Homemade herb vinegars

Make your own herb vinegar

Herb vinegars are only as good as the vinegar you use.
Herb vinegars are only as good as the vinegar you use. | Source

Chive herb vinegar

Chive blooms will be covered with a mild wine venegar. Chives will tint the vinegar pink and flavor it with a mild onion taste.
Chive blooms will be covered with a mild wine venegar. Chives will tint the vinegar pink and flavor it with a mild onion taste. | Source

Introduction

Once you start making your own herb vinegar, it will be a staple in your kitchen. When friends discover your herbal concoctions, your culinary skills will be in demand.

There are several ways to make a tasty herb vinegar. Fruit flavors and herb combinations are limitless. My favorites are lemon tarragon and raspberry rosemary. (lemon, tarragon vinaigrette that may lead to spontaneous applause, and raspberry, rosemary vinegar becomes the perfect glaze for a roasted meat dishes and dressing for winter salads.

It can take from two weeks to six months to create a mixed herb vinegar. Make a good herb vinegar in two or three weeks. To make a richer, more complex flavor, the process can stretch through the entire growing season.

The two weeks, two weeks, two weeks method

Traditionally, herb vinegar making season begins when the earliest herb, chives, are in full bloom. The process to make a simple chive vinegar takes two weeks. Then, remove the used-up chive blossoms from the pink vinegar, strain and store in a cool dark place until the next herbs are in full growth.

Keep adding more herbs to the chive-flavored vinegar. Each herb addition follows the same process. Infuse herb for two weeks, remove the spent herbs, strain, store. By the end of the growing season, this mixed herb vinegar will truly have layers of flavor.

Only two Ingredients

Combine a variety of basils for a richer flavor. Pictured here, white wine vinegar, Profuma di Genova and Salad Leaf basil and the jar on the right: white wine vinegar with red Rubin and purple opal basil.
Combine a variety of basils for a richer flavor. Pictured here, white wine vinegar, Profuma di Genova and Salad Leaf basil and the jar on the right: white wine vinegar with red Rubin and purple opal basil. | Source

Choosing herbs

Most recipes for herb vinegar call for a few herb sprigs or maybe a cup or so of fresh herbs. If you have an established herb garden, take advantage of your good fortune and use lots of herbs. Try loosely packing lots of mixed herbs in the jar for a deeper, richer flavor much sooner.

Fruit flavored vinegars, use 1 cup or 1 ½ cups of fruit. Some of the most popular choices raspberry, blueberry and peach herb vinegars. It's certainly OK to combine fruit and herbs. For example, try tarragon and blueberry wine vinegar.

Classic mixed herb combinations

Herbes de Provence - rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, tarragon, dill weed, oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram.

Bouquet Garni - savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill weed, marjoram, sage and tarragon.

Fines Herbes - chervil, parsley, chives and tarragon. An early spring herb vinegar combination that makes a light and delicious salad dressing over delicate lettuces and radishs.

Spring salad bowl choices.

Use original or recycled bottles

Thyme flavored apple cider vinegar is garnished with a fresh sprig of thyme.  Rosemary and white wine vinegar is decorated with fresh rosemary.
Thyme flavored apple cider vinegar is garnished with a fresh sprig of thyme. Rosemary and white wine vinegar is decorated with fresh rosemary. | Source

