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!
A Chef’s Herb Garden
Palladio Restaurant at the Barboursville Vineyards
When my sister called to ask where we could go for an afternoon of wine-tasting to celebrate my brother- in-law’s birthday, I knew the answer at once. The rolling countryside in central Virginia has seen a booming growth in wineries. There are now over 70 wineries clustered around historic Charlottesville with a dozen enjoying national reputations. These gorgeous vineyard estates have also become destination venues for weddings for many brides. The area abounds with wine trails and tours and tourists.
The beautiful Barboursville Vineyards, established in 1976, spreads across 1000 acres of rolling hills looking toward the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west. It is one of the most famous here and so that is where we headed. The rustic Tasting Room is old-world gorgeous, the staff knowledgeable and friendly, and for a $5 tasting fee you can sample more than 15 award-winning wines. Plus they give you an inscribed wine glass as a souvenir. We had great fun and learned a lot about their elegant wines.
Here’s a nice video about the Barboursville Vineyards: https://www.barboursvillewine.net/winery/film
But for me the highlight of the afternoon was the discovery of the impeccable chef’s herb garden in front of the winery’s renowned Palladio Restaurant.
I can’t remember when I have seen a large kitchen herb garden bursting with such beauty and health and bounty. The garden consists of raised beds with one culinary herb growing in each bed – tarragon, chives, English thyme, rosemary, sweet marjoram, basil…When I saw these herb beds I immediately wished I could harvest some of these glorious herbs and make lots of beautiful and delicious herbal vinegars.
And so this visit has inspired a new project here and that is what is coming next: a practical guide for making herbal vinegars at home. There will be easy directions and photos as well as specific recipes for both making and using your herbal vinegars. You will learn how to make beautiful herbal vinegars and how to create an herbal bouquet in every bottle. These herbal vinegars are also wonderful gifts to share with your family and friends.
Looking for Certified Organic Medicinal Herb Seeds and Plants?
Visit Horizon Herbs
Horizon Herbs is a certified organic farm and certified organic processor in Williams, Oregon. It is one of the last few seed companies that actually grows and harvests the seeds they sell. Their specialty is medicinal herb seeds and plants from Agrimony to Zhi-mu and they have the largest collection of medicinal herbs in the US. All seeds and plants are certified organic, open-pollinated, GMO-free, untreated and packaged in plain packets to conserve resources and keep costs down.
The enclycopedic catalog lists 400 organic seeds and organic plants for medicinal, culinary and dye herbs plus a collection of rare, historical and odd herbs. Medicinal herbs often require cultivation strategies that differ from vegetable seeds. Each seed packet (100 seeds) gives you the common name, Latin name, uses, descriptive and growing guidelines. Extensive information for each plant is available online. For more specific cultivation advice you may wish to order the comprehensive The Medicinal Herb Grower, $19.95, written and illustrated by the founders of Horizon Herbs, Richo and Sena Cech. Or visit the Medicinal Herb Bookstore where you will find a large selection of books. I just joined the email newsletter to keep in touch with them. Visit Richo’s extraordinary blog The Seed Screen for inspiration and to learn how to create your own herbalscape and medicinal herb garden.
Where to start? Common and useful medicinal herbs are burdock, calendula, echinacea (see photo), chamomile, lemon balm, marshmallow, nettles, wood betony… Or perhaps a gift collection of certified organically grown seeds is a good choice for the aspiring grower of medicinal herbs:
12 Kidzherbs® Medicinal Herbs + Sena’s delightful book – $19.95
6 Traditional Japanese Herbs – $19.95
8 Traditional Chinese Herbs – $24.95
9 Traditional Ayurvedic Herbs – $24.95
7 Dye Plants Seeds – $14.95
5 Native American Plains Seeds – $9.95
8 Native American Spirit Plants Seeds – $22.95
10 My Mother’s Kitchen Garden herbs – $19.95
7 Edible Flowers Seeds – $14.95
There is nothing as gratifying as snipping a few herbs from your own garden for a healing tea or an ointment. If space is a problem, a medicinal window box or large tub planter will allow you to benefit from the natural healing powers of herbs.
Corona del Mar. On a recent visit to California, I visited the Savory Spice Shop where enticing fragrances welcomed me as I stepped inside this handsome emporium of herbs and spices. You will find here over 400 individual herbs and spices from the traditional to the exotic. You will also find more than 140 herbal/spice blends to make your job in the kitchen a bit easier and certainly more flavorful. The quality and freshness of the fragrant herbs are superb. The spices are ground weekly so that they are as fresh as possible for you.
If you’re accustomed to little tins of grocery spices, you can’t imagine how aromatic and flavorful fresh spices will be. I added their Pumpkin Pie Spice blend to my holiday pumpkin pie, and my family clamored for more demanding the spicy recipe. I admit I used more than recommended as I’ve a generous hand with spices in my kitchen. I’ve been baking the Libby’s pie recipe for years, but this time I used their spices. That was the only difference. And what an incredible difference it was!
Here is the owner Laura Shute in her store in Corona del Mar, CA. Laura and her friendly staff are very knowledgeable and eager to answer all your questions. They offer various recipes for inspiration and guidance. You will also find lots of recipes online: https://savoryspiceshop.com/recipes.html
The herbs and spices are packaged in both small ziplock bags and spice jars. A variety of sizes is available online at the Savory Spice Shop Store. And the prices are very affordable! Here’s the link: https://savoryspiceshop.com/shopsavory.html You will also find wonderful items and unusual gift boxes for your family and friends for any occasion.
The Savory Spice Shop is headquartered in Denver and new stores are opening up around the country. Check here to see if there is one nearby: https://savoryspiceshop.com/aboutus/where.html Do make a point to visit one. While I’ve only visited Laura’s beautiful store, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.