Walking out into the garden, the aroma of basil, oregano, rosemary, dill, thyme and sage still linger in the air. Despite the lateness in the season, gardeners can use an array of leaves and flowers, singularly or in a combination of an infused vinegar. The process is easy. With experience, you can learn how to tweak great recipes to emphasize your favorite flavors. The acidic property serves more than a teaspoon a day to ease hunger pains or flavoring to soups, marinades, sauces and salad dressings; think about a multi-functioning vinegar that can serve medical, cosmetic and even cleaning purposes. You can save a substantial amount of money by creating an herbal salad spritz to lower cholesterol or a hair rinse, an antiseptic skin toner, a disinfectant and much more!
The Varieties of Vinegar
Consider selecting a vinegar that will impact the taste of your finished infusion. Apple cider vinegar is a popular option for most botanical infusions, especially sage; yet, consider trying a balsamic vinegar if using tarragon, rosemary or basil. Stepping outside the herbal comfort zone, consider recipes or dabbling with berries and small fruits, such as strawberries, elderberries, blueberries and peaches. Take time to further research combinations and types of vinegars. Begin by making small, trial batches first to perfect your infusion!
When choosing herbs, consider the following advice: Fresh herbs impart the best flavor, while dried herbs maintain their color and shape.
- Begin by selecting the healthiest leaves, discarding any with signs of yellowing, wilting or disease. Rinse small handfuls in cold, running water to remove dirt and debris. Pat dry. (An essential step to ensure leaves don’t form bacteria growth.)
- Chop leaves to increase the flavoring. (Use three tablespoons of crushed seeds, one cup fresh herbs or a fourth of a cup dried herbs (moisten first in hot water) per one quart of red or white wine vinegar. Do not use distilled vinegar.
- If using seeds and spice, heat with vinegar, without arriving at a boil, for 10 minutes. Pour when warmed.
- Pack leaves loosely in a clean wide-mouth, sterilized Mason jar; then, cover with vinegar. Tamp down to release air bubbles.
- Screw on a plastic lid since metal will rust. Set in a dark, warm place for typically four weeks. Shake gently, twice daily.
- Taste the vinegar to see if the flavor is to your liking. Strain and repeat the process with fresh herbs if you want a stronger-flavored vinegar; otherwise, transfer the vinegar into a corked or capped glass container, and don’t forget to label the contents and date!
Rosemary and Mint Vinegar: Cut two large sprigs of fresh rosemary and chop a handful of fresh mint leaves. In a pan, add the herbs with 1 ½ pints of white wine vinegar. Simmer for 20 minutes, and allow the pan to rest, covered with a towel overnight. Strain and pour.
Multi-Spiced Vinegar: Combine one quart of cider vinegar with ½ ounce of celery seed, 1/3 ounce dried parsley, 1 garlic clove, three small, grated onions, 2 whole cloves, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and salt to personal taste; then, add 1 tablespoon sugar and one tablespoon brandy. Stir before bottling. Strain after three weeks.
Herbal-Infused Vinegar Cleaning Spray: Combine lemon peel and thyme sprigs into the jar’s bottom quarter. (Use two or three of the scents you most adore, such as cinnamon, orange peel or eucalyptus leaves.) Fill the jar with distilled vinegar, screw on lid and shake. Place in the sun for 10 days! Strain. Add a half cup to a spray bottle; then, add two cups of water, 1 tablespoon of Castile soap and your favorite essential oil. Swish ingredients together and start using!
Allow the season to dictate what types of infusions to create from dandelion flowers in early spring, lavender in summer and shallots in winter. You can have a wide variety of flavored, aromatic bottles of vinegars to use any way you like!