Thursday, November 8, 2018

Second Thursday Tutorial: Herbal Vinegar

This tutorial is a bit different from most I share, since it has nothing to do with paper or fabric.  However, I suspect there are a few of you out there who grow a few herbs and might need a way to share them with friends and neighbors.

Unfortunately I had these finished before I thought to create a few step out photos.  I think I can walk you through the process regardless.

The first and probably most important thing to remember is, when working with any vinegar, is to use plastic or wooden utensils and glass jars.  Never use metal with vinegar (unless you are eco-dyeing fabric or paper, that is).   Over time, the vinegar will corrode and rust metal, which includes a cap or lid for your vinegar.  Since vinegar is so powerful, any metal will contaminate your vinegar with undesirable heavy metals.

Let's begin with the bottle.  Use what you have or get friends and neighbors to give you their old wine bottles, complete with cork.  Make sure the jar is clean and dry.  If you have a dishwasher, use it on the hottest setting when cleaning your jars.

Decide the type of vinegar you want to use.   There are many types out there, including rice, balsamic, and malt vinegar.  There are also wine vinegars, but we will be making our own later.

If you are making strictly herbal vinegar, apple cider vinegar is your vinegar of choice.  It has just enough bite that it absorbs any herb you throw at it with ease.  You may have to choose between filtered and unfiltered.  I suggest filtered because there is no sediment which makes a prettier bottle.  The vinegar you choose, should have at least 5% acidity which will be clearly indicated on the label.

Make sure to NOT use apple cider flavored distilled vinegar.  Use that for washing windows!  DO NOT use white distilled vinegar.  There is something in the distillation process that renders it un-nutritional and robs herbal vinegar of any benefits.

Now that you have your bottle and your vinegar of choice, you can choose to use several herbs, or one herb.  You can leave them in stalks like I prefer to do, or you can chop them into tiny pieces.  Be aware, chopping them requires many more herbs and you lose the beauty factor.  I suggest using ONLY fresh herbs you cut the day you make your vinegar.

If you decide to keep the herbs in stalks or leaves, you can choose from many options.  I like to use herbs I consider "savory" together and herbs I consider "sweet" together.  Choose what you prefer. There are no rules, except those I discussed above.  Be aware, some of your herbs will turn your vinegar a different color.

Savory to me means dill, rosemary, and Thai basil.  To that, I add peppercorns, mustard seed, caraway seeds, and bay leaves.  I might also include dried red peppers, caraway seeds, celery seeds, and garlic.

Sweet to me means fennel, sweet basil, cilantro, and mint.  To that I add star anise, coriander seeds, cardamon seeds, ginger, and cinnamon sticks.

I'm not suggesting you use all of these in a single bottle, but a combination of your favorite spices is a nice way to add a bit of pizzazz to your vinegar!  I get all my spices at my local spice market, where I can get as little as 1/8 oz of spice.  Be sure to start with the freshest spices available.  Don't look in your spice cabinet for old spices.  This is one time you want everything, including your chosen vinegar, to be the freshest possible.

Now it's time to gently wash all your herbs and gently pat them dry.  This removes any dust or even bugs that might have found a home on your herbs.   Once dry, assemble the ingredients into your clean glass bottle.   Place the spices in first and allow them to settle to the bottom.  Next, add your favorite herb or herbs.   You may have to cut them so they fit into the container.  Be gentle, because you don't want to crush them.

Once the herbs and spices are in place, add your favorite vinegar and allow to sit for at least two hours.  I like to leave at least an inch of space at the top of the bottle.  However, the herbs and spices may have created air bubbles or absorbed some of the vinegar, so you may need to add a bit more vinegar before sealing your bottle.  Also, before sealing, check your bottle from all sides to be sure you haven't accidentally added something you don't want (like a bug or critter).

Now it's time to seal the bottle.  Push the cork in as far as it will go, clean the top of the bottle, and dip it in some heated wax.  This can be old candle wax or paraffin (preferred), which is sold specifically for sealing food stuffs.

Either create a stick-on label showing the name of the vinegar, or add a ribbon and way to identify your creation.  For the label, you can use pre-made blank labels on which you stamp, or run labels through your printer.  Alternately, you can make booklets like I did.

To make your own wine vinegar (not the purchased kind) add equal parts of your favorite wine to equal parts rice vinegar, or other vinegar that is clear.   Remember, do NOT use distilled vinegar.

I suggest using White Zinfandel, Blush, or Chardonnay, which is red.  I seem to have cut the label off, because it was so cold.  I took about 20 photos, none of which came out except this one.  My hands were shivering too much so I was lucky to get this one.

I also included the ingredients I used in the wine vinegar and added the date I made the concoction.

Place your bottles in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks.  Regardless what some sites suggest, do NOT place them in a sunny window or heat the vinegar to speed up the process.  This is one of those gifts you must make soon (in October or early November) if you want to give it as a Christmas gift.

