Whether you need a hostess gift to take to Thanksgiving dinner, or you’re looking for a holiday gift with a personal touch, herbed vinegar is a good choice.
Use herbs from your garden, buy a beautiful bottle for a couple of dollars and you have an elegant, yet inexpensive gift.
It’s very easy to make herbed vinegar. I got the directions from one of my sisters. I didn’t follow the directions she gave me exactly, and the vinegar still turned out fine. I’ve seen many variations on the directions, too, which tells me that no matter how you do it, you can’t go wrong.
Here is the basic technique: Pick herbs from your garden and rinse off the dirt. Place the herbs in a glass or ceramic bowl. Boil vinegar and pour the vinegar over the herbs. Let the herbs and vinegar steep overnight or for several days.
After you have allowed the vinegar and herbs to steep, strain out the herbs and pour the vinegar into a decorative bottle.
I use plain old white vinegar, but you may use wine vinegar as well.
There are many variations when it comes to heating the vinegar and steeping the herbs.
Some recipes say you should heat the vinegar, but shouldn’t let it boil. Some recipes suggest pouring the herbs and vinegar into a jar and setting the jar in a sunny window to steep, as if you’re making sun tea. Other recipes don’t call for heating the vinegar at all.
I believe that heating the vinegar speeds up the steeping process. I have boiled the herbs for 10 or 15 minutes in the vinegar and liked the result. However, don’t do this on a cool day when you have your windows closed– boiling vinegar has a pungent odor!
The longer you steep the herbs in the vinegar, the stronger the flavor will be and the deeper the color will be. Some recipes, especially the ones that don’t call for heating the vinegar, suggest letting it steep for a couple of weeks.
The herbs you choose will color the vinegar. Most herbs contribute a greenish hue. If you make herbed vinegar in the spring, use chive flowers as well as leaves. The flowers will add a pinkish cast.
The fun thing about making herbed vinegar is that you can experiment with your favorite herbs and create your own recipes.
Herbs that you might use include:
Any herbs that you insert into the bottle as garnish or decoration will also affect the flavor of the vinegar as it sets on the shelf. In the photo at the beginning of this article, I used, from left, parsley, cayenne peppers, thyme and sage. (I’ve never used peppers before, so I’m excited to see how that will taste.)
Some people really fill the bottle with sprigs of herbs, but I prefer a lighter touch for a couple reasons. When the bottle is full of herbs, people see it as a decoration rather than something they should really use to cook with, and I’d like people to actually use this vinegar. Second, the sprigs of herbs will eventually deteriorate and create sediment on the bottom of the vinegar. Fewer sprigs, less sediment.
The vinegar doesn’t need to be refrigerated and lasts many months.