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Herbal Flavored Vinegars

By Lynnette de Sandovald del Valle de los Unicornios

Herbal vinegars add a special “tang” to your cooking. They can be used for salad dressings, marinades, steaming vegetables (add a little to the water for a subtle taste difference) and anywhere you would use plain vinegar.

Herbal vinegars are easy to make: add fresh herbs (or other flavorings) to the vinegar and heat it so that the herb’s oils are released to combine with and flavor the vinegar. Herbal vinegars are as much about looks as they are about taste, think vertical: stand stocks of herbs upright in the bottle, wind citrus peels around a bamboo stick, use whole (eatable) flowers instead of petals, the visual effects are wonderful!

Ingredients

Vinegar:

There are many types of vinegar commercially available. None is more “right” as a base for your flavored vinegar than others.

There are more — again — experiment. If it doesn’t taste good, maybe it will make a good face or hair rinse!

Flavorings:

The possibilities are endless, try bouquet garni recipes or your favorite herbs and spices. Don’t forget: citrus peels, onions, garlic, peppercorns, rose petals, marigolds, sugar (sweet mint vinegar for lamb!), and fruits (strawberry vinegar!).

Again, fresh herbs are best—but if you are using dried herbs, use one of the cooking methods described below and strain them out before bottling (I’ve had the best luck with using the crockpot method with dried herbs).

Hints and Tips

Wine vinegar substitute: If you can’t find red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar you can fake it by adding 1 cup of wine to 4 cups of vinegar.

Garlic: Unless specified in the directions, use whole garlic in vinegars -- contact with garlic juice will cause vinegar to become cloudy.

Pans and Containers: Vinegar and reactive metals do NOT mix. Cook vinegar in stainless steel, glass, or enamel pans. Do not use a metal cap to close the bottle, use plastic or a cork.

Dried Herbs: Dried and fresh herbs can be substituted for each other. But remember that the oil (flavor) is more concentrated in dried herbs and spices than in fresh, a rule of thumb equivalent is:
    1/4 Teaspoon dried, finely powdered =
    3/4 to 1 Teaspoon dried, crumbled =
    1 1/2 Teaspoon fresh chopped

Preparation methods

Traditional:

Bottle the ingredients and the vinegar and place in the sun for 3-6 weeks, until the flavor has reached its peak.

Stovetop:

Combine 1/2 of the vinegar and 1/2 of the flavorings in a stainless steel, enamel, or glass pan (remember no reactive metal) and SIMMER for 10 to 20 minutes (boiling will cause the vinegar to break down). Remove from heat and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes more, then remove the flavorings.

Divide the remaining ingredients between the bottles and fill them 1/2 way with the cooked vinegar and 1/2 way with fresh vinegar. Adjust the flavor by adding more or less of the unflavored vinegar, but remember that the fresh ingredients will continue to flavor the bottled mixture. Cap and store in a cool, dark place. Taste in a couple of weeks and adjust flavor if necessary.

Crock pots:

Combine 1/2 of the vinegar and 1/2 of the flavorings in the crock pot cook on the highest setting for 2 to 6 hours, taste as you go to determine when to stop cooking. Let it cool and then remove the flavorings. If you use dried herbs, package them in cheesecloth (see Bouquet Garni instructions) for easy retrieval-use several small packages rather than 1 large one.

Divide the remaining ingredients between the bottles and fill them 1/2 way with the cooked vinegar and 1/2 way with fresh vinegar. Adjust the flavor by adding more or less of the unflavored vinegar, but remember that the fresh ingredients will continue to flavor the bottled mixture. Cap and store in a cool, dark place. Taste in a couple of weeks and adjust if necessary.

Storage:

Bottles for herbal vinegar can be anything from old wine bottles to store bought, cut glass fancies and anything in between. However, vinegar reacts badly to metal so use plastic caps, corks or lined lids.

Herbal vinegars made with distilled vinegar last 3-6 years while wine vinegar last 6 months to 2 years, depending on the storage method.

Vinegar kept in the refrigerator will last longer than vinegar displayed in the window or other sunny spot.

Discoloration or cloudiness means the vinegar is starting to break down and will probably go bad in the next year.


Herbal Vinegars Recipes

Cinnamon-Pecan Vinegar
    1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
    12 pecan halves
    2 sticks cinnamon

Garlic Lemon Mint Vinegar
    Per one bottle of white wine vinegar:
        4 large cloves garlic (peeled)
        4 fresh mint sprigs (each about 5 inches long)
        1/4 inch wide strip of lemon peel (cut in a continuous spiral)

Lemon Mint Vinegar
    1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
    1 cup firm packed fresh mint leaves, washed and dried
    2 large strips lemon peel

Orange and Rosemary Vinegar
    2 fresh rosemary sprigs
    1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
    3 orange zest strips (the orange part of the peel WITHOUT the white pith), each 2 inches by 1 inch.

    Combine with olive oil for fresh greens or vegetables.

Nasturtium Vinegar
    1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
    3 nasturtium blossoms

Marigold Vinegar
    1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
    3 marigold blossoms

Onion Garlic Vinegar
    1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
    1 garlic clove, peeled, quartered
    3 onion slices (a medium sized onion -- 1/8 inch thick)

Peppery Basil Vinegar
    1 1/4 cups white or red wine vinegar
    2 or 3 long springs of fresh basil
    10 black peppercorn

Spiced Cider Vinegar
    3 cups of cider vinegar
    3 leaves fresh basil
    6 sprigs fresh thyme
    1 sprig fresh sage
    1 sprig fresh oregano
    1 bay leaf
    1 clove garlic
    1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
    1 clove


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Lynnette (Debbie)   |   Unicorn Fiber Arts   |   Timotheus (Tim)

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