Choosing vinegars

Vinegar Varieties

  • Red and white wine vinegars are used extensively in salad dressings, glazes and marinades. Choose white wine vinegars or champagne vinegars with chicken or fish. They make a good salad dressing for light early greens, chicken salad, steamed fish. A richer or heartier red wine vinegar can stand up to cooking and sauces for beef, pork or game. Excellent for braises, vegetables and salads.
  • Apple cider vinegar is a common vinegar and a good choice for your first few creations with herb vinegars. Cider vinegar serves as an all purpose salad dressing and marinade. Recipes like cole slaw, and salads such as potato, 3 bean, or broccoli and cauliflower. Using an herb vinegar adds another subtle level of flavor to your favorite recipes.
  • Rice wine vinegar is very mild, with less acidity than other vinegars. It's often used in Asian or Chinese recipes. Perfect for Napa cabbage slaw, cold or light dishes. Rice wine vinegar is popular in Asian cooking.
  • Malt vinegar, of fish and chips fame, is a richly flavored brown colored vinegar used in British cuisine.
  • Beer vinegar is most often found in Germany, Austria, Bavaria, and the Netherlands,
  • cane vinegar is used in the Philippines.
  • Coconut vinegars are preferred in southeast Asian foods.
  • Mild, light brown raisin vinegar is used in Middle Eastern cuisines.
  • Plain distilled vinegar or white vinegar is made from grain alcohol and has a very sharp taste.

Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to a scant cup of milk to make a buttermilk substitute. Clean your coffee pot or counter tops with it. It makes a great window and mirror cleaner.

White distilled vinegar is a weed killer, perfect for controlling grass in sidewalk cracks. I buy white vinegar by the gallon, to use in dozens of ways but, not for culinary purposes.

  • Balsamic vinegar is aged, sometimes for decades. Inexpensive vinegars are aged for shorter periods.

The more expensive Balsamic vinegars are used sparingly. Ideal as an accent, a garnish or to finish a recipe. Often used as a drizzle over fruit or cheese. Rare and expensive balsamic vinegars may be aged for 100 years.

A balsamic vinegar is already rich and complex having aged in wooden casks such as oak, cherry, juniper.

All vinegar is produced by the oxidization of alcohol into acetic acid. Most vinegar is 5%. Vinegars should be stored tightly closed in a cool, dark place, which is the same recommendation for all of your homemade herb vinegars.

Choosing containers, labels, tags

Bottles can be the biggest cost in making herb vinegars. So always be looking. Don't overlook dollar stores, garage sales, kitchen supply stores. There's plenty of time for looking for the perfect bottle or gift container. Bottling and labeling will be a final step.

You can find templates for free labels by doing a search on line. If you are giving a lot of bottles as gifts, it may be worth the splurge for preprinted labels.

Fliter for sparkle

Fltering herb vinegar using coffee filters will produce a clear, sparkling product.
Fltering herb vinegar using coffee filters will produce a clear, sparkling product. | Source

How to make herb vinegar

Recipe for herb vinegar

Place about 1 cup of fresh herbs (basil, tarragon, or thyme, for example) in a clean quart jar. Warm vinegar just to the boiling point, pour it over the herbs. Fill the jar to the top. Seal with a non corrosive lid or cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap, using rubber bands to secure the plastic wrap over the top of the container.

Store in a cool, dark place for at least three weeks for the fullest flavor. Strain the vinegar using coffee filters or cheesecloth. Pour into 2 pint bottles. Seal. Use a single herb or fruit in cider vinegar or wine vinegar. Herb vinegar is only as good as the vinegar you select.

If you are making a gourmet product, splurge on the best quality vinegar you can afford. If the herb vinegar is mostly for decoration or display, use inexpensive white vinegar. Try combinations of different herbs in other vinegars.

Here are a few combos to get you started:

First, choose a vinegar: cider vinegar or red or white wine vinegar.

Try white wine vinegar with tarragon, basil, and peeled shallots.

Combine red wine vinegar with dried chilies, sage, cracked pepper corns.

My signature blends - Mix herb combinations to create your own signature blend: I like tarragon and thyme. Tarragon can be overpowering with milder herbs; just a sprig of tarragon in a cup of mixed thymes is sufficient.

Raspberries and Champagne - Another favorite: Pour warmed champagne vinegar over a cup of red raspberries. Let it steep, like you do any herb vinegar for about two weeks. Discard the raspberries and strain the cloudy vinegar until it is clear and sparkling before bottling.

Sun Brewed Herb Vinegar - Pour white wine vinegar over herbs in a jar, seal with a non corrosive lid and let the vinegar sit for two weeks in the sun. The part sun, part shade of the patio works just fine.

Making Tarragon Vinegar.

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