We really enjoyed our herb garden this summer, using the basil, oregano, tarragon, sage, mint, thyme and rosemary we had planted in pots in the spring, in all kinds of dishes. And the goodness does not stop giving just because the growing season is over! Today I gathered the rest of the oregano, thyme and rosemary to make 3 varieties of infused vinegars to use throughout the winter. (I would also have used the tarragon but alas, I left it too long and something got at it last week and ate up the last of the leaves.) Infused vinegars are good to use in dressings, marinades, sauces, soups and sprinkled over cooked vegetables.
The flavours I chose to make were: (1) Thyme and lemon in White Wine Vinegar (2) Rosemary in Red Wine Vinegar (3) Oregano in White Vinegar (especially to use in Nick’s Greek Salad, in the winter months when fresh oregano is more difficult to find. Recipe : here).
Infused vinegars are created by soaking herb leaves in vinegar for at least a month. The vinegar takes on a concentrated flavour of the herb and can be used as an extract, meaning that a small quantity will flavour a dish and if you want more vinegar you add some new unflavoured vinegar to your recipe. For example, a teaspoon of infused vinegar plus a tablespoon of unflavoured can be combined in a salad dressing, at the time of preparation. This method of using it sparingly will ensure you have more to enjoy!
Steps: (1) Wash your herb(s) of choice and remove leaves. Note that the leaves of the herb plants are where the flavour resides, as opposed to the stalks, so load up on the leaves and remove the stalks where possible. Though, for thyme, where the leaves are very tiny I used the tender stalks because it would have been a real bother removing all those little leaves. (2) Pack into sterilized bottles (using a chopstick if you need to). (3) Add vinegar using a funnel. Seal tightly with a lid or cork. (4) Label (if you plan on giving as a gift I recommend writing your name on the label). (5) Store in a dark place for at least a month.
For the lemon addition to the thyme, carefully cut off only the yellow outer part of the peel, trying to get as little of the white part as you can, in order to avoid a bitter taste. To sterilize the bottles before filling them I put them to gently boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Then I turned off the heat and let the water cool with the bottles still in it, because I don’t have the right type of tongs to safely handle the bottles right from the boiled water.
You can add new vinegar to your herbs as you use it up, as long as they continue to emit enough flavour.
Hope you try to make your own flavour infused vinegars. Let me know if you do!