Making herbal vinegars and thus preserving some of the best but most elusive flavors of summer, is one of my favorite activities. Late August into early September is the best time for this.
Favorite books for vinegar recipes:
Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Saudys
Flavored Oils and Vinegars by Ann Kleinberg
The Good Herb byJudith Benn Hurley
After buying several bottles of vinegar, ( mostly white wine vinegar ) and gathering my favorite recipes from years past and a few new ones to try out, I'm ready to pick my herbs and prepare some herbal vinegars for use throughout the winter months.
I usually use my old Mason jars to extract the flavors from the leaves, washing them first thing in the morning in the dishwasher so they will be dry when I'm ready to use them.
|Herb gathering is best done mid-morning|
A trip to the garden to get handfuls of the healthiest looking leaves for each recipe and I'm ready to go. I wash the leaves and dry them well with paper towels, then leave them under a ceiling fan for an hour or so.
Next I chop the herbs and place them in the jar, heat the vinegar( in stainless steel) just until it starts to bubble, cool it slightly, then pour it over the herbs. Once cool, I put some plastic wrap over the top and cover with the lids, find a cool, dark place and let the vinegar work its alchemy. I leave the jars for a few days to a few weeks, shaking them every day or so, making sure the herbs stay below the level of the vinegar.
|Each vinegar turns a slightly different color, depending on the herbs.|
Once I am happy with the flavor, I strain out the herbs and pour the vinegar into bottles,(often I wash and thoroughly dry the bottles the vinegar came in and use them,) label them and I'm ready for a splash of summer whenever I need it!
Some books recommend putting a fresh snippet of herb into the bottle, mostly for looks, but I don't do that because I don't like fishing it out when the vinegar level gets lower than the sprig of herb.
Here are my favorite herbal combinations, all are with white wine vinegar unless otherwise noted:
** Basil, garlic, cayenne peppers.
This has lots of kick and works well with a good olive oil to perk up a winter salad or when a soup recipe calls for vinegar.
** Garlic chives and nasturtium flowers and leaves.
More delicate than the vinegar above but with some kick. Garlic flavor is subtle.
** Cilantro, jalapeno peppers, garlic, lime peel.
This is a new one I concocted this year and I'm planning to use it to add some zip to a black bean salad or black bean soup during the winter, when cilantro and jalapenos are scarce.
** Raspberries - delicious, especially on fruit salads.
** Lemon peel, lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemon basil, lemon thyme.
This is my go-to vinegar when I need lemon and there is no lemon in my refrigerator! It always works for me.
** Fennel, mint.
This smells wonderful. It's the first time I've made this but I think it will be wonderful on a Waldorf salad or a carrot salad.
** Balsamic vinegar, rosemary, garlic.
Add some olive oil, some more garlic, black pepper and more rosemary to this vinegar and marinate chicken breasts in it for a few hours, then grill. Delicious.
** Red wine vinegar, oregano and garlic.
Good with any Italian dish, especially antipasto.
** Bonus medicinal cider vinegar : Hyssop, thyme, sage and lavender.
I also made a medicinal honey with the same herbs in it and am planning to mix the cider vinegar with the honey when I get a sore throat during the winter, which is often. (I remember my mother giving us honey and lemon by the teaspoon when we had sore throats.) These herbs are soothing to the throat and said to be expectorant. Cider vinegar is full of minerals and said to be healthful on its own, so adding herbs can only improve its medicinal qualities!
Although I store the vinegars at room temperature, I am planning to keep the honey in the refrigerator since it doesn't have the acidity of vinegar. I use all my vinegars within 8 to 10 months.
Thought for today : Making herbal vinegars in August can bring a splash of summer flavor to a cold winter night.