Updated: Sep 5
The word ‘vinegar’ comes from the French vin aigre, meaning sour wine. Because of its versatility, it is an essential ingredient in any kitchen. There are many different varieties, from cider, to malt, to rice vinegar; and wine vinegars are a must-have when creating zesty dressings, sauces, and marinades. In almost every recipe, flavoured vinegar can take the place of regular vinegar, provided you stay true to the accompanying flavours.
Because of the high acid content, they are quite safe to make at home and super easy. But keep in mind some best practices to follow:
Ensure all utensils have been thoroughly washed in a dishwater or by hand with hot soapy water and rinsed well.
Use jars with wide mouths for easier pouring.
If you plan to store your vinegar, or present as a gift, it is best to use sterilized jars. Simply submerge your pre-washed jars and lid bands in a pot of warm water; bring to a boil for ten minutes. It is not necessary to sterilize the lids – but make sure they are newly-purchased and washed. If you are using regular screw caps, place them in a saucepan and heat to just below boiling, and then remove from heat. Let them sit in the warm water until you’re ready to use them.
Flavouring vinegar with fruits, herbs and spices not only add great taste to your meals, but they add beauty to your table. Fruit tends to be the more popular choice, especially during the summer months. Any soft fruit like strawberries or raspberries can be used to enhance the flavour of vinegar. Other options include apricots, blueberries, peaches, and pears. Just make sure to pick the freshest ingredients when adding to the vinegar.
Fruit Infused Vinegar Recipe:
Makes 2 cups
Wash and peel (if needed) one cup fruit of your choice and bruise gently. If you’re using larger fruit such as pears or peaches, cut them into smaller chunks.
Place in warm clean/sterilized quart (32 oz) jar.
Heat two cups of white or white-wine vinegar to just below boiling (190°F).
Pour over the fruit and cap tightly. If you are using smaller jars, make sure you have a ½ - ¼ inch of head space before capping.
Allow to stand three – four weeks in a cool, dark place. Shake the contents every couple of days.
Strain mixture through a fine meshed sieve lined with cheesecloth into a 2-cup glass measuring cup, pressing firmly on the fruit to extract as much liquid and flavour as possible.
Pour vinegar into a clean/sterilized bottles or jars. If you would like, add some fresh fruit or lemon/lime peel for decoration.
Seal tightly, label and date.
Flavoured vinegars can last 2 – 3 months in a cool room but I store mine in the fridge where it keeps anywhere from 6 to 8 months.
The possibilities of infused vinegars are virtually endless. Here are some other options:
Try basil, chive (blossoms), dill, lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, and/or thyme.
Add 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh herbs for every two cups of vinegar. Or if fresh herbs aren’t available, substitute 3 tablespoons of dried herbs.
Try allspice berries, bay leaves, capers, chilli peppers, cinnamon sticks, cloves, garlic cloves, fresh ginger, peppercorns, and/or mustard seed. Don’t use the ground spices because it makes the vinegar murky.
The amount here will depend on the spice(s) you wish to add. General rule of thumb is 0.5 – 2 tsp of the smaller spices, and two of the garlic cloves and cinnamon sticks for every 2 cups of vinegar.
When it comes to choosing a vinegar, stick to higher quality. They are worth the added expense and most vinegars can be kept almost indefinitely if stored correctly.
My preferred go-to for infused vinegars are the wine vinegars. White-wine vinegar infused with herbs such as tarragon or garlic become the ideal ingredient in dressings for heartier salad greens such as romaine or chicory. Blend with oil, seasonings and a little cream and you have the perfect marinade for chicken or seafood. And the red wine vinegars not only add depth to marinades and stews but can also be used to perk up a less robust salad green such as iceberg lettuce or red cabbage. Get creative by experimenting with sherry vinegar or perhaps a champagne vinegar. Your palate will appreciate the luxury!