Herb Vinegars
Answered by: Yvonne Tremblay
Question from: John Lundon
Posted on: September 22, 2003

I have been brewing for about a month now two concoctions of herb vinegars. The jars with vinegars – white wine and cider respectively -- each contain herbs and other things like shallots and so on, depending upon the "ethnicity" of the brew. One is Italian and the other French and the jars are in a sunny spot, at least for now. Should I decant this stuff now and discard the solid materials and continue to brew the residual liquid in a darker spot or could I discard the solid materials and re-bottle the liquid, putting in fresh, topical herbs (well washed) and cork/seal for later use. I don’t think I need to boil the liquid, do you? Please advise and I would be grateful for any recipes you have for this endeavour.

Your herb vinegars are ready to decant (strain out he herbs and other ingredients) and bottle. It is not necessary to add any more fresh herbs unless you are going to give them as a gift and want it too look good. In that case, add just a day or so before bottling to give it to them. Any longer and the vinegar will leach the colour from the herb, making it a dull, rather than bright green.

Most vinegars are at least 5% acetic acid and act as a natural preservative so it is unnecessary to boil it. It will safe to store at a cool temperature, out of the light, to retain best flavour. Use within a year or when flavours has diminished (taste periodically before using).

I often use old liquor bottles to store my herb vinegars. I often use green or amber glass ones as they keep out the light. You may use a cork or screw cap. Just make sure the screw cap is coated with plastic or place a piece of plastic wrap on top before the cap. Also ensure that the bottle has been washed with hot soapy water and rinsed with hot water. Label and date bottles.

I use a large canning jar for infusing the vinegars and it should be cleaned and rinsed as well. Generally I fill half the jar with herbs (plus other flavourings such as orange or lemon peel, shallots, garlic) then pour vinegar (cold or heated in the microwave to on the stovetop until just starting to steam) over the herbs. Cover with a plastic cap (Bernardin makes one for its jars) or plastic wrap and a metal lid. The vinegar will corrode the metal cap. If using the cold method, steep for 2 to 3 weeks. The hot method, steep 48 hours.

Any vinegar may be used but white wine vinegar works with any herb. With delicate flavoured herbs such as dill, chervil and cilantro, also try rice vinegar. For the more pungent herbs such as sage, savory, rosemary, thyme, try red wine or apple cider vinegar.

For more information on how to make herb vinegars, as well as recipes for different flavour combinations, see my book "Thyme in the Kitchen -- Cooking with Fresh Herbs", preview at www.yvonntremblay.com (available from Richters). Learn also how to make herb oil, butter, mustard, honey, etc. Great, easy recipes too.

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