Photo: Claire Lower
I’m not a big baker, so my favorite methods, “use upOne or two flat berries usually include the meal unbeaten cream or spread their juices with a whole bunch of sugar and then make them a bush (also known as “drinking vinegar”) made from this vividly coated syrup.
I usually use a ratio of 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of vinegar for every pound of fruit, but yesterday I added a pinch of salt to my Hood strawberry bush and found it instantly improved. It’s not that the shrub was displeasing in its unsalted state. It was everything it was supposed to be – very sour and very sweet, fantastic when diluted with a large glass of cold seltzer (or sparkling wine that I enjoyed yesterday afternoon).
This pinch of salt did not diminish the berry sweetness of the shrub or its sourish brightness. It just did what salt does best: it softened sugar’s stickier properties and soothed some of the vinegar’s pungent, sour bite, which brought the strawberry – which is the star, after all – to the fore.
The only thing that surprises me is that I didn’t think of doing it sooner. Adding salt to drinks– especially in the summer months – is a time-honored practice here at Lifehacker. Salt is the great flavor rounder, the powerful contrasting agent – salt brings out the best in foods by making them taste like themselves.
The amount of salt your shrub needs depends on the particular fruit and the amount of vinegar you add. I always start with a pound of berries, mix it with 2 cups of sugar (in this case 1 cup white and 1 cup brown), let it sit for a few days, then strain and measure out the syrupy juices. I then pour in about half that amount of vinegar, taste it, and add more if needed. Now, once I’ve adjusted the acidity, I add a pinch of salt, stir, taste, and repeat until the shrub tastes better, but not exactly salty. If that sounds vague, don’t fret. You will know when you hit that “better but not salty” point because you will find yourself reaching for the seltzer (or sparkling wine, depending on the time of day).
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