It’s Easy with a Little
The guideline outlined below follows the steps developed at Meadowsweet Herb Farm in Vermont where we produced more than 20,000 hand-crafted herbal vinegars over the years. By following these steps, and with a little advance planning, you will be able to make a few or a lot of herbal vinegars at one time with ease and success. Herbal vinegars are both decorative and versatile in the kitchen and give a fresh herb taste year-round to your salad dressings, vinaigrettes, sauces, marinades, soups, and more. They are an easy way to preserve the season’s herb harvest for winter enjoyment and they make wonderful gifts for family and friends. Kids also enjoy making herbal vinegars as gifts for their teachers.
VINEGAR: The first step is to choose the right vinegar from the wide variety available and one that enhances the flavors of the herbs. White wine and champagne vinegars are popular choices for their delicate and smooth flavors. The stronger red wine vinegar is best with robust herbs (rosemary, thyme, savory, oregano) with hearty flavors. Wine vinegars are not alcoholic despite their names as the process for making the vinegar removes the alcohol. Apple cider vinegar is another good choice for most herbs. Rice vinegar and sherry vinegar have a mild and sweet flavor. Any vinegar that has at least 5% acidity is suitable. Commercial distilled white vinegar has a harsh taste and is really for pickles and household chores.
To find wine vinegars in gallons visit your large discount grocery/box stores and wholesale distributors. Roland and Regina wine vinegars are good brands to find. Gallons of apple cider are easily found in the supermarket. The standard 12 oz bottles of vinegars found in supermarkets are convenient if you wish to make a few bottles or enlarge your recycled collection although you will need to soak and scrape off the labels. Plan on one bottle almost filling two empty bottles of the same size.
Below are online links to Regina wine vinegars in gallons:
BOTTLES. Using my methods you create each herbal vinegar separately in its own bottle. You do not need to steep herbs in containers, heat vinegar or strain anything. Clear glass bottles can be new or recycled and are available in all sorts of sizes and shapes. Choose bottles with an opening large enough for inserting larger sprigs of herbs (rosemary) and also one that pours easily. Look for these bottle shapes: wine, sauce, cider, cruet, maple syrup. All bottles, plastic caps and corks must be clean/sterilized and dry before you begin. Soak the bottles in warm water to scrape off the labels. The dishwasher can be a useful assistant here. And you will probably need some Goo-Be-Gone to finish the job.
Before choosing a bottle for your herbal vinegars you need to estimate how many fresh herbs you will have on hand. The general rule of thumb is that you need a generous cup of fresh herbs to two cups of vinegar. Dried herbs are never used. The peak season for making herbal vinegars is the summertime when your herb garden and containers are overflowing. Other bountiful sources for fresh herbs are local farmer markets and CSA farms. Fresh herbs are sold by the bunch or pound at wholesale groceries who are usually friendly to herb buyers.
If you wish to make a larger batch of herbal vinegars, it is much easier to work with only one bottle shape rather than an assortment. Below are some reliable bottle suppliers online. Be sure your order includes plastic caps with a seal.
250 ml (8 oz) square bottle
250 ml (8 oz) small wine bottle
375 ml (12oz) medium wine bottle
FINISHING TOUCHES: The finishing touches can be fun to develop. Use your creativity to decorate the finished herbal vinegars with labels, fabric squares or colorful wine heat shrink capsules, jute or raffia twine, and a simple recipe card. Below are some suggestions to get your creativity juices flowing:
heat shrink capsules (using heat gun/hairdryer)
small wine bottle labels you can customize
2×4 matte white ink jet labels fit most bottles
various assortments of 5” fabric squares
With this advance planning behind us, I look forward to sharing my recipes for making herbal vinegars such as Italian, Basil/Garlic, Rosemary/Lemon/Garlic, French Tarragon, Lemon Dill, Chile Pepper and others as well as recipes for using herbal vinegars with you next….
Please be sure to ask any questions you may have. All questions are welcome!