Over the years I have come up with numerous herb, fruit and flower combinations that I use when making flavoured vinegars. I like to give these beautiful bottles as hostess and Christmas gifts. It is ideal if you make these throughout the summer from your garden herbs and local berries. I will mention a few that you can create during the winter months with fresh or frozen fruits and fresh herbs you can get from the store.
Below is a photo of some of the summer vinegars I made (left to right): strawberry balasamic vinegar, apple cider with sage and cranberry and raspberry white wine vinegar. I use them to add inspiration to my winter salads! Follow this link to get a print copy of this blog post.
Vinegar is fermented wine derived from the French word vin aigre. It contributes a bright, sharp flavour to food and can seriously reduce the amount of salt needed in recipes. Vinegar, and other acidic foods such as tomatoes and lemon juice, have been shown to lower the glycemic index of the dish they are used in. This means food is more slowly digested and leads to a slower rise in blood sugar. Vinegar has next to no calories and is a friend of those watching their weight or those changing their food ways to manage heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
The type of vinegar you use to make your flavoured vinegars depends on your preference, what you like to cook and your pocket book. Higher prices are attached to the best vinegars. I don't use everyday white distilled vinegar for much other than cleaning my toilet (did I say that?). Vinegar lasts quite a while and gets used slowly so I buy the good ones and enjoy them. The photo below shows the types of organic vinegar I have been using.
Apple Cider Vinegar is my everyday all purpose vinegar. I buy a raw, unpasteurized, wood aged and organic apple cider vinegar from Eden organics. It has the live "mother" or vinegar culture which appears as a cloudiness in the bottle. This type of vinegar pairs well with fruits like apple, cranberry and pear. It also goes well with strong herbs like tarragon, thyme, sage and rosemary.
Balsamic vinegar is traditionally made from Trebbiano grapes and aged in oak barrels. It has a sweetish after-taste. I have a Silver Leaf traditional Balsamico organic vinegar from Greece. The real balsamic is aged 12 years for "vecchio" and 25 years for "extra vecchio." Much of what we buy in the store is actually a wine vinegar with added caramel for colour and flavour.
Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice or rice wine alcohol. It has a subtle, sweet flavour. Buy the unseasoned one without added sugar or salt.
Wine vinegars - white or red wine grapes are fermented in oak. They range in flavour from mellow to sharp. The white wine vinegar I am using is from Spectrum Natural and it is organic and a product of Modena, Italy. They say it is a blend of Italian white wines that has been slowly fermented and aged. The Inari red wine vinegar I am using is also organic and contains mother. It is from Italy as well.
BERRY and HERB VINEGAR
Use on green salads, fruit salads or as part of a marinade for meat or poultry. The vinegar will tenderize tougher cuts of meat and the taste will cook off (trust me)! The benefit of using frozen berries is that they are cleaned and ready to go.
1 cups (250 ml) fresh or frozen berries (e.g., cranberries, raspberries, blueberries)
Sprigs of fresh herbs, cleaned and dry
3 cups (750 ml) cider or other vinegar
- fresh apple slices, thyme and apple cider vinegar
- cranberry, sage and apple cider
- cranberry and rosemary with any vinegar is particularly festive for Christmas
- blueberry thyme and balsamic vinegar
- strawberries in balsamic vinegar
- raspberry, mint and white wine vinegar
1. Stuff berries and herbs into clean and sterilized bottles. You can wiggle things around with a chop stick or skewer to get an artful arrangement. The quantities above for berries and vinegar are approximate.
2. Pour vinegar of your choice over. I like to use a funnel when I do this. Make sure the herbs are completely covered as they can grow mold if they are not. Add a bit extra if possible as the fruit and herbs will absorb a bit of the vinegar as they sit.
3. Seal, label and date. Store in a cool place or refrigerator as berries have a tendency to ferment. Read further down for more tips on the process.
You will need fresh herbs to go with the berries. They are a bit pricey but there is a good selection in most grocery stores. You can also add dried herbs to the vinegar if you prefer. The flavour will be good but they are not as pretty. When you begin using the vinegar be sure to remove any exposed herbs as the bottle empties. If you don't take this precaution molds can grow on the exposed herbs.
BOTTLES TO USE:
Reduce, reuse, recycle. This is your opportunity to clean and sterilize some bottles and jars that you like. The first photo in this post shows (left to right) recovered whiskey bottle, tamari bottle and juice bottle. Use bottles or glass jars that are free of chips or cracks. Good choices are clear wine and liquor bottles. You can pick up decorative bottles at many dollar stores but I prefer to recycle when I can.
HOW TO CLEAN AND STERILIZE BOTTLES:
Thoroughly soak and wash the bottles. Remove old labels. A baby bottle brush is handy for this task. Sterilize them by immersing in a pan of water and simmering for 10 minutes. Once sterilized, remove from water and invert on kitchen towel to dry. Use while warm.
HOW TO SEAL YOUR BOTTLES:
You can buy stoppers at a wine making store. They usually have cork or plastic stoppers. I buy the plastic as they are easy to put through the dishwasher and keep clean. I also buy the heat shrink covers they put over wine bottles. They shrink around the bottle when immersed in boiling water. You can also use steam from a kettle to shrink the wraps.