How To Make Herbal Vinegar

CREATE YOUR OWN HERBAL VINEGARS:

Flavored vinegars are a great way to utilize herbs and flowers from your garden/farm. The finished product is inexpensive, easy to make, and preserves the flavors of summer in a manner that stores well through the long winter months. The myriad of flavors that can be obtained will become welcome additions to your favorite recipes. In addition, these vinegars are an attractive way to share your field’s bounty with others.  Herbal vinegars are healthy alternatives for recipes, adding flavor without adding salt, fat, or significant calories.

VINEGAR TYPES: Just about any vinegar can be used for making herbal mixtures. You need to find a vinegar that you like and use it as a basis for the flavoring you’ll make using the herbs and spices.  Don’t use something so strong that it will overpower the taste of the herb mix.

Champagne vinegar: Made from dry white wine and outstanding for flavoring with milder herbs, fruit and flowers.

Cider vinegar: You can find this about anywhere.  It’s made from cider that’s been aged about 6 months and is best used for medium to stronger flavored herb/spice mixes.

Malt vinegar: This vinegar for some reason is hard to find in some areas but is usually on the shelves of specialty stores. It’s made from barley and grain mash that’s been heated and fermented pretty much the same as beer and then combined with wood shavings to mature.  It’s often colored with caramel and it has a somewhat heavier taste that works well with pickles or in a relish and can be mixed with some mustards for a pleasant taste sensation. A national restaurant chain serves this type vinegar with their fish n chips and it adds a great flavor to the fish.

Rice vinegar: Made from rice wine.  Because of its mild sweet taste, it is well suited for flavoring with delicate herbs and flowers.

Wine vinegars: The lighter white wine vinegars go naturally with the lighter herbs and the heavier reds with the more zesty herbs with the rose’s falling somewhere in between. The darker the wine being used the heavier the flavor.

Distilled vinegar: Although this is the more readily available, it’s not exactly the best for making herbal flavored vinegars.  It’s quite harsh and has a serious bite to it that overcomes most herb/spice mixes. This is the same type vinegar used for commercial pickles.

Which herbs you use is a personal choice depending on what flavors you want for your vinegar mixes. Many herbs are easy-to-grow annuals that can be direct-seeded when the danger of frost is past.

Annual varieties used for flavorings are:

• Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Sweet Marjoram, and Savory.

Perennial herbs are generally much slower growing the first year and the best way to get these started is by transplants and include:

• Mint, Chives, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, and Thyme.

About anything you grow in your garden that has a use as a cooking or flavoring can be added to your vinegar:

Hot peppers, garlic, shallots, mints, flowers like nasturtiums and Chive are just a few examples. Many of these work well as a mix for salads too. For example, adding nasturtium, which has a mild peppery taste, to a salad makes for a pleasant taste treat.

See tips for harvesting in the herb section of our catalog.

Utensils:

• Equipment required for combining the fresh or dried herb materials with the vinegar base is pretty much the same used for canning veggies etc.  Wide mouth containers with lids suitable for steeping combinations of ingredients from 1 week to 1 month are a must.  These can be glass, porcelain, or enamel-coated steel.

Important note: If using jars with metal lids, plastic wrap or wax paper is required to isolate the lids from the vinegar to prevent rust.

Stainless steel pots are about the only types that should be used to heat or store the vinegars. Aluminum, cast iron, or uncoated steel should not be used because the acid in the vinegar causes rapid rust or corrosion.

• A second set of bottles or jars will be needed for storing the finished product.  These need to be glass or ceramic with a plastic or cork top to tightly seal the contents.

• Funnels are needed, as well as a selection of cheesecloth, coffee filters, or muslin to strain out the sediment when steeping is finished. The wide mouth type funnel that comes with many canning sets works great for this.

Steeping:

Not using enough herbs is the biggest mistake most people make when flavoring vinegars. A good rule of thumb for most recipes is 1 cup of fresh herb leaves or ½ cup of dried leaves for every 2 cups of vinegar used.