Once you have opened or decanted the vinegar, add more vinegar so it can absorb the herbs and spices.

Finally, let's talk about age.  You've added the year you made these to your label or booklet, so you know how old the herbal or wine vinegar is.  If vinegar is kept in a dark, cool place it will keep for years.  There is some discrepancy in the herbal literature about how long to keep herbal vinegars, but 5 to 7 years is the range generally accepted.  I suggest to use them in your cooking within two years.

Be aware, these are to be used in cooking, not for medicinal purposes, even though there appears to be some medicinal evidence of their health benefits in the herbal literature.

Thank you for joining me today as I made herbal and wine vinegars from my own herb garden.  I am also joining Art Every Day Month, or AEDM.  Once this goes live, you will find it on my Tutorials page, which is found under and to the left of Bleubeard's adorable face.

21 thoughtful remarks:

chrissie said...

Such a lot of tips in this post Elizabeth and many I didn't know. The vinegar looks so beautiful when finished. We have lots of rosemary bushes in the garden so yhey would be ideal

Love Chrissie xx

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds fascinating, and I'm sure it will taste better than shop products. Valerie

johanna said...

a great post, elizabeth! and that really would make wonderful presents for christmas!! xox

Sami said...

An easy enough home made Christmas gift.
Love the bottles Elizabeth.

aussie aNNie said...

Love the look of the bottles, great production.xx

Tracey@Hotchpotchcreations said...

Love the idea of this Elizabeth, what beautiful found bottles they look so pretty with the herbs peeping through suspending in those vinegar's. I would never want to open them!!
A fabulous gift for those that really appreciate *Homemade*..
Thank you for sharing all those ideas.
Hugs Tracey xx

Marfi-topia said...

great post! thank you for the walk looks lovely.

My name is Erika. said...

Fun! One of my microbiology kids did vinegar making for their midterm project so I learned a bit about this. (Their projects were applied uses of microbiology) When you distil vinegar it gets rid of all the active microbes that produce the vinegar. Usually as you get more and more vinegar in the bottle it kills all those microbes, but distilling is like a giant filtering process to take those out, but those are the parts that are good for you. You were busy and made some nice mixtures. Thanks for sharing. Hugs-Erika

CJ Kennedy said...

I've bookmarked the directions for future reference. Thank you for sharing. Your bottle looks beautiful. Such a lovely gift for the foodies.

Jeanie said...

This is a terrific tutorial and very timely with the holidays. I've made herb vinegars before but yours is the best description I've seen of how -- from cleaning the bottles to the great tags you used. I have heard it is important to keep the herbs "below" the vinegar line to keep air away from them and prevent molding. True? I like using the fresh ones on the stalk as well and adding the peppercorns and such is such a nice touch. Thanks for this -- a good reminder as I'm getting ready to prep holiday gifts.

Maron said...

What a great tutorial! You are a multi-talented gal! =)

froebelsternchen said...

You have such beautiful bottles - and with the booklets it looks exquisite! Great gifts! A super tutorial with many useful tips! Great!

Big hugs,Susi

Divers and Sundry said...

I was going to make herbal vinegars for all my in-laws for Christmas one year but was told none of them used vinegar. For anything. Ever lol! Your directions are good and clear. Nice :)

I think your bottle is perfect and would make a beautiful addition to a kitchen whether you ever actually used it or not ;)

RO said...

It truly amazes me that we're literally across the country from each other, and think about a lot of the same things. I've been drinking Vermont Village Sipping Vinegar with turmeric, mixed with lemon and cayenne pepper as a detox, and I could kick myself because I could have used your tips to save money by making my own!!!! It never even occurred to me to use my own herbs and vinegar for cooking or salads, and I'm so appreciative! You're just brilliant! HUGE Hugs...RO

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

What a great tutorial, and I love the pictures. For one who has the time, this would make great Xmas gifts for friends and family.

Meggymay said...

This is a really interesting post. The tips were super and making this type of gift for friends is such a good idea. Your bottles all look lovely and its a great way to use your home grown herbs.
Yvonne xx

Caty said...

This entry is very interesting Elizabeth !! thanks so much for all this information and tips about how to prepare a good herbal vinegar. I love the bottles with the herbs inside. It may be delicious after some years.
I wish you a very nice Friday, big hugs, Caty

kathyinozarks said...

Excellent tutorial Elizabeth-I have made allot of herb vinegars in the past but have never thought to use wine with the vinegar-I love that- Lovely photos-thanks for sharing

Cath Wilson said...

Fab tutorial, Elisabeth - love this idea and especially for gifts! Will be back to copy the details....

Thank you so much.

Cath x

Mia said...

Oh I make herbal vinegar, too!!!!!!!!! It is perfect for everything!!!!!!! Kisses, my friend.

pearshapedcrafting said...

Oh my! What a fabulous way to use your herbs and spices! Chrisx