Herb vinegar’s are made perfectly with red or white wine vinegar. The preferred is actual wine vinegar, not wine flavored. Both can be obtained in quantity from a wholesale grocer or restaurant supply store. Due to its mellow flavor, wine vinegar allows the full herbal bouquet to be tasted, resulting in a gourmet quality. Any vinegar can be used as long as it has at least 5% acidity, although white and cider vinegar’s have stronger flavors themselves, masking the herbal flavor.
As a general rule, white vinegar is used when color is important, such as with chive blossoms or opal basil, and red vinegar is used for strong flavors such as basil, oregano, or garlic.
Usually the most popular are vinegar’s with just one flavor, although I have found the Bouquet Garni (below—using red or white wine vinegar) to be the favorite and most versatile. The more experienced herb growers and tasters will be willing to experiment with their own unique blends. The following guide can help determine which combinations would best satisfy your own tastes and needs.
White Wine Vinegars: Marjoram, opal basil (for a light rose result), burnet (a delicate cucumber flavor), chive blossom (a lovely pink), tarragon, thyme, nasturtium (a subtle peppery flavor), rosemary, lavender, rose petal (use pink rose petals from untreated rose bushes), pinks, violet (will turn a pale lavender color), or rose geranium (tint with 4 drops red food coloring). These last six were especially popular in the Victorian era and are useful to flavor beverages and fruit salads, as well as to use externally to soothe headaches, fevers, sunburn and insect bites!
Red Wine Vinegar: Dill, sweet basil, garlic (mash 6-10 cloves and taste for strength after 24 hours), sage, fennel (if using seeds, allow 2 heaping tablespoons per quart), lovage, spearmint or peppermint, bay, thyme chive (foliage only, not blossoms) caraway (2 heaping Tablespoons when using seed), or savory.
Herb Blends for Vinegar:
For Pork: sage-caraway
For Lamb: mint-rosemary
For Beef: basil-savory
For Poultry: sage-lovage
For Fish: fennel-bay
Here are two favorite blends to try, following the herb vinegar directions and using red or white wine vinegar for either, and fresh herbs (per quart):
Bouquet Garni Vinegar:
1 cup parsley, ½ cup each of thyme, bay and rosemary
Mixed Herb Vinegar:
¾ cup each chopped basil and marjoram; ½ cup each chopped rosemary thyme and savory.
Herb Vinegar Containers: A variety of containers can be recycled for home use by saving bottles from salad dressings, wine, or bottled beverages. Attractive containers for gift samples are small glass juice bottles. Fancy, decorative bottles can be found in dinnerware and gourmet shops. For larger bottle quantities contact a local bottle manufacturer or distributor. An 8 oz bottle size seems to be preferred for herb vinegars.
Decorative Wax and Ribbon Seal: This adornment gives the delicious herb vinegars the ribbon and seal they deserve! You will need: 1 cup of paraffin (available from the grocery canning section), ¼ cup powdered cinnamon (or cloves, nutmeg, allspice, or any combination) and 4-8” of grosgrain ribbon, preferably striped (length depends on size of bottle used). Procedure: In a metal can (15 ½ oz. size is best) placed in 1“ of water in a saucepan, melt paraffin and mix in powdered spices. Melt slowly on low heat and watch carefully to avoid fire. Paraffin will ignite on direct heat.
When paraffin is liquid, remove from heat and stir. Dip the capped end of the herb vinegar bottle in the wax a few times, allowing the wax to dry a few seconds between each dip. Put the mid-point of the ribbon over the cap and push down to secure both ribbon edges to the warm and pliable wax. Holding the ribbon ends out of the wax, dip the top end of the bottle repeatedly in the hot wax until the ribbon does not show through the seal. Dry about 30 seconds between dips or the coating will not build up. If the wax is too clear, add more spices and stir. When the wax in the can starts to congeal, reheat. More wax and cinnamon may be required to keep the level at 2-3”.
Allow wax to dry completely before touching or fingerprints will be noticeable. Then tie on attractive bow and if desired, attach a card listing herbs used. Cool remaining wax in can and save for future use.
To open wax sealed vinegar, score just below cap with a knife and turn lid. Wax and ribbon will remain on the cap, but will allow the bottle to be opened and closed.
Successful Gardening ~
Kali S. Winters