Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Herbal Vinegar

Herbs and roots should be clean, dry, and chopped.  The more finely they are chopped, the more surface area is exposed to the action of the vinegar.  Some folks even put them in the food processor for this step.

Filling the Jars

Step One:

    Fill your jar to the top with your chopped herbs.  The size of the jar depends on how much you want to make or how much herb you have available.  With some of my favorite herbs like Dandelion, I make a ½ gallon at a time, while others I might make only a cup or a pint, especially when experimenting with new herbs.

    You will be amazed at how much herb it takes to fill a jar.  It’s probably close to twice as much as you think might fit, so gather accordingly.


Step Two:

    Pour your vinegar over the herbs until the jar is filled within a half inch of the top.  You may need to top it off again after it settles.  Some herbals recommend heating the vinegar, but I never do. I think this is leftover from the days when vinegars were raw rather than pasteurized, and heating destroyed the live cultures.


    Cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Do not use metal lids as vinegar will rust and corrode the metal!  Although this is a great testimony to vinegar’s powerful action on metals and minerals, it will contaminate your vinegar with undesirable heavy metals.

    Plastic lids are best.  Mayonnaise jars often have lids that fit standard mason jars so I always save these for my vinegars.  If you don’t have a plastic lid, you can put a couple of layers of plastic from old bread bags or sandwich bags underneath a metal lid or secure them with rubber bands  Then simply store them in the cupboard or dark place for 6 weeks or longer.  This long-steeping gives the vinegar plenty of time to do its work.

    At the end of 6 weeks, strain the vinegar through a mesh strainer.  I don’t generally strain mine until I need them.  The herbs are perfectly preserved in the vinegar and will keep just fine, even for a year or more.

    After the vinegar is strained, I like to sweeten it with a little honey, as it seems to really bring out the flavors and the goodness.  Add 1 Tbsp honey per cup of vinegar.

    The honey won’t melt in the vinegar without a little heat.  I don’t like to heat the vinegars for fear of destroying some of the raw nutrients, so what I do is heat just a ¼ cup or so of the vinegar in a small pot with the honey until it is dissolved.  Let cool and add it to the vinegar.
    If vinegar is kept in a dark, cool place it will keep for years.  There is some discrepancy in the herbal literature about how long to keep herbal vinegars, but 3-7 years is the range generally accepted.
                       Using Your Herbal Vinegar
   *Daily Supplement---1 or 2 Tablespoons of a good, strong herbal vinegar goes a long way towards supplying your body’s mineral needs.  Vinegar is pretty intense to take straight up so just mix it with a little water.  Honey-sweetened vinegars are surprisingly delicious once you get used to it.  Vinegar is also really good in a glass of tomato juice, a great way to start the day!

   *Salad Dressings---You can really boost the nutritional value of your salads with homemade dressings.  Healthy olive oil, super-nutritious herbal vinegars, raw garlic and wild nutritive herbs are the building blocks for classy, high-powered dressings.  Store-bought dressings will be history once you get the hang of making your own!

   *Pickles---If you are a home canner, you can use your herbal vinegars in your pickles!  How about Dandelion Dill Pickles?  I make both my canned pickles and my refrigerator pickles with herbal vinegars.

   *Mustards and Condiments---Homemade mustard is incredibly easy to make.  It’s basically whole mustard seeds soaked in vinegar for a day or two, then sweetened and ground in a blender.  There are endless variations once you have the basic recipe.  Many condiments like barbecue sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, marinades, and chutneys all have vinegar in them.  Making your own condiments is fun and a great way to show off your amazing herbal vinegars!