How to Make Bottled Herbed Vinegar
I’ve seen bottles of spiced and/or herbed vinegar for sale in stores for years. I’ve even owned a few to have on display in my kitchen. But I never thought of making my own for display AND culinary use until recently when I was flipping through an old gardening book of mine. The section in the book was talking about herbs and herb preservation, and it began talking about flavored vinegars and how they are a great way to make use of your extra herbs and also how they make great gifts. It inspired me to get creative and give it a try. I hope this post will do the same to you.
Making your own flavored vinegars is a lot of fun. When placed in different shaped bottles, they add beauty and distinction to your kitchen. When flavored with your favorite herbs and/or spices, they add a quick flavor boost to salad dressings or other recipes calling for vinegar. They make great holiday gifts, and are also a great welcome gift for parties instead of wine.
Which Vinegar Should I use When Making Bottled Flavored Vinegar?
You can use just about any vinegar you have on hand . Just keep in mind that different vinegars will effect the end flavor and color. Apple cider vinegar is nice to use for its fruity flavor and amber color, but it may not blend well with all spices and herbs. Red wine vinegar will add a red color and a touch of sweetness. I would never recommend using balsamic, as its dark color and flavor will drown out any herb or spice you add to it. However, it would be great with citrus peel or dried berries, as those flavors would compliment each other well.
The best vinegar to use for getting the raw flavor focus of your selected herbs and spices would be plain old white distilled vinegar, as it really has no flavor of its own to start off with. It’s also the cheapest. But white wine vinegar would be a great choice as well. I used distilled for the batch represented in this post’s photos (and it is delicious!).
Which Herbs and Spices Should You Use to Make Flavored Vinegars?
You can really use any herb or spice which you enjoy when making flavored vinegar. Choose only one to have a simple flavored vinegar, or combine several together to make a more robust flavor blend. If choosing tarragon for a licorice flavored vinegar, try adding star anise and fennel to your bottle as well for varying textures while maintaining the same flavor. The sky’s the limit on what you can do. I prefer a blend of several different herbs and spices for varying flavors and visual interest.
What is a Basic Recipe to Follow for Making Bottled Herbed Vinegar
I encourage you to get crazy and just start throwing stuff that you know tastes good together into your bottle. But a basic rule of thumb is to add 4 ounces of fresh herbs per quart of vinegar. I may have gone a bit heavier than that in these photos, and the vinegar is seriously delicious. So it probably doesn’t matter too much, just don’t go less than the 4 ounces per quart ratio, otherwise your vinegar flavor will be pretty weak. If using dried herbs/spices, reduce that ratio down to 2 ounces per quart. Here’s the delicious blend I created:
Per 12 ounce bottle (soda bottle) add (in order listed):
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
- 5 black pepper corns
- 1 clove garlic
- 2-3 fresh basil leaves
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 1 dried Thai chili pepper
- Distilled white vinegar to fill
What Bottles Should I use When Making Flavored Vinegar?
Ah, this is the cool part. Use any clear glass bottle you have. I raided my recycle bin for my batch. I used some old soda bottles, a tall brandy bottle, some soy sauce bottles (with the caps for easy dispensing), and some used store-bought vinegar bottles. I tried to mix up the size and shapes so as to make for interesting gifts to give away. I bought some corks from a local supply store to cap the bottles which didn’t have plastic caps. I like the corked ones better, as they look much cooler. Just make sure to wash the bottles, lids, and corks thoroughly before using. You should also sterilize them by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. This may not be completely necessary, but is always a good rule of thumb when canning/preserving anything at home.
Do I Need to Seal My Vinegar Bottles?
Well, vinegar’s high acidity levels are a natural preservative, so you don’t really need to worry about sealing the bottles for health purposes. But dipping the bottle tops into wax sure makes them look cool. You might even want to put a piece of ribbon under the cork before waxing to add additional “ooo-ahh” factor. I’m not quite that crafty though, but it’s a pretty cool “girly” thing to do that I may recommend to my female readers.
I used plain old paraffin wax, to which I added cinnamon to for added olfactory interest. The cinnamon also made the wax a light brown color. Kind of cool. But using a colored wax, like red, would have been a bit more striking to my bottles and I’ll probably use that next time. Use what ever you think will go nicely with your bottles and vinegar.
What Safety Concerns Should I keep in Mind for Preserving Vinegar at Home?
Vinegar is vinegar, and is a natural preservative in itself. However, it is possible for mold and some yeasts to grow inside your bottles. For this reason, it is a good safety idea to remember to sterilize your jars and lids/corks, clean your herbs/ingredients well (even going so far as to dip them in a bleach solution if you feel the need to do so), and seal your bottles tightly (thus the wax I mention) so that new air-born nasties don’t get in.
The old books just mention cold packing your flavor ingredients straight in cold vinegar, just like I did in this post. But the new Extension office guidelines seem to be encouraging hot packing everything, and pulling out the flavor ingredients after a month once they have flavored the vinegar (The University of Georgia has a good document). Those same Extension offices discourage cold vinegar pickles and home-made sauerkraut, which families have been doing successfully for generations without killing off their kids. So, do whatever you wish. My cold pack vinegar is delicious and doesn’t show any sign of spoilage, but if you feel more comfortable with following the Extension hot pack guidelines, then do that. The point here is to enjoy the process of doing this at home, feeling cool about giving such a unique (at least in our day and age) gift to others, and enjoying the tasty salads you can make with this homemade vinegar.
The Bald Gourmet Makes Flavored Herbed Vinegar for Cooking and Gift Giving.