Herb Vinegars

Herb Vinegars

Part of Ep. 206 Gifts from the Garden

Follow these instructions to make a simple herb vinegar.  Alyce Petlock Pauser of Alyce's Herbs in Madison shows us how.

Premiere date: Nov 30, 1994

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Food is a popular gift item around the holidays and we are going to show you how to make a very simple gift from the garden. I am with Alyce Petlock Pauser of Alyce's Herbs in Madison and Alyce is going to show us how to make a simple herb vinegar. Alyce, when I think herb vinegars, I think salad dressing.

Alyce:
That's the most common thought when it comes to herb vinegars, but traditionally they were used as a preservative for foods, meats, fish, winter vegetables. Back in the days when there wasn't refrigeration available, vinegar was used as a preservative.

Shelley:
Like pickles.

Alyce:
Exactly like pickles.

Shelley:
Okay. Nowadays I know salad dressings, marinades--

Alyce:
Soup stocks, salsa bases and your basic oil and vinegar vinegarette.

Shelley:
Well, and I have also heard it is good for you.

Alyce:
It is. Vinegar is a natural cholesterol cutter and people often take it as a digestique too, maybe two tablespoons a day.

Shelley:
Oh, okay. So we are going to make an herb vinegar. What's the first step for us? Where do we start with something like this.

Alyce:
Well the first step would be your container and you would need a plastic or glass container, preferably a gallon size because that will give you plenty of vinegar for bottling for gifts, then. And you don't want to have a metal container.

Shelley:
Why is that?

Alyce:
Metal and vinegar do not go well together. The vinegar will actually corrode the metal and that goes for metal caps too. You should always use plastic caps or corks.

Shelley:
So, that corrosion will affect the flavor too.

Alyce:
Yes, it will.

Shelley:
Okay. Now we are going to use herbs that are easy to grow in Wisconsin or easily found in grocery stores. Are these fresh or dried?

Alyce:
Fresh.

Shelley:
Okay, what do we do? What are we picking here?

Alyce:
Well, you should pick your herbs in the morning when their flavor is the best, rinse them and then let them dry a little bit on toweling or a rack before you put them into the vinegar. Shelley:
Okay. What herbs are we going to put into our blend here?

Alyce:
Well, we are going to have a winter vinegar blend here with harvested herbs and this is really a delicious one for wild game or for salads.

Shelley:
Oh, okay.

Alyce:
And we are going to be using an Italian flatleaf parsley, a very nice herb high in vitamin C.

Shelley:
Nice flavor too.

Alyce:
Wonderful. And then regular broadleaf garden sage.

Shelley:
Now that's real hardy and it makes a real neat topiary. Alyce:
It does. It is a beautiful plant. It comes back bigger and better every year.

Shelley:
Right.

Alyce:
We also have a Greek oregano and I recommend the Greek oregano over the woolly because it has a much better flavor. And then cayenne peppers.

Shelley:
Beautiful color.

Alyce:
Oh, they are, but you won't want to add too many of these to the mix, especially if you are giving them as gifts.

Shelley:
Okay.

Alyce:
And then we have French thyme which has the flowers on it and the flowers are just as delicious as the rest of the plant. You should always use them.

Shelley:
And they are real pretty too so they add some nice color.

Alyce:
They are. They are very nice. And last but not least, garlic chives.

Shelley:
That's what I have been smelling.

Alyce:
They're great. They do have a very, very good garlic flavor to them.

Shelley:
And just the aroma I am smelling is wonderful.

Alyce:
They are a good herb.

Shelley:
Okay. Now do we chop these, cook these or what?

Alyce:
You just put them in whole, you can put the stem and the leaf in and what you do is put four ounces of herbs, and this is exactly four ounces of herbs and this exactly four ounces here.

Shelley:
This whole pile here?

Alyce:
This whole pile. And then you add them into the glass or plastic container.

Shelley:
And just a couple peppers.

Alyce:
Just a couple peppers and then the thyme and the garlic chives and there we go.

Shelley:
And then I assume you add some sort of vinegar.

Alyce:
Yes. And we will be using an apple cider vinegar base today that complements this type of herb combination, but you could use any kind of herbs you want.

Shelley:
And any kind of vinegar?

Alyce:
Well, I would recommend apple cider vinegar, red or white vinegar, wine vinegar or rice vinegar.

Shelley:
Do you cook it at all?

Alyce:
No, just put it in cold. Heating vinegar destroys the natural preservative enzyme in it so you just want to use it cold and fusion method and then you will cover the herbs and place this is in a cool dark place for about two weeks.

Shelley:
And that's it.

Alyce:
That's it.

Shelley:
Then it's done. So then after two weeks it's ready to make into gifts basically.

Alyce:
Right. You just strain the herbs out, you can use cheesecloth or coffee filters to strain it and then you will take your decorative bottle.

Shelley:
Real pretty bottle too.

Alyce:
These are wonderful and these are available at a lot of different stores locally. And then what you'll do is you can put a coffee filter in here or another little piece of cheesecloth and then you just pour the vinegar in and then add a little sprig to it for looks.

Shelley:
Just to make it pretty.

Alyce:
And cap it off and you are all set.

Shelley:
Now how long is this good for.

Alyce:
This will last for about a year.

Shelley:
In the fridge or?

Alyce:
You don't have to refrigerate it.

Shelley:
Oh, really. Now it won't break down or decay or anything, then.

Alyce:
No, but it might produce a little bit of mothering, those little globs that vinegar does get and you just strain those out. They're harmless.

Shelley:
So it is part of the natural process you don't have to worry about it. Well, let's look at one of the finished products because this really is pretty. Now you've got a lot of things in here. It looks like even some flowers.

Alyce:
Yes. There is nasturtium flowers, leaves, dill, dill flowers and garlic.

Shelley:
Really pretty. That would make a great gift. Now I have also heard there is an increasing popularity in herbal oils.

Alyce:
Yes. But I wouldn't recommend them for gifts. The reason is that with the oils, you cannot add garlic into them because it does produce a botulism spore and if the herbs aren't completely dried it can also produce mold.

Shelley:
So they can actually be quite dangerous if they are done wrong.

Alyce:
If they are done wrong.

Shelley:
So, the home gardener, the home cook should stick to the herb vinegars.

Alyce:
I would say yes.

Shelley:
And do a lot of experimenting. Okay. Great. Thanks Alyce. And it's a great way to bring a little bit of the garden indoors for winter.

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