Infused Vinegars

Infused vinegars are really popular right now because they add a big punch of flavor to marinades and vinegretts. But have you looked at what stores charge for a tiny bottle? Ack! I believe in being frugal and simply cannot bring myself to buy them. Especially when making them is so darn easy! I use the leftover bits from things that normally would just be tossed in the garbage so the cost of making it is only a few cents. This weekend I made strawberry vinegar, but the process is the same no matter what you want to make.

INGREDIENTS  vinegar with 5% acidity

Fruit

Herbs

When canning, you always want vinegar with 5% acidity to ensure the food is safe to consume after sitting on the shelf. I believe that infused vinegars require the same safe practice. Most vinegar on the market is 5% so it isn’t like it takes any extra effort to find it! just be sure that is what you are using. While I typically use white vinegar you can use different ones depending on what your final taste preference is.

Champagne vinegar has a delicate taste that works well with delicate herbs or fruit. Apple cider has a bolder taste which pairs well with strong fruits. Red wine vinegar goes best with strong herbs like rosemary.  Rice wine vinegar is sweeter so keep thta in mind when using it. It is important to note that wine and rice vinegars contain a protein that encourages bacteria growth so don’t keep them around too long and be sure to store them in a cool place like the fridge.

Begin with a glass jar that has been sanitized. You can do this by boiling it or running it through the dishwasher. We want it really clean so we don’t have any unfriendlies growing in our vinegar that will make it ferment. If you are going to use a herb to flavor the vinegar, you want to bruise it. To do this gently pound in it so that the oils are easily released, the oils are where all the flavor is at and by bruising you will greatly cut down on how long it takes to flavor the vinegar. Remove any part of the herb that looks bad or dried out. all the flavors will be going into the vinegar and we don’t want to give any bad ones. Herbs that are dry will work, there just isn’t as much oil in them as fresh herbs

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When using fruit, cut or mash it so that the juices come out easier. You can use any fruit you,like from strawberries to pomegranates. And don’t work about things like stem, they won’t hurt the vinegar at all. You can see for the picture below that I actually used the tops I cut off a few pints of strawberries as the main source of fruit in this batch of vinegar. For apple cider vinegar, use the skins and apple cores. All the solids get stained out. If using lemon or orange peels be sure to leave out the pith, which is the bitter white part closest to the flesh.

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After I cut it all up I poured on the vinegar. I left it in the bucket for the picture so you can see that most of this batch are the discarded tops to the berries.  I transferred it to a glass container and let it sit on the counter for 3 days. Depending on how much fruit or herbs you use, the length of time needed will vary. Give it at least 3 days then taste it and see how much longer y need. When it is where you like it, strain the vinegar and return to the glass jar.

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I ended up with a little more than one quart, but you can make it in whatever amount works for you. If you save your old vinegar bottles you can reuse them. They do pour better than a canning jar. To store, write the date on it and place in the refrigerator, it should keep up to 3 months. If at any point you see mold toss the entire bottle out. This is why I date the jar, so I know how long ago I made it and make sure I use it up in less than 3 months. Infused vinegars make great gifts, just be sure to attach a tag with storage directions and expiration date. Now isn’t that a thing of beauty? For just a few cents and minutes of your time custom blend all sorts of vinegars and have fun finding new ways to use them.

Not sure what flavor combinations to try? Here are a few classics to get your juices flowing.

Rosemary

Sage, Rosemary, Thyme

Tarragon and Garlic

Garlic and peppers. The seeds are the hottest part so if you want a lot of heat, leave them in.

Basil and Garlic

Lemon

Favorite berry blend

Pomegranate

Lemon and Mint

Peach

No matter what combination you try, the final step is to filter the vinegar until it is no longer cloudy. A coffee filter is convenient and works excellent. Be sure to come back and share what you make and the recipes you use it in. Have fun!

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