Herb Vinegar on a Grand Scale

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Herb, herbe, ‘erb, or yarb, whatever you call them, gardeners grow more tasty plants each year. Sooner or later, everyone asks the question, "OK, now what do I do with all this harvest?" Make tasteful gifts of herbed vinegars and oils. Then when school ends this year, help the kids bottle ‘em up as gifts for those special teachers.

Herbed-infused oils are popular for appetizers with bread sticks, brushed on sandwich breads, and for stir frying. But to avoid possible contamination, herb oils should be blended in small amounts and used immediately. Create a gift package with these delicious ingredients for herbed oils. Make a cheesecloth or muslin bag to hold a mixture of rosemary, parsley, thyme, mustard and celery seed. Strongly flavored herbs hold up well in oils, so use anything you like to make a more flavorful blend, including clove of garlic and ginger. Let the kids decorate a small screwtop jar that will hold the bag of herbs. Put those in a box with a small bottle of a light vegetable oil. When you’re ready to cook, warm the oil, add the herbs, turn off the heat. It’s ready to use in about ten minutes. Do not store.

To make 3 or 4 bottles, get a gallon jar with a nonreactive lid and sterilize it. Use wine, rice, or apple cider vinegar that is at least 5% acidic. Wash and dry herbs; use 1 cup of fresh herbs (1/2 cup dried) to make 2 cups of vinegar.Put herbs in jar and bruise them with a wooden spoon. Pour in the vinegar (so not heat!), cover tightly, and store in the dark for about three weeks. Taste and adjust; when tasty to you, strain the vinegar into bottles, and use a wooden chopstick to gently push fresh sprigs of the herbs you’ver used, red chili peppers, lemon peel, peppercorns into the vinegar for color. Use purple basils in white wine or rice vinegars for bold red color, and chive flowers for pretty pink. Cap the bottles and label them. If you use corks, seal them with wax. Vinegars do not have to be refrigerated, and should last about two years.
Try these herb blends for tasty vinegars:
    rosemary, savory, sage, basil, bay leaf, and garlic
    cilantro, hot red pepper, and garlic
    lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon zest, and green peppercorns
    orange mint, coriander seeds, garlic, and orange zest     
Any of these can be added, or the whole bunch can work well together: basil, mint, tarragon, rosemary, sage, garlic, ginger root, bay, green onions, whole allspice, cloves, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercons, and cinnamon stick

This is the unedited version of an article that appeared in Garden Almanac, a publication of GroGroup. 

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