“Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme”
Making Herbal Vinegars
By Joan Amundsen
Making herbal vinegars is fast, easy, and lots of fun. And is great for gift-giving.
The first thing to do is gather up a few empty bottles. Clear glass, either new or used in all different shapes and sizes work well. Check out thrift shops, flea markets and garage sales. You may also find bottles in craft shops like Michaels or A.C. Moore. Make sure that the tops are wide enough for you to insert sprigs of some of the larger herbs.
Scrub the bottles clean with a bottlebrush. Sterilize the bottles and dry well. Never use any kind of metallic tops for the bottles or reactive metals in the preparation of the vinegars.
You are going to need corks to close the bottles. Joanne’s Fabrics carries a large selection in many sizes. They are also available at www.joann.com/search?q=bottle%20corks
Corks can also be found at Loew’s. If you go to one of their stores, ask them to show you where the K2 drawers are, or log onto www.lowes.com/SearchCatalog?catalogId=10051&identifier=Corks&langId=-1&storeId=10151&N=4294711045#
You then have to decide what kind of herbal vinegar you want to make. Below is a partial list. Be sure that the vinegar has an acidity of at least 5 percent.
If you don’t have herbs from your own garden, take a trip to the farmer’s market or check your local supermarket for fresh herbs. You will need a good handful or more for each bottle. Make sure they are washed, cleaned and air-dried. Never use dried herbs or ground spices. They will cloud your vinegar.
Fill the cleaned bottles with the herbs of your choice. You can push them down into the bottle with a wooden skewer or chopstick. Add the vinegar, using a plastic funnel. Next, cork the tops but not too tightly. The following day you will have to uncork and add more vinegar because the herbs will absorb some. If the herbs have risen to the top, you can always add parsley to the bottle till the vinegar covers them.
It is now time to cork the full bottles tightly. Here’s the fun part. After the bottle tops are secure, melt some paraffin wax in an empty tin can placed in a pan of hot water. There should be enough melted wax in the can to dip the top of the sealed bottle. Cut a piece of ribbon about 4 or 5 inches long and center it across the corked top and down the sides. Hold the ribbon down on the sides of the cork and bottleneck and dip it in the wax several times, letting the wax cool a bit between each dip. Raffia, twine or narrow ribbon wrapped several times around the neck also works well. Tie into a bow.
It’s time for the label. While you’re at those craft stores, look to see what they have to offer. Avery, found online (www.Avery.com) carries a large selection that can be personalized. Create your label according to directions and attach it.
And that’s it. You’re done! What a great gift this would make for Christmas giving, a housewarming or hostess gift.
And did someone ask what are my favorites? I love garlic-dill, lemon-chive with garlic, and a blend of Italian herbs, with garlic, of course. I always keep a bottle of either the garlic-dill or the lemon-chive on my kitchen counter, ready for use. I also enjoy trying different flavors and different herbs. Be creative. Experiment! You may come up with something new.
White Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
Almost any herbs can be used with these vinegars: dill, chives, tarragon, mint, marjoram, thyme, sage, lemon grass, chive blossoms, lemon zest and garlic – use more of the delicate herbs with this vinegar.
Red Wine Vinegar
Try basil, rosemary, thyme, bay, cilantro, tarragon, oregano, fennel and garlic. This vinegar requires more robust herbs.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Excellent with lemon or orange zest, mint, pears, peaches, raspberries, blueberries or edible flowers.
Using Herbal Vinegars
When making potato salad, lightly sprinkle each layer of potatoes with garlic-dill vinegar. Give each layer time to absorb the vinegar. This makes all the difference in the world to your salad. Don’t forget to add just a little sugar and some dried dill with the salt and pepper. Add celery, onion and even a chopped hardboiled egg. Use half mayo and half sour cream for the dressing. Delicious.
For a mixed green salad, try raspberry vinaigrette and top with a grilled chicken breast. Add some dried cranberries, slivered almonds and a sprinkling of feta cheese. Heavenly.
Marinate thinly sliced tomatoes and onion rings in half-water and half-herbal vinegar of your choice. If the marinade is too strong just add more water. Don’t forget to include a little sugar with the salt and pepper. Thin slices of green pepper and little chunks of mozzarella cheese are also great added to this dish. Chill, then serve.