Gather fresh material when the dew has dried. Wash to remove dirt and insects and then dry the herbs carefully on screens or with paper towels.

The herb materials should be placed in a sterile jar using a wooden spoon for pushing the herbs into the jar so you do not bruise the leaves before the jar is filled with the chosen vinegar. Tightly cap the jar and allow it to steep in a dark place at room temperature for a week. The jars should be shaken occasionally during this time. If the flavor is not strong enough after one week, wait another week and taste again. If it’s necessary, the steeping process can be repeated again using fresh herbs to increase the flavor even more.

Bottling:

When the flavoring is to your taste, use a funnel and a triple layer of cheesecloth, muslin, or a coffee filter to strain the vinegar into the sterilized finishing bottles. These can be capped tightly or sealed with a cork and wax and will keep up to a year in a cool, dark place. A fresh sample of the flavoring materials can be placed in the finished bottle for decoration prior to filling.

Checklist for Success

1. Clean all bottles and equipment thoroughly—use non-reactive materials such as glass, porcelain, stainless, or enamel-coated metal.

2. Choose vinegar types that best compliment flavoring ingredients.

3. Use enough flavoring materials: 1 cup fresh or ½ cup dried herbs per 2 cups vinegar.

4. Steep materials at room temperature in covered jars, shaking occasionally until flavor develops—1 to 4 weeks.

5. Filter vinegar to remove sediment, rebottle with fresh sample of herb if desired and store in a cool, dark place.

6. Add flavored vinegars to your favorite recipes and share them with friends.

Herbal/vinegar combinations.

Apple Cider Vinegar:

• Dill, Bay, and Garlic

• Horseradish, Shallot, and Hot Red Pepper

• Dill, Mustard seeds, Lemon Balm, and Garlic

• Tarragon, Chives, Lemon Balm, Shallots, and Garlic

Champagne Vinegar:

• Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Thyme, Lemongrass, and Lemon Zest

Malt Vinegar:

• Tarragon, Garlic Chives, Whole Cloves, Garlic, or Shallot

Red Wine Vinegar:

• Thyme, Rosemary, Hyssop, Fennel, Oregano, and Garlic

• Rosemary, Savory, Sage, Basil, Bay, and Garlic

• Cilantro, Sage, Rosemary, Bay, and Hot Red Pepper

• Sage, Parsley, and Shallots

• Burnet, Borage, and Dill

• Marjoram, Burnet, and Lemon Balm

Sherry Vinegar:

• Basil, Rosemary, Tarragon, Dill, Sorrel, Mint, Chives, and Garlic

• Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, and Bay

• Rosemary, Oregano, Sage, Basil, Parsley, Garlic, and Black Peppercorns

White Wine Vinegar:

• Basil, Parsley, Fennel, and Garlic

• Dill, Basil, Tarragon, and Lemon Balm

• Oregano, Cilantro, Garlic, and Hot Red Pepper

• Mint, Lemon Balm, and Lemon Basil

• Marjoram, Burnet, Thyme, Tarragon, Parsley, and Chives

• Tarragon, Anise Hyssop, Hyssop, and Lemon Balm

• Savory, Tarragon, Chervil, Basil, and Chives

FLORAL VINEGAR COMBINATIONS

Apple Cider Vinegar:

• Nasturtium flowers and leaves, Shallot, Garlic, and Hot Red Pepper

• Nasturtium, Garlic Chives, and Dill flowers

Champagne Vinegar:

• Rose Flowers and Lemon Balm leaves

Red Wine Vinegar:

• Lovage, Oregano, Marjoram, and Basil flowers

• Nasturtium flowers and Leaves, Shallot, Garlic, and Hot Red Pepper

Rice Vinegar:

• Calendula, Lemon Thyme, Lemon Basil flowers, and Lemon Zest

White Wine Vinegar:

• Chive and Garlic Chive flowers

• Borage and Burnet flowers

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