Herb Garden Vinegars

by Marilyn Edmison-Driedger

Herbs really do make the difference! In taste and in presentation herbs are "Hot". Use herbs and use less salt. Make your own herb vinegar and discover extra flavour. Single herbs or special blends. It's easy! We have been making them for over 4,000 years.

Try French tarragon, opal basil and chive blossoms. All are great for flavouring vinegars. You can use your own favourite herbs or try something really exciting like lavender, rose, or rosemary. Borage flowers turns the vinegar blue, while nasturtiums can make a nice hot spicy vinegar to add zest to a salad or marinade.

Mint, rose and lavender vinegar are nice with fruit deserts. While fennel has a touch of anise. Opal basil turns the vinegar to a beautiful royal red. Basil after all is The King of Herbs!

Herbal Vinegars

White wine vinegar is the most common vinegar to use but white distilled, rice, sherry, malt and cider may be used. Sage and cider is a lovely combination and goes well with pork.

Herbal vinegars are added to soups, salad dressings, vegetables and meat marinades.A favourite in our home is opal basil vinegar splashed over sliced cucumbers. Pretty and pretty tasty too!

In most cookbooks there are 2 common methods of flavouring vinegar. In the kitchen, boiling the vinegar and then adding the herbs. And the second method of placing the herbs in bottles and sitting in a sunny window or directly out in the herb garden.

A few years ago I was at a Herb Convention in Seattle and learned that my outdoor method is the most flavourful way. "Mother Nature" is more gentle on the essential oils of the herb being used. The sun heats up the blend in the day and cools it off in the evening. After a week to 10 days the herbal vinegar is ready for those special decorative bottles. In the boiling method when the herbs are introduced most of those essential plant oils escape into the air. Besides there is a magic about the presence of beautiful glass bottles filled with fresh herbs sitting amongst the plants. Neighbours that have been too busy to stop by for a visit, bee-line right over to see what you're up to. Somethymes even with a wine glass! And somethymes a little dissappointed that it isn't wine.

Some interesting combinations to try are:

  • Lemon balm
  • Marjoram and thyme
  • Basil, tarragon, chives and savory
  • Basil and salad burnett

Mixed Herb Garden

  • 6 sprigs each of: savory, thyme and oregano
  • 1 quart of vinegar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 dry hot chili pepper broken in half

Have fun and grow yourself a flavour!

Books to read are:

  • Herbal Vinegar by Maggie Oster, Storey Communtations Inc.
  • The Herbal Pantry by Emelie Tolley, Clarkson Potter/ Publishers New York
  • The Herbal Touch Collection by Marilyn Edmison-Driedger

To make the herbal vinegar, pick the herbs in the morning just after the dew has dried. This is the ideal thyme but you can pick them when ever you have thyme. (All rules are made to be broken!) I gently rinse the herbs with cold water and then lay them on a towel and pat dry if needed. To 4 cups of vinegar add 1 cup of the herb you want to use. If your bottle neck is narrow use a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to poke the herbs down into the liquid. A funnel is handy. Remember to wash all containers and utensils first with hot soapy water. It's also a good idea to sterilize the bottles.

Make sure to use a cork or plastic top, metal will corrode and ruin the taste.

When the flavour is just perfect, pour the vinegar through a coffee filter into those special bottles you've been collecting. Place a fresh sprig or sprigs of the herbs used in to identify the herbs used. Cork and add your own "Made by The Gardener" label. The cork can also be sealed with wax.

Store your special blend in the dark as the sun will fade the colour and also the flavour. Special friends will love your "Gifts from The Garden". And will savour the flavour!

Keep a journal of blends and amounts, perhaps one might be an award winner at the garden club.

When giving as a gift it is nice to add a decorative recipe card folded in half and tied with a ribbon or cord. On the card suggest a few ways to use the herbal vinegar and one of your favourite salad dressing recipe. A small "Tussie Mussie" bouquet of dried herbs would also be a nice attractive presentation.

Small samplers of different herbal vinegars all gathered up in a gift basket with a special cookbook warms any recipient's heart. Excellent birthday and Christmas gifts to give "from the Garden!.

Remember all herbs and flowers used must be chemical free. Roses from the florist are not suitable. Commercially grown flowers are sprayed with chemicals and are not to be consumed.

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