This book features dozens of recipes for herb, spice, vegetable, and flower vinegars and more than 100 recipes for using flavored vinegars in everything from appetizers to entrees.
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Making your own herbal vinegars may not change your life, but it can certainly transform your culinary habits, as they can be used in virtually every aspect of cooking. They are the mainstay of flavored vinegars and are incredibly easy and inexpensive to make.
With different vinegars and combinations of herbs as well as other ingredients, especially spices and fruits, the possible variations are practically limitless. Using a delicate rice wine vinegar with a subtle herb like chervil gives a dish a gentle hint of summer's glory. Combining a robust red wine vinegar with garlic, rosemary, and marjoram will add extra gusto to a hearty bean soup.
Herbs to consider for flavoring vinegars include all of the basils, bay, borage, burnet, chervil, chives, dill, fennel (regular and bronze), garlic, garlic chives, lavender, lemon balm, lemongrass, lemon vershallot, spearmint, sweet cicely, tarragon, and the thymes (especially French, English, and lemon).
The biggest mistake most people make when creating herbal vinegars is not using enough herbs. Several sprigs may give a whiff of the herb, but to really get an effect, use about 1 cup of loosely packed fresh herb leaves to 2 cups of vinegar. For dried herbs, use 1/2 cup for 2 cups of vinegar.
Gather fresh herbs by midmorning after the dew has dried. Check for and remove insects. If the plants are muddy, gently wash and dry them with towels and use a spoon to bruise them slightly. Pour the vinegar over the herbs and cover the jar tightly. Do not heat the vinegar. Let the herb-vinegar mixture steep in a dark place at room temperature. Shake the jar every couple of days and taste the vinegar after a week. If the flavor is not strong enough, let it stand for another one to three weeks, checking the flavor weekly. If an even stronger flavor is desired, repeat the steeping process with fresh herbs. When the flavor is right, strain the vinegar, fill the clean, sterilized bottles, cap them tightly, and label them.
Some Sample Herb Vinegar Combinations
Apple Cider Vinegar
- dill, bay, and garlic
- horseradish, shallot, and hot red pepper
- dill, mustard seeds, lemon balm, and garlic
Red Wine Vinegar
- thyme, rosemary, hyssop, fennel, oregano, and garlic
- rosemary, savory, sage, basil, bay, and garlic
- cilantro, sage, rosemary, bay and hot red pepper
- parsley, thyme, rosemary, and bay
- basil, rosemary, tarragon, dill, sorrel, mint, chives, and garlic
- sage, whole allspice berries, cloves, and cinnamon stick
White Wine Vinegar
- basil, parsley, fennel, and garlic
- orange mint, coriander seeds, garlic, and orange zest
- borage, dill, and shallots