Herbed Vinegars are vinegars that flavoured with herbs, and sometimes spices as well. They are usually based on white wine vinegar, but can also be made with any other type of vinegar as the base.
Usual herbs include basil, chives, dill, elderflower, fennel, garlic, juniper, lavender, mint, nasturtiun flowers, rosemary, sage, tarragon or thyme; sometimes marjoram and oregano are used as well. Spices could include caraway seeds, dried chiles, coriander seed (very coarsely crushed), dill seed, fennel seed, and pickling spice.
Usually just one flavouring is featured, but some are also a complimentary mixture of 2 or more herbs.
The longer the flavouring agent steeps in the vinegar, the strong the flavour will be.
Herbed Vinegars can be used in salad dressings, to sprinkle on meat while it is cooking, in soups and sauces, gravies, in making pickles, in making mustard from powder, in poaching stock when poaching fish or chicken, or to deglaze pans.
If you have a decorative bottle with a sprig or two of a decorative herb in it, at some point you have to remove the herb. If not, as the vinegar level goes down as you use it, exposing the herb, mould can form on the herb and you will need to toss the vinegar.
Per 2 cups (16 oz / 500 ml) of vinegar, use about 4 tablespoons of peeled, chopped garlic or 1 to 2 handfuls of fresh herbs, crushed lightly a few times to start releasing their essential oils.
If using fresh herbs, wash them well in advance, shake them dry, and then let stand to dry. The herbs must be dry or you may get unsightly sediment happening in your vinegar.
It is best to use a good-flavoured vinegar such as white wine vinegar (as opposed to plain white distilled vinegar.) The vinegar should be over 5% acid, so that what you put in it doesn’t go off.
You start with a sterilized bottle or jar, put the flavouring agents in, then bring the vinegar just to a low simmer. Then then pour the vinegar into the jar, ensure that all flavouring agents are covered with vinegar and remain submerged in it.
Let vinegar cool, then seal the bottle or jar with its cover.
Let stand for about 2 to 4 weeks at room temperature, shaking occasionally, hen filter out into another jar or bottle, through cheesecloth or a coffee filter.
You may wish to put 1 or 2 decorative sprigs of a herb into that new bottle.
If you are using dried herbs, use only about 1/2 cup in total, and add them to the vinegar before you heat it.
If you are making tarragon vinegar, which can get quite strong (which some people prefer), generally 2 to 3 sprigs of tarragon are enough.
Store out of direct sunlight (even if it looks prettier in the sunlight.)