How to Make Herbal Vinegars

  1. Sterilize bottles – In the dishwasher or fill clean bottles with boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes. Turn upside down on paper toweling to drain.’ Imperative that containers must be dry or vinegar will be cloudy.
  2. Use only glass, stainless steel, enamel or plastic. Vinegar is acidic and corrosive. Recycle interesting wine, beer, olive oil, etc. bottles.
  3. 5% acidity is very important when choosing vinegars. Check the label before using.
  4. Recommend not heating vinegars but let them steep at room temperature. If heating is called for in the recipe, do not boil as it destroys acidity and the flavor.
  5. Preparing herbs. Use the whole sprig when the stem is soft as with basil, dill, thyme, parsley. Use only leaves of woody or thick stemmed herbs as rosemary,, and scented geraniums. Pick herbs before heat of the day so as to preserve the volatile oils. Most herbs can be picked all summer but for peak oils pick herbs just before the plant blooms. Rinse in lots of fresh water. No sand or bugs allowed. Try not to bruise leaves. Dry quickly out of the sun. Try a fan on a screen filled with herbs. Very important to be sure material is dry so as not to dilute the vinegar.
  6. Other ingredients to consider – Spices, crush before using. Garlic and fresh ginger need to be peeled and bruised. Fruits need to be washed and dried as well as crushed. Citrus peel is a great addition. Use a zester for attractive curls of lemon or orange. Flowers add color and sometimes a bite to the taste as with nasturtiums. Of course, wash and dry them before using.
  7. Adding herbs to the vinegar – To release oils, crush or twist herbs. Plan to fill containers not more than 1/3 to 2/3 full so as to completely cover materials with vinegar. Plant material above vinegar will mold. Pour vinegar over herbs and stir to bruise some more.
  8. Cover bottles with a nonmetallic lid or one protected with plastic wrap.
  9. Let bottles stand at room temperature out of the sun for 2 to 6 weeks. Test flavor by putting a few drops on a piece of bread and tasting. If strength is not up to expectations, either leave steeping longer or infuse vinegar with new herbs. For a robust vinegar, use 1 cup of herbs packed lightly to 2 cups of vinegar.
  10. Final bottling – When flavor levels have been reach, it ls time to strain your infused vinegar into sterilized, decorative bottles. Do this through coffee filters placed in a funnel. Discard all herbs and spices. Garnish strained scented vinegar with a clean dry single herb sprig and/or a few spices and/or lemon peel according to the flavor. Cork or cap.
  11. As with fine wine, sediment may occur in the bottom and will not impair the flavor. Red wine and cider vinegars are most likely to develop sediment.
  12. As you use the vinegar, remove the decorative herb spray when it is no longer covered.