Greenhouse rosemary last winter
Late last summer I participated in something called the Eat Local Challenge. The focus of this particular challenge was food preservation, as it was September, the time in this hemisphere when gardens are swimming in tomatoes and the like. I made a whole bunch of posts, and only posted a couple of them. I am like that, actually. I have lots of drafts of things that I hold back from posting, mainly because I figure people are not interested in the topic of my particular post’s blatherings.
Well, you might not be interested in this either: Herbal vinegars! My favorite vinegar is a tarragon one. When I lived in Minneapolis I had a “real” French tarragon plant that annually approached five feet in height. One particularly harsh winter did it in, and I replaced it with what I thought was another French tarragon plant. Well, it was Russian tarragon, which is rather nasty stuff. I still have that plant, even being so stupid as to dig part of it up and replant it in our Michigan soil. Ack. What a mistake! But it does make a palatable vinegar.
Deborah Madison convinced me of vinegar’s powers way back when I bought my first cookbook of hers, some 20 years ago. A touch of acidity from lemon or vinegar brightens a dish, makes it stand up. ( Notice I said a touch.)
Get yourself some decent vinegar (not distilled; needs to be at least 5% acid); my favorites are white wine or cider vinegars. Sterilize some canning jars or old bottles, harvest and clean some fresh herbs out of the garden, place them in a jar and pour room-temperature vinegar over it. Cap it with a cork or a plastic lid (metal and vinegar are a no-no). Put it in the pantry and wait a week or two, taste. You can strain the resulting vinegar of the herbs and put it back in its jar or bottle. Or you can leave the herbs in there. I tend to take mine out because I don’t want them showing up in my cooking. But it’s entirely up to you.
Experiment. I have used sliced and/or whole garlic cloves, but I admit I don’t particularly like the taste, and add them to my cooking fresh (and at will). Lavender is a favorite of mine, with cider vinegar. Thyme and marjoram make a nice mix. The only thing I would caution you about is what I would say about anything in your life: if you somehow don’t think it’s right (if the stuff is cloudy or has an off taste) then go with your gut and pitch it. 5% is usually enough toxicity to kill most cooties but not all. But do, please, go with your intuition. It serves you quite well if you heed it, and on more things than just cloudy vinegar.
Note: Jules has a recipe for hot sauce in the comments! Yep. Hot peppers and vinegar, a hot sauce makes. Check it out.