Making flavoured vinegars is a great way capture the flavours of herbs and other home-grown produce. They’re perfect for livening up meal times and bringing a little pizzazz to your favourite recipes. Best of all they make beautiful gifts for the holiday season, finished off with some pretty raffia or ribbon and a label. Want to make one? Read on or watch our video to find out how!
How to Sterilize Bottles
First, a safety announcement. Preserving in vinegars rather than oil helps to keep the contents acidic but to avoid problems with nasty bacteria it is still necessary to thoroughly sterilise bottles before use. Clean them in hot, soapy water then rinse them. Don't dry them with a dish towel – instead, put the bottles in an oven preheated to 140°C (280°F). Leave them there for 10 minutes then use them as soon as possible, ideally while they are still warm.
You could also use a water-bath canner and gradually bring them up to boiling point once the contents are in the jar.
Vinegars may be flavoured with herbs, soft fruits or vegetables. Use a clear vinegar which won’t overpower the produce you want to use as your flavouring. Suitable vinegars include white vinegar, distilled vinegar and white wine vinegar.
Never use metal utensils or bowls when preparing home-made vinegars, as the acid can react. Instead, use glass, plastic or wooden alternatives.
How to Make Fruit Vinegars
To make a fruit vinegar, begin by gently bruising your soft fruits or berries so they start to release their juices. Now add one pint (0.5 litre) of vinegar to every pound (500g) of fruit. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth then leave the fruit and vinegar to infuse for four days. Stir the mixture twice a day.
When the time is up, strain the liquid through muslin or a cheesecloth. Pour the liquid into a pan then add half a pound (250g) of sugar to each pint (0.5 litre) of strained liquid. Boil the sweetened vinegar for ten minutes then pour into bottles or jars. Use the fruit vinegar in desserts or diluted as a refreshing drink.
How to Make Vegetable Vinegars
Vegetable vinegars are even easier to make. Simply place your chopped vegetables into a jar, pour on the vinegar then leave to infuse for two to six weeks. Strain through cheesecloth into bottles, seal and store.
Suitable vegetables include celery, chilli peppers, cucumber and garlic. Celery vinegar made with white wine vinegar, for instance, is delicious poured over cold cuts of turkey or chicken.
How to Make Herb Vinegars
Herb vinegars make very pretty gifts. Wash freshly-harvested sprigs of your favourite herb and allow to dry, then gently bruise the leaves to release all those delicious aromas. You can do this by scraping the sprigs with the back of a spoon. Push the sprigs into the bottle. Meanwhile, heat your vinegar until it almost reaches boiling point. Carefully pour the hot vinegar into warmed bottles, making sure that the herbs are completely covered by the vinegar. Once the vinegar has completely cooled you can add your cork or cap.
Store your vinegars in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Vinegars should keep for at least four months, or up to six months in the refrigerator. Herbs exposed to the air can soon turn mouldy, so don’t forget to remove sprigs from herb vinegar as they are used up.
Remember, if the seal becomes broken or the contents of the jar look less than perfect, there’s little point risking it – just discard the contents. Follow the sterilisation guidelines at the start of the video and your vinegars should remain in tip-top condition.
If you’ve got a tried-and-tested recipe please tell us about it by dropping us a comment below.