“Assume Nothing!” A mantra for The Crown as we worked towards opening our doors in March of 2019, the phrase became a Menu section, encouraging our visitors to drop their preconceptions and be open to new and delicious experiences. And now it’s the title of a recipe series, for you to recreate at home. Here’s to a year of assuming nothing!
Fennel & Blood Orange Soda
A citrusy shrub soda with a hint of fresh fennel.
- 2 Fennel Bulbs
- 8 Blood Oranges
- 500g Sugar
- 500g White Wine Vinegar
Wash and dry the oranges and fennel. Remove as much of the pith from the oranges as possible, as it will make the shrub more bitter. Cut the oranges into roughly bite size pieces. The more fruit meat is exposed (meaning, the thinner you slice) the more opportunity there is for the sugar and vinegar to interact with it!
Place the chopped oranges and fennel bulbs in a non-reactive sealed container, and cover with 500g sugar. Toss to coat evenly. Add 500g of white wine vinegar to the sugar/fruit mixture, and stir the mixture gently to mix all the elements. Place the whole mixture into the fridge to rest for at least two weeks, stirring every few days to ensure all the fruit is fully submerged and evenly exposed to vinegar.
After two weeks, use a metal strainer lined with a cheesecloth to strain out the fruit solids. Return the resulting syrup to the fridge and let rest for at least another 2 weeks before serving. One of the most important ingredients for a good shrub is time: time for a fermentation to take place between the fruit, sugar, and vinegar, and then even more time to let these flavors rest and meld together after fermentation has been halted. A good shrub usually takes about 4 weeks, but adding a few weeks to this wouldn’t do anything but help.
Store in sanitized containers in the fridge, and it will keep for at least 3 months. Add to sparkling or still water at a 1:16 ratio for a refreshing drink, or add to a cocktail or mocktail for extra kick. And don’t forget – any shrub can be cooked down into a gastrique, a heavy, syrupy sauce that may be the perfect complement to your next meal.
At the Crown, we love citrus. If you’ve been reading along with us, you may have gathered that already. The oleo saccharum we use for our espresso backs is our signature, and we always keep the stuff on hand. As far as fruit use goes, oleo is not the most efficient. After peeling the outermost layer of zest, we are left with dozens of pounds of whole oranges or lemons that need to be put to good use.
This is where shrubs come in. Using just the meat of the fruit, some sugar and vinegar, and additional flavors you have on hand, we can make gallons of delicious and refreshing shrubs. This recipe was made in late summer, when both fennel and citrus are in full swing. Fennel is not native to California, but it seems to grow everywhere and makes for a great counterpoint to the juiciness of the blood orange.