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Herbal Vinegars

Herbal vinegars are easy to make to use for oneself or to give as gifts.  Fresh herbs are the best for cooking, but come winter, they will be but a memory. Preserving some of them in vinegar can bring that fresh taste back to salads and vinaigrettes.  One needs to start with a good wine vinegar, usually white wine vinegar, clean glass bottles or jars, and fresh herbs, preferably ones you just picked.  If you can get your bottles or jars in darker colors, that is even better. Otherwise, you will need to store them in cool dark places.  Use 3-4 fresh springs of herbs of your choice, e.g. tarragon, rosemary, thyme, sage, fennel, basil, mint, etc.
Tarragon Vinegar
2 cups white wine vinegar               tarragon vinegar
3-4 springs fresh tarragon
1-2 garlic cloves, optional
Wash your jars or bottles thoroughly.  Cut your fresh herbs and rinse under running water to remove any debris.  Roll them in paper towels to remove excess water.  If you bought your herbs in a grocery store already cut, you may not need to wash them, but you may not have as strong a flavor as if you just picked them.  Push 3-4 springs of the herb into the bottle or jar; it is OK is you crush or break some of the stems; that just releases more flavor.  Drop 1-2 small garlic cloves, cut, into the bottle and then fill with white wine vinegar.  Cap and set aside for at least two weeks.  For some of my bottles without caps, I simple cover with a small plastic sandwich bag, and tie it down with a small piece of ribbon.  After two weeks, you may remove the herbs if you wish.   Your vinegar is ready to use.  If you leave the herbs in the wine, the vinegar may become stronger, but some prefer it that way.  It is a matter of preference.
Note: if you want a bit more spice to your vinegars, you can add 1-2 small red peppers to the jar or a few red pepper flakes.
OR, try mixing herbs.....You may experiment and mix herbs, too.  
Mixed herbs with Red Wine Vinegar
Try mixing parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage with red wine vinegar:  
6 sprigs parsley 
1 spring each of rosemary, sage, and thyme 
2 cups red wine vinegar
Follow the above directions as in Tarragon vinegar.
OR, add a spice or two:
Basil with Cinnamon Vinegar:
I cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups white wine vinegar
Follow the above directions as in Tarragon vinegar.
OR, combine herbs with citrus flavors, but this may involve some cooking:
Citrus Mint Vinegar
1 lemon 
1 lime 
1 cup chopped and packed mint leaves
2 cups white wine vinegar
Zest the lemon and lime and set zest aside.  Cut lemon and lime each into 4 pieces and combine with vinegar and mint leaves in a small kettle.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for three minutes.  Cool completely.  Strain vinegar, and then pour vinegar into clean jars or bottles with the reserved zest.  At that point, you may add a sprig or two of mint, or a strip or two of lemon peel for garnish.  Seal and set aside for two weeks.  Enjoy!

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