Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homemade Infused Vinegars

Homemade Infused Vinegars ~

Fun and easy to make; homemade infused vinegars can add variety to salads, as well as a piquant finish to sauteed chicken, fish and chops.

This time Lemon & Garlic, Basil, Red Pepper, Bay Laurel, and the smallest bottle contains Sage-Rosemary & Thyme. You can easily use this same method with many fruits and flowers ~ just make sure to always use organic, unsprayed fruits and flowers.

Garlic has a tendency to float, so I skewer the peeled cloves before inserting them into the bottle. I slice the lemon slices very thinly, roll them gently, then slip them into the bottle. I always add some tendrils of lemon rind as well, since it contains intense oils-- the thin tendrils will settle on the bottom of the container. (You can thread the lemon slices on a skewer as well, roll them and gently work them into the neck of the bottle, but I don't bother ~ it's fussy work.) :)

I keep my eyes open for unusual bottles, and wash them thoroughly before use. This little bottle with the wooden stopper originally held imported Italian Balsamic vinegar.

You can use any vinegar you like ~ I prefer using a lighter vinegar rather than dark. The most economical vinegar to use is plain white distilled vinegar, it is perfectly acceptable.

For the Bay infused vinegar I just pluck some young leaves from one of the bay bushes. If you don't have access to fresh you can use dry Bay leaves instead. I like to add a couple of whole Allspice berries (Juniper berries work well too), and a couple of whole Cloves to add a flavor twist to the Bay vinegar.

I thread the dried red peppers on a skewer as well but you don't have to use a skewer, you can just drop them into the bottle and add the vinegar; just shake the bottle gently once or twice a week as the vinegar ages to distribute the pepper throughout.

If you don't want to find or save bottles, you can usually find them for a reasonable price sometimes they will come with their own dispensing spout~ like this Italian bottle by Quatro Stagioni. The hand painted pepper bottle came complete with the metal spout ~ for $1.99 (from Ross). I bottled the Bay Laurel & Spice vinegar in a small Sake bottle, from dinner out recently ~ I used a sparkling wine cork for the stopper.

Once you bottle the vinegar, allow it to age and infuse in a cool dark place for at least a month ~ it will last indefinitely.

Fresh or dry Bay leaves hold up very well, but tender leaves such as fresh Basil will soon discolor and wilt in the vinegar during the aging process, so you may want to age it in a jar then strain out the fresh herbs after a month, then place in a pretty bottle with a label.

Red pepper vinegar will be very spicy within a few days ~ so you may want to strain and re-bottle far short of the 30 days. (Or just use it as a decoration in the kitchen area ~ it's pretty!) :)

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