Category Archives: vinegar

Brewing Your Own Specialty Vinegars


There are million ways to capture the essence of season. Home making herb flower or berry vinegar at the end of summer is my favorite. Not only it’s dumb-easy and fast to make, it can be a child’s play. You can enjoy the results as soon as within 3 days. Use it in variety of stews, dressings, sauces and gravies in upcoming fall and winter and they will always remind of the beautiful and warm summer afternoon you were making them. Give it as a surprise hostess gift to your guests, decorated with tag and nice ribbon and they will always remember you.  Add it to your home spa and it will relax and sooth you beyond imaginable.  Rinse your hair with nettle infused vinegar/water solution and it will shine better than after any L’Oreal professional product. And the list of benefits goes on. Sounds convincing? Great!
First though, a brief digression for fun and to challenge some fellow Montrealers.
This Sunday, August 24th foodie enthusiasts will have a chance to attend the International Gourmet Fair at Cosmodôme in Laval, where they can sample all kind of gourmet foods from local producers  or from around the globe, from Australia to Brazil, Europe to Africa, Mexico to Alaska.  Note: you can save a few bucks on specialty vinegars after this post, because from now on you’ll be able to make them yourself – ta-dah!
Another event (which is quite unusual) designed for singles with dogs is ambiguously called ’Finally, Speed Dating with Your Dog! . For only $5.00 participation fee it can lend you with a perfect match provided you have a dog and are ready to speed-date. That’s if your dog is a well-trained ice-breaker who makes strangers say: ‘God, he’s so cute!’ and wears no muzzle. In this case, I assume you can easily approach a similarly-looking dog’s owner who appeals to you saying: ‘Hey, do I know your dog?’ If the person responds: ‘Yes, it’s the same breed’ it’s a sign he-she is interested. You can now proceed to the ice-breaking topic on how to remove the fleas or make the coat shiny with home-made nettle vinegar and fatty acids  and see where it goes with his/her/dog’s reaction and body language… But if you don’t find your ‘Gerard Butler’ at this event, don’t despair, keep in mind that sometimes ‘a coatrack with a leather jacket on it’ (Tina Fey’s excerpt quote) can be a safer speed-dating option.
All right, enough with entertainment, let’s take a closer look at the infused vinegars. The infused vinegars take the taste and blush of the herbs/flowers/berries along with the part of their nutritional value.  

They can be made with practically any edible herb, flower or berry. Use the herbs you grow in your garden, balcony or you just bough at the farmers market, they are all good as long as you know they are fresh and organic.

Simple how-to: fill the glass container half-way with herbs/flowers/berries (wash them only if see necessary, otherwise use them as is). Pour the vinegar of your choice (from regular white to wine to rice to apple cider to champagne vinegar) to the top. Cover and store in a cool dark place for three days. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discard the herbs/blossoms and pour vinegar back into the bottle. Cover tightly with non-reactive plastic or cork. Store the infused vinegar in a cool dark place for up to two months.
Tips for the stronger and better quality infusion: warm the vinegar up to the hot, but not boiling point before pouring over the packed herbs/blossoms. Let cool, cover tightly with the cork or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 weeks, shaking from time to time to blend the flavors. Equally, you can skip warming up the vinegar and store it for brewing in the sun on the window seal, however, expect the color of the vinegar to fade a little in this case. Final tip from the folk magic: collect your herbs, berries and flowers either in the morning or later in the afternoon to attain the best flavor results.
Below I am giving three recipes for herbal, flour and berry infused vinegars, respectively.
I selected the stinging nettle for herbs because of its versatility. Not only it makes a great, nutty tasting, refreshing component of the salad, stew or soup dressing, it is an amazing skin and hair product for the anti-bites of the insects, soothing baths or the hair rinse (50/50 mix with water). For centuries stinging nettle has been known to add life and vibrancy to weak, distressed and dull hair and help the skull dryness issues as well as the hair loss. Use organic or homemade apple cider vinegar for an extra goodness. And don,t forget the doggie’s coat if you really love your pet!
The rose petals vinegar of an amazing fragrance and lovely magenta color has properties similar to nettle vinegar, except of course you would not add it to the soup (well, a cold almond gazpacho maybe?)  It adds a wonderful floral touch to baking goods, pancakes (try blueberry pancakes with it), fruit salads. It has a cooling and anti-inflammatory effect on insect bites (anti-itch), sunburns, small cuts and even rosacea (mix of 3 parts witch hazel water and 1 part rose petal vinegar). It can be successfully used as a rub to bring down the fever. As for the home-made spa soaks and baths I would only compare it with the luscious lavender vinegar.
Finally, the mix of herbs and berries in vinegars is also an outstanding way to bring the best out of both. My current favorites are: currants & mint (recipe below); juniper berries and sage; blackberries, lemon balm mint and lemon peel.
Good luck brewing your own herbal vinegars!
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One Year Ago: Grilled Sardines 
 
