid. It is important that you tend to the mixture daily. After 7-9 days. Strain the mixture using a fine-mesh strainer (if you don’t mind a few bits in it) or a strainer with cheesecloth (if you do) and bottle for use. For longer shelf life, I recommend storing in the refrigerator.