Along the Grapevine


Out with the Old, in with the Fermented

At this point in the holidays, some of us are looking for ways to render our indulgences somewhat healthful. These two shrubs are made with fermented ginger and apple. The ginger could be replaced with a dry ginger ale or better yet a ginger beer, but that would take the shrub out of it, which is the really healthful part. Likewise, the apple version could be made with cider vinegar. It is also worth noting that you could omit the alcohol, and that would be very healthful, but not to everyone’s taste.

Shrubs are usually made with vinegar and some kind of fruit syrup. They are delicious and definitely worth trying, but I find that using the liquids from fermented fruits are even better than the vinegar, and of course offer all the probiotics therein. If you have never fermented fruit before, this is a good reason to start. These are just two of my most favourites.

I have described the method for fermenting fruit scraps in the part on scrap vinegar in this post, and how to make the ginger ferment, called a bug, in this post.

These measurements each make one cocktail.

Cocktail #1: Apple Bourbon Shrub

1 part liquid from fermented apples

1 part bourbon

3 parts soda water

a splash of bitters (I used rhubarb bitter)DSC03333.JPG

Cocktail #2: Moscow Mule Shrub

2 ounces liquid from fermented ginger

3 ounces  soda water

1.5 ounces vodka

1 tsp lime juice

1 tsp maple syrup (or to taste)


As a Happy New Year greeting to all, I share this “Canadian Gothic” picture made with some of this glorious white stuff recently besnowed on us along with a few foraged bits and pieces.DSC03318.JPGLinked to: Fiesta Friday #152



Dark Spruce Honey Nougat


Here is another sweet treat for the holidays – a dark honey nougat flavoured with preserved spruce tips. I have written about foraging for pine or spruce needles, both in the winter and the summer. My favourite in the winter are white pine as written in this post because they are so easy to identify. My other favourites for cooking are the spruce tips collected in early spring which I preserve in either salt or sugar, a 1:1 ratio as described here.

I should add here that soon after I made this sweet preserve, I read somewhere that it was better just to salt them, as for some reason they taste bitter when mixed with sugar. Luckily I didn’t chuck them or use them for a while, and the next time I tasted them, they were perfectly sweet – so it is a question of giving them time to age in the sugar.

Always on the lookout for ways to use these preserves I was delighted to find this recipe from Gather Victoria for a Grand Fir Dark Nougat. Being on the west coast their evergreens are different from ours, but I saw no reason not to use my own, and wherever you live, as long as there are some sorts of edible evergreens, you might want to experiment with them. And if you are wary of making your own sweets, this one is a super easy one to start with you will be amazed at the difference of flavour from the store bought ones.

I had to alter her recipe just a bit, as I already had my spruce preserved in sugar, so I mixed some of the sugar with the honey.

Dark Spruce Honey Nougat

1 cup honey

1/2 cup spruce tips in sugar

2 cups roasted almonds (or hazelnuts)

a little butter

Mix and heat the sugar and honey stirring often. While this is cooking, roast the nuts in a pan on medium high heat. When the syrup reaches the hard ball stage, or 235 degrees F., add the roasted nuts and stir. Pour it into a buttered pan 50-60 square inches – any shape. Allow to cool and cut into squares.

As suggested by Gather Victoria, I served it with a light nougat, in the case my maple walnut nougat.


It is quite soft and toffee like, and I recommend you don’t pile them up as they do have a tendency to stick, but can be separated with a sharp knife if need be.


Linked to: Fiesta Friday; Caroline’s Cooking and Iwanttobeacook.