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STINGING NETTLE INFUSED VINEGAR
Ingredients:
2 cups fresh stinging nettle leaves
2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
Glass jar with wide mouth
Instructions:
Pack the glass jar with the stinging nettle leaves wearing the gloves. Warm up the vinegar in the non-reactive container in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, or on the stove up to the hot, but not boiling point. Pour over the packed leaves. Mix well gently.  Let cool, cover tightly with the cork or plastic wrap and refrigerate or keep in the cool dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking from time to time to blend the flavors. Use in salads, baths, or as a hair rinse (mixed 50/50 with water).
ROSE PETALS INFUSED VINEGAR
Ingredients:
2 cups fresh organic rustic rose petals
2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
Glass jar with wide mouth
Instructions:
Pack the glass jar with the rose petals. Warm up the vinegar in the non-reactive container in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, or on the stove up to the hot, but not boiling point. Pour over the packed leaves. Mix well gently.  Let cool, cover tightly with the cork or plastic wrap and refrigerate or keep in the cool dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking from time to time to blend the flavors.
BERRY MINT VINEGAR
Ingredients:
1/4 cup fresh and clean mint leaves
2 cups white wine or rice vinegar
1 ½ cups raspberries, blueberries, currants or blackberries
Glass jar with wide mouth
Instructions:
Chop or slightly rub the mint leaves between your palms. Pack half of the leaves into the jar, add berries, then the rest of mint. Place vinegar in the ceramic or glass container and warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Pour hot vinegar over the berries and mint, gently stir to combine. Set aside to cool. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-4 weeks. The longer the vinegar stands, the stronger the flavors will be. Gently stir the vinegar every few days to blend the flavors.
The last recipe was adapted from: William Sonoma

Time for Apples: Apple Cider Vinegar Treasure

For years, we have been chasing a dream of our own private Garden of Eden, and now that we have it, it keeps us really busy, particularly in fall.  Apple picking is an important season for us: so many things to do with them and so little time in our hands! It is also magical, for each time I am wandering into the garden and catch the aroma of ripening and fermenting fruit it Proust-affects me and triggers some of my best childhood memories. End of summer: still no school, my grandparents collecting a mountain of apples to be processed, clouds of bees and lady bugs dancing around. My grandma in her summer kitchen behind the giant apple press squeezing out and giving me the first glass of the precious amber liquid. I walk through the fields of gold towards an old monastery orchard with my grandpa to learn about varieties of heirloom apples…  Oh, those days of freedom and wonder when you walked bare foot! They seem to be so far away… 

The Quebec climate is perfect to have wonderful orchards and one of the most interesting places to visit in fall in our neck of woods is a simple cider mill. Already busy with our own garden, I am not interested in going somewhere unless I can squeeze in a visit to an apple farm or a cidrerie.  
 A lovely short trip to the country is worthy of a lifted glass of a great apple cider at the place like, Michel Jodoin, for example, but there are so many, just minutes away from Montreal.
Spring, summer, fall or winter – there is something immaculate about the strait cascades of the apple trees in every season.  Anytime, I am ready to enjoy a humble winter silence of an orchard, a spring flower blossom, a comforting green shade in summer and, finally, the proverbial fruit that attracts zillions of living creatures to share the fermented apples feast.  Even elk or moose are no exceptions!

