Fruits

Qld fruit farmers find a new market in old-time shrub drinks | Queensland Country Life

A Stanthorpe family is improving the resilience of their farm by championing the resurgence of an old-time beverage.

The Fawdon family – Ellen, Justin, and Justin’s father, Tony – of Budburst Australia produce artisan vinegars, using handpicked whole fruit from their apricot and black plum trees.

The unique products have found favorite with fine-dining chefs, at-home cooks, and those with a taste for drinking vinegar – whether as a cordial or in ‘shrubs’, the 17th century scurvy cure now enjoying a revival with bartenders and non-drinkers alike.

Justin said the vinegars had allowed them to get the most intense flavor from their fruit while reducing risk and waste after years of adverse conditions.

“By no longer having to transport whole fruit to market, we can leave the fruit to fully ripen on the tree, letting the sugars mature to their maximum potential and bring out those old fashioned, candy-like flavors many remember from childhood,” Mr Fawdon said.

“And many ‘flaws’ that would have led to the fruit being rejected before, like slightly split skin, don’t matter now – if anything, the changes in weather that cause them actually add to the unique flavor of each batch, like climate influences wine vintages.”

Once picked, the stone fruit is left to infuse in Granite Belt vinegar for 10 weeks before being filtered by hand.

The result is a tonic that can be used to pickle and preserve, elevate salad dressings, added to water for a refreshing drink, or craft ‘shrubs’ – a simple but flavor-packed syrup or cordial made with macerated fruit, sugar and vinegar.

Shrubs have a long history of being used for flavor and health benefits in centuries gone – sailors, pioneers trekking across America or deserts, rural families and more would use the vinegar to preserve fruit and medicinal herbs.

Even when no longer driven by need, the acquired taste became a mainstay in bars and parlours, and in recent years is enjoying a resurgence in both cocktails and the low-to-no alcohol beverage trend.

The idea for the vinegars – and their potential use in shrubs – came from Ellen, with Stanthorpe’s long-lasting drought the catalyst.

The family was preparing to rip out their remaining fruit trees to make way for oregano and other hardier plants, and she was experimenting with potential oil and vinegar herb infusions.

She added fruit from the two varieties that were still producing in spite of everything – Black Amber plums and Sweet Golden apricots – and soon realized they were onto something.

“Older generations remember their parents or grandparents drinking vinegar in water after a hard days’ work …, but we’re seeing an increase in the younger crowd too,” Mrs Fawdon said.

Justin said there were still some risks with their new direction, but the flavor pay-off was worth it.

“Fruit and sugars can be hard to work with, which is why most other fruit vinegars use juice concentrates or synthetic blends rather than infusion. But then you lose the more delicate notes and sense of place and season,” he said.

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