On herbal vinegar

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.

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8 responses to “On herbal vinegar

  1. Oh – I love making herbal vinegar’s. Rosemary and tarragon are two of my favorites. I also make raspberry and blackberry vinegar – wonderful on salads!

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has drafts of posts I never put up. I ususally hold them back until the right time – maybe someone else has blogged on a subject, so I can get my two cents worth in. I enjoy coming here and reading what you have to say!

  2. I just bought some rice vinegar that I plan to make herbal vinegar from. You say only a week in the pantry? I’ve got great rosemary and some Caribbean red hot peppers I’m going to make vinegar/pepper sauce with.

  3. Thanks Bobbi! Yeah, raspberry vinegar is pretty great too. Me, I make all our salad dressing so I try to get pretty creative.

    Hi Jules. My rule is about a week and then taste it; frankly I tend to forget things so if I have a definite date to check things it helps. (Too many balls in the air, you know.) But your tastebuds are your guide. And vinegar/pepper sauce sounds like tabasco to me, something fun to try!

  4. Oh, darn. This is nice. Now I’m wondering what the pH of my homemade pear vinegar might be. It’s pretty mild.
    (Never mind. I’d rather use it straight.)
    Tarragon, now I *cannot* grow it.
    I like Jules’ idea of vinegar/pepper sauce, too.

  5. Oh you and your pears, CC. What I love is how you don’t even really love them! But yes, I am in the same boat, although my boat has a bit more stuff in it. (e.g. Gosh I love eggplant but do I really love eggplant? Like, 8 eggplants a night eggplant? I swear I must have a really short memory.) Tarragon is something of a necessary item so I am actually ordering some this fall. And making one’s own hot sauce: doesn’t that sound fun?

  6. I had just been wondering about making herb vinegars but didn’t really know much about them. Glad you posted this! Funny what you say in your last sentence. I have been running something over in my mind for the past several days; is my heart really telling me such and such or so on… interesting how sometimes you’ll just happen across someone’s words or whatever at times. 🙂

  7. With the pepper sauce, you just put peppers in your jar, instead of herbs, then do what you do with herb vinegar. I’ve not tried it, but that is how they make all those jars of pepper sauce you can get at the grocery. It sounds pretty easy. Instead of herb vinegar, you get hot pepper sauce. Although not like tabasco, as I think maybe they grind up their peppers or add tomatoes to make it red. This is just the whole or cut peppers in the clear vinegar. I’ll let you know how it works.

  8. ok, I just got this recipe out of our newspaper in the foodie section for pepper sauce:

    6 oz hot peppers
    1-1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
    dash of salt

    Wash peppers and discard stems. Pat dry. Pack them into a sterilized bottle or jar. Combine vinegar and salt to a boil over high heat. Pour over the peppers until they are covered. Seal jar and allow to cool. Let the vinegar age for at least two weeks, the longer the better. This is important – the aging tends to soften the hard edges of the vinegar. The longer is sits, the better it gets. Store in the refrigerator almost indefinitely. If you really want to make things interesting, add a couple of pods of garlic.

    I plan to use our Caribbean Red Hot Peppers, as soon as this next batch reds up prettily. I also plan to make it in a mason jar, not a weinie little bottle, using probably more than 6 oz of peppers.

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