Our latest fall hobby is making our own apple cider vinegar.  There is absolutely nothing to making apple cider vinegar and many people I know are starting to do it too.  You just need some organic apples and a bit of patience. Fermenting is a new canning.  The importance of probiotics is sweeping our planet and comes closer and closer into focus. Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles – they are all good, but a homemade apple cider vinegar holds a very special place in my kitchen.  A spoon of a homemade apple cider vinegar added to a stock, stew, anything braised or roasted, makes wonders to the dish acting as a an enhancer and stabilizer of a flavour and bringing the best out of the cooking process. For me, it’s a truly revolutionary ingredient. You can officially ban the MSG once you have your own organic apple cider vinegar in your pantry.

The rule of thumb is: 4 weeks to make alcohol, plus 4 weeks to turn alcohol into the vinegar. If you are using a freshly pressed juice from organic apples, just roughly filter the juice, add one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar to the ¾ full wide-mouthed one gallon jar of a juice. Fix the top of a jar with a cheese cloth/cotton linen and elastic to prevent Drosophila, the little fruit flies, which will surely appear in mass. Place the jar/s in a dark (I am keeping them on the garage shelves) at a room temperature for 4-6 weeks. You will surely notice the musty aroma of fermenting apple juice while the sugar will be transforming into alcohol. After 4-6 weeks, filter the liquid through the cheesecloth and sieve and return to the clean washed jar. Cover back with a cheesecloth or linen and place it again in the dark place at the room temperature, for another 4 weeks to complete the fermentation process.  By the end of 4th week your apple cider vinegar is ready.  Do not filter it, just transfer the liquid to the dark bottles and store it in your pantry. The best is to visualize the steps for you, so here you are:
If you are living in an apartment and don’t have your own apple trees, you can equally use just cores and peels from organic apples (collect them in the zip lock bag in the freezer until you have enough amount to fill up the large-mouth glass jar of the selected to ½ (half full)). When ready and the apple scraps are in the jar, add some filtered water enough to submerge apple scraps but to not exceed ¾ of a jar.  Sprinkle sugar, or add organic honey (approximately ¼ cup sugar to each 1 quart (4 cups) of water). Add a tablespoon of a good quality organic apple cider vinegar to jump start the fermentation process.  Mix well with the wooden spatula, cover the jar with triple layer of a cheese cloth or a piece of linen and fix with elastic or band. Place in the dark warm (room temperature) room for 4-6 weeks. I store the jars in our garage in the wooden wine boxes on the shelves and cover the jars with pierced brown paper bags to make sure the light is not inhibiting the growth of bacteria and slowing down the process.  If you use the freshly squeezed clear apple juice, there is no need to mix the liquid once a day, but with scraps, you have to mix it once a day to assist the fermentation process.
After 4-5 weeks the scraps will start to sink to the bottom. At this point you filter the liquid through the sieve covered with a cheese cloth or paper towel.  Rinse the jar with cold water, return the strained liquid to it, cover with linen or cheesecloth again and let it ferment in a warm dark place for another 4 weeks.  No need to mix the liquid anymore, within 4 weeks it will transform into live vinegar with the mother formed on the surface of the ferment.  You will notice some sediment at the bottom of a jar. Do not filter it, because the mother of the vinegar needs this environment to stay alive.  As long as it is there, you can use some to start another batch of apple cider vinegar. Store the final product in the dark (preferably) glass or plastic containers from the former apple cider vinegar and place on your pantry shelf.  Enjoy it in salad dressings, stews, soups and other dishes.  Or, as your daily diet partner: a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in a bottle of water to help your cholesterol level. Even as a beauty product, such as, a hair rinse. Check these lists of benefits of apple cider vinegar for some interesting tips.