my staples: master recipe for flavored vinegars

It’s flowering flowery flower time in the Willamette Valley. The rhododendrons in Eugene are always spectacular, but this year, with the weird cold/hot weather pattern, they are extraordinary. We have four mature rhodies, none of which I would have planted myself, but even I, begrudgingly, will say they look fabulous.

The problem is that someone who lived here really, really, really liked purple. I suspect it was the crazy lady with the dogs. Most of the mature blooming landscaping around my house is in the range of purple, fuchsia and pink, and I’m more of a red-orange person. So I can’t help but be overwhelmed when a mushroom cloud of fuchsia attacks me in my front yard.

I can’t offer any solution to those of you suffering fuchsia attacks, but I can say that I’ve found a lovely use for one, tiny fuschia flower: the head of a flowering chive, now in bloom.

This week, in my Master Food Preserver class, we did flavored vinegars and jellies. In the top picture, you can see a rather beautiful and easy chive flower-lemon infused vinegar. Herb or flower-flavored vinegars are easy to make in small batches, and don’t need any processing because of the tartness of the vinegar, so anyone can make them. The only thing you really need to be aware of is that you don’t want to pack in too much dense, low-pH stuff (like jalapenos, for example), or you still can run the risk of botulism.

Making Herb or Flower Vinegar

In a clean jar, add enough flowers or fresh herbs to loosely pack the jar about a third full. Another option is a slice or two of lemon or lemon zest, or a berries (frozen are best).

Fill jar with white wine or plain white vinegar. (Cider vinegar has a very distinctive taste, as does rice vinegar, but you’re welcome to use these if you have a complementary berry or herb.)  Cover the jar with a non-metal lid, or, alternatively and more messily, cover with plastic wrap before screwing on your metal lid.  As you can see, I made my vinegars in baby food jars, but I’ve since moved them to containers without metal lids, because vinegar rusts metal over time.  Let mature for at least a few weeks and preferably several months in a dark, cool cupboard.

Other flowers can be used, too. Our MFP instructor makes nasturtium-garlic vinegar, and I made not only the chive blossom-lemon but also Marionberry-Szechuan peppercorn, with those little lovely floral buds from China that are once again legal in the U.S. Next year, I’m going to try strawberry blossom vinegar with my first-bloom Seascape strawberry blossoms, which should be removed anyway to strengthen the plants.

Edited to add:  Some of my favorite flavor combinations, now that I’ve been doing this for several years, are Concord grape-star anise, Marionberry-thyme (with either white or red wine vinegar), the Japanese citrus called yuzu and garlic (with rice vinegar), and jalapeno-onion-garlic-salt in coconut vinegar (this is a homemade version of Phillipine spiced datu puti).  Non-blend vinegars I make regularly include tarragon in white wine vinegar, cranberry, chive blossom, and red ripe jalapeno.  The only flavor I don’t care for in vinegar is sage.  Rosemary also tastes medicinal.

The green jar, if you’re curious, is a welcome respite from all this purple. It’s a jalapeño jelly, made from cooked peppers that were clarified in a most curious manner. I’ll post about this at a later date. :)

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