Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Herbal Preserving--Making Herbal Vinegar 101!

Salad Burnet, Lovage and Chives Cut for An Herbal Vinegar
Make Sure Your Herbs Are Washed and Dried Very Well
Boiled Water Left in Jar for 10 Minutes of Sterilizing
Herbs Ready to Go into Jar
Plastic Wrap or Waxed Paper Between Lid and Jar
Write Herb Combination and Day Made on Lid
Place Jar on Shelf Away from Light and Mark on Calendar to Check
I'm sure I have talked about making herbal vinegars.  It is my opinion one of the easiest ways to preserve your herbal harvest.  I would just caution you not to get too carried away.  It is very easy to do, the carried away bit.  Herbal vinegars do make great Christmas gifts.  You have lots of time if you start now.   As I continue to repeat, we are down to the wire here in the 'Burgh.  I will be going out in the garden today to double check items that still need to be cut particularly German chamomile flowers.  It has been a remarkable year.

So here is my how to on herbal vinegars.  You will need nonreactive utensils (such as wooden spoons, stainless steel spoons, glass measuring cups (for measuring the vinegar), plastic measuring cups (for measuring the herbs or fruit, plastic or stainless measuring spoons for measuring the spices), a canning funnel or a piece of paper folded into a funnel and a regular plastic funnel for narrow necked bottles) and pans (enamel or stainless steel are fine, just not aluminum), jars of every shape and size (I use mainly quart canning jars.), waxed paper or plastic wrap if using metal lids.

There are different methods of making herbal vinegar.  Some people heat both additions (herbs, fruits and spices) and vinegar together, some people heat just the vinegar and some people do not heat either.  I heat the vinegar when I am making raspberry vinegar and do not heat either when making herbal vinegar.  If you would like to speed up the process, you can heat the vinegar just to where you see tiny bubbles (one or two) and then immediately take it off the burner.

I picked my three herbs, salad burnet, lovage and chives.  This choice was from my favorite book this time of year, Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Shaudys.  I swished them in water and then dried them using a salad spinner and paper toweling.  This takes at least 2 or 3 hours for them to dry completely and I change paper towels a couple of times.  Once dried, I measured out one cup of each herb and placed them in a bowl.

Then I filled a quart canning jar with boiling water.  Set a time for ten minutes and then pour the water out.  If you are doing a lot of vinegar, you can put the jars through the dishwasher and then just leave them inside until you have your herbs ready.  Some books say you should dry the jars in an oven on low heat.  I just dried my jar (since it was only one) with a paper towel.  It will be hot!

Using a canning funnel (if you are using a canning jar) or a wooden spoon if you are using an narrow necked bottle, put your herbs, fruit or spice in the jar.  You then pour your vinegar into the jar making sure that your additions are covered.  They do rise to the top.  Just do your best.  BTW, a quart canning jar holds 3-1/2 cups of vinegar not 4 cups!

If you are using metal lids, make sure you place plastic wrap or waxed paper between the lid and jar.  Also the formula for herbs to vinegar is usually two cups of vinegar to one cup of herbs or four (3-1/2 cups) of vinegar to 2 cups of herbs or in my case 1-1/2 cups of herbs.  Just make sure once the lid is on, that you mark what kind of combination it is and what date you made it.  Then I mark on my refrigerator calendar when to check it.  I usually start checking it in two weeks.  If you do not heat your vinegar, it may take an extra week or so to be ready.  I place the jars in my basement away from light.

BTW, I would only use white distilled vinegar for cleaning.  Here is a Lemon Verbena Glass and Surface Cleaner from a post I did for Mother Earth Living.  If you have a basil harvest, sweet basil combines well with apple cider vinegar, lemon basil with white wine vinegar and cinnamon or Thai with rice vinegar.  I really did love the lemon herb vinegar recipe I made last year from Herbal Treasures called Phyl's Lemon Herb Vinegar.  Another one of my favorite ways to preserve nasturtiums is to make a vinegar.  I did a post in 2009 about Nasturtium Peppercorn Vinegar from my herbal sister, Kathleen Gips who has happily retired from owning the Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls, OH.  One way to preserve tarragon, part of the family of the 2014 Herb of the Year, Artemisia is in vinegar.  So here is a post I did in 2012 about my pathetic tarragon harvest and it will give you the simple way of preserving tarragon in vinegar so it can be used through the winter like fresh.  Tarragon does not dry well.

A short list of my favorite books with about herbal vinegars or with recipes:

Herbal Vinegar by Maggie Oster, Storey Communications, Inc., 1994
The Complete Vinegar Book by Kathy (Kathleen) Gips, Natural Garden Press, No date
Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Shaudys, Storey Communications, Inc., 1990

So hopefully you can see that it is really simple, but really effective to preserve your herbal harvest in vinegar to enjoy yourself or give as gifts.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later. 

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