Herb Vinegars: A great way to capture garden fresh flavor
I just can’t get enough basil! I grow at least seven different varieties each year. What I don’t get as plants, I grow from seed, since basil sprouts quickly and easily.
But all this basil can create a dilemma because its flavor is hard to preserve with traditional methods, and I certainly don’t want any of it to go to waste. Of course there is pesto, which I freeze in mass quantities. (Pesto is not a good candidate for home canning because of the high heat required to make it safe). Also, basil can be dried. However, anyone who has tried this knows that the dried flavor doesn’t hold a candle to fresh and is marginal at best. So, I resolve my problem by making a herb vinegar each year using seven different basils and unseasoned rice vinegar.
This stuff is a basil lover’s dream!
Here is my favorite method for making herb vinegar with any herb.
- Early in the day, when the flavors (and essential oils) are at their peak, harvest your fresh basil (or whatever flavorful herb you wish). For my favorite “Seven Basil Herb Vinegar” use equal parts of the following Basil varieties – Red Rubin, Siam Queen, Sweet Italian Large Leaf, Boxwood, Cardinal, Sweet Mammoth, and lemon. Or create a combo of what you are growing. (Including a high percentage of purple varieties will give the vinegar a lovely pink color.)
- Wash the herbs and dry them thoroughly because damp herbs will turn the vinegar cloudy. A salad spinner will dry the herbs perfectly.
- Use high quality vinegar such as white wine or unseasoned rice vinegar. Do not use distilled white vinegar for this. It is too harsh and will overwhelm the herbal flavors.
- Put the washed and dried herbs into new or scrupulously clean used bottles, jars or jugs (I really fill the jar with a lot of herbs but it is not packed tight) and fill with vinegar. I use a rosemary stalk or bamboo skewer to help guide the herbs into the neck of wine bottles.
- Cork the bottle or cap the jar.
- Steep the herb vinegar at least one week before using (2 weeks is best).
- Strain and discard the herbs.
- Label the bottle and use within a year for best flavor. (Trust me, this won’t be a problem.)
- Use in any recipe calling for vinegar, such as potato salad, deviled eggs, vinaigrette dressing, etc. You get the “fresh” basil flavor even in the dead of winter. Yum!