How to Make (and Use) Herbal Vinegar
Herbal vinegar has a special place in the medicine cabinet, and they’re a popular condiment.
In fact, many plants that are traditionally prepared as herbal vinegars easily straddle the divide between medicine and spice. And while both alcohol and water are stronger solvents for most medicinal constituents, vinegar extracts hold their own in several arenas:
Herbal vinegar can be used in a variety of ways. Here are a few suggestions. I’m sure there are many more!
- Add to marinade.
- Use in salad dressing (usually one part vinegar to two parts oil and a little sweetener (maple syrup or honey), if desired. My favorite salad dressing is made with tarragon vinegar.
- Make a creamy salad dressing by mixing herbal vinegar with mayonnaise.
- Drizzle over roasted vegetables.
- Drizzle over fish.
- Use to baste chicken while baking.
- Add a splash to soups and stews to add extra flavor.
- Use in stir fry.
The most important thing to remember when making an herbal vinegar is to use enough herbs. It’s common to use too little, but this often leads to herbal vinegar without much flavor. Any vinegar can be used to make an extract, but take note that not all vinegars are created equal, and this should be taken into consideration when using them in an extract. We recommend using organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar.
A FEW VINEGAR OPTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN MAKING AN HERBAL VINEGAR EXTRACT:
- Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (with “the mother”)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
- Sherry vinegar
- Rice wine vinegar
- Distilled white vinegar
- White wine vinegar
- Champagne vinegar
- Ume plum vinegar
White wine vinegar. White wine vinegar goes well with many herbs and is perfect for herbs or flower petals that produce color. Dill, basil, tarragon, chervil, and lemon balm are well-suited to white wine vinegar.
Red wine vinegar. Red wine vinegar adds a rich flavor and pairs well with sage, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar pairs well with many herbs and makes an aesthetically pleasing vinegar. Herbal vinegars with apple cider are suitable for cosmetics; see below.
Champagne vinegar. If you want to be fancy, champagne vinegar will produce a beautifully delicate herbal vinegar.
Approximately one cup of fresh herbs is needed per two cups of vinegar. This can be adjusted to account for stronger tasting herbs (use less) or very mild herbs (use more).
Also important — select herbs that are in good condition. Don’t use herbs that are yellowing. Avoid using powdered herbs or spices as they will make the vinegar cloudy.
Much like using alcohol to make tinctures, vinegar is a culinary go-to for preserving and enhancing a variety of ingredients. Although alcohol does a fantastic job of extracting flavor and constituents, it often doesn’t quite fit into one’s culinary repertoire. Vinegar extracts can, however, seamlessly work their way into your daily creations.
Beyond the flavor, what you’ll love most about making vinegar extracts is how easy they are to create. A little hands-off effort and patience yields delicious results that you can enjoy for months to come.
Let’s get started.
- 2 cups vinegar see below for which types
- 1 cup fresh herbs loosely packed (or 1/2 cup dried herbs)
Clean herbs by preferred method.
If herbs are organically grown, a general rinsing should suffice. If not organically grown, soak in water before rinsing. Place in a sterilized jar.
Gently bruise the herbs by pressing with a spoon or smash a few times in a mortar and pestle before placing in the jar.
Pour vinegar over the herbs and close jar tightly.
It’s best to use a non-metallic lid, or a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the jar before placing the lid on to keep the vinegar from coming into contact with the metal (it will react with the vinegar).
Keep jar in a dark place (such as a closed cabinet or at room temperature for at least one week.
Check to see if the flavor is the strength you desire.
If not, steep another week or two.
If after three weeks the flavor is not very strong, try adding more herbs and leave to steep again.
Once the flavor is to your liking, strain out the herbs and pour the herbal vinegar into clean bottles.
Cap tightly and add a label.
Here is a quick mixed herbal vinegar recipe: Use 2 cups apple cider vinegar instead of wine vinegar. In a medium stainless-steel, enamel, or nonstick saucepan heat vinegar just until boiling. In a sterilized 1-pint glass jar place 6 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 1 spring tarragon and 10 peppercorn sand 1 strip lemon peel.
If you want to be fancy, use a nice swing top bottle and add a pretty tag at the neck of the bottle.
It will make a great hostess gift and also impress the hell out of your friends at your next dinner party!