Perk up salads, marinades, sauces, and other dishes. These are easy to make and can be bottled in attractive containers for gifts.
CHOOSE A FLAVOR
Select the freshest herbs, spices, vegetables and fruit; experiment with different combinations.
- Try basil, chive (blossoms), dill, lavender, marjoram, mint, nasturtium (blossoms), oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, and/or thyme.
- Add 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh herbs per pint of vinegar. If fresh herbs aren’t available, substitute 3 tablespoons of dried herbs.
- Try allspice berries, bay leaves, capers, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, coriander, cumin seeds, garlic cloves, fresh ginger, peppercorns, and/or mustard seed. Avoid ground spices, as they will cloud the vinegar.
- The amount to use will depend on the spice; in general, allow ½ to 2 teaspoons of smaller spices, 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, or 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks per pint of vinegar.
- Try apples, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, pears, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries, and/or the peels of lemons, limes, or oranges.
- Allow 1 to 2 cups of fruit or the peel of one lemon, lime, or orange per pint of vinegar.
- Try celery, green onions, and/or jalapeños and other peppers.
- Allow 1 to 2 cups of vegetables (less if using hot peppers) per pint of vinegar.
CHOOSE A VINEGAR
Use high-quality vinegar. Think about what color you would like to have as a base, as different vinegars and ingredients will affect the liquids’ hue. Also consider taste.
- For delicately flavored herbs and fruit, consider distilled white vinegar, white-wine vinegar, or rice vinegar.
- For most fruit, try cider vinegar.
- For stronger-flavor spices, herbs, and vegetables, such as garlic, rosemary, or tarragon, try red-wine vinegars.
Use only sterilized glass jars or bottles with metallic or plastic screw-on lids, caps, or corks. To sterilize empty jars, boil them in water for 10 minutes. Dry them upside down on paper towels. Fill while they are still warm.
To sterilize plastic lids, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. To sterilize metallic lids, simmer in water over medium heat. To sterilize corks, use tongs to dip them three or four times in boiling water.
Wash and dry the fresh herbs, fruit, and/or vegetables. Peel, if needed; for citrus, remove as much pith (white part) as possible.
- Use small foods whole or cut in half.
- Slice or cube large foods. Thread on a clean bamboo skewer for easy insertion and removal.
- Put small slices into a cheesecloth bag.
- Cut small slits in whole small peppers or garlic cloves.
- Gently bruise herbs and berries.
In warm, sterilized jars, add the flavoring ingredients. Pour the vinegar into the jars, leaving ¼ inch to ½ inch of headspace. To draw out flavor, some cooks prefer to heat the vinegar to around 190°F, but not boiling, before pouring it into the jars.
Cap tightly. If corks are used, dip them in hot paraffin several times to ensure a proper seal. To prevent metallic lids from reacting to the vinegar, first place wax paper or plastic wrap over the container opening and then screw on the lid.
Store in a cool, dark area for 3 to 6 weeks. Shake the contents every few days.
When the desired flavor is reached, use damp cheesecloth or a coffee filter to strain the vinegar until it is clear. Discard the flavoring ingredients.
Pour the vinegar into clean, sterilized jars or bottles and add a sprig or two of fresh herbs or a small amount of fruit, vegetables, or spices for decoration.
LABEL AND DATE
Cap and seal tightly. Label and date. Store in a cool, dark place and use within 2 to 3 months or refrigerate and use within 6 to 8 months.
FOR SAFETY’S SAKE
- Do not consume any flavored vinegar that has been stored in the light for more than 2 weeks; use for decoration only.
- Discard the vinegar if there is mold or signs of fermentation, such as bubbling or cloudiness.
This article on flavored vinegars is from our 2012 All-Seasons Garden Guide; make sure to check out our 2015 Garden Guide for similar articles and to prep your garden and household for spring!