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Posts Tagged ‘holiday gift ideas’

Flavored Vinegar_DSC_5804

 

If you have a bottle of fine quality vinegar that is just hanging around the kitchen, take a few minutes of a lazy afternoon and turn it into a flavored brew. I often do this when I have extra herbs, very ripe fruit, or am just in the mood to fancy up that bottle of white wine vinegar on the shelf. Fruit-flavored vinegars make delicious shrubs and switchels, both early American thirst quenchers that are rarely made today, but if you decide to do so, I think you will find them extremely refreshing on a hot summer day. More about those later.

To make flavored vinegar you will need the following for every 2 cups of white wine, champagne, or rice wine vinegar.

For berry-flavored:

2 cups crushed berries, ¼ cup sugar, 1 strip of orange peel, and a few whole berries to put into the finished bottle

For garlic- or shallot-flavored:

5 cloves garlic, crushed, or ½ cup chopped shallots, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, a couple of garlic cloves or large pieces of shallot to put into the finished bottle

For herb-flavored:

½ cup chopped fresh tarragon, sage, thyme, basil, or chives or a combination of fresh herbs that you prefer along with a few sprigs of the fresh herbs to put into the finished bottle

 

Place the vinegar into a medium non-reactive saucepan. Add the fruit, sugar, and orange peel OR the garlic or shallots and red pepper flakes, OR the herbs. Place over medium heat and bring to just a simmer. Lower the heat and cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, strain the vinegar through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean nonreative saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Immediately pour the vinegar into a sterilized bottle, add the berries OR garlic/shallot OR herbs. Cover and set aside to cool before storing in a cool spot.

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little berries

 

What wild berries the bears didn’t get to first have been lovingly picked all summer long by my dearest friend, Lynn, and her doggy pal, Lena Mae. Lynn always tries to save some for me to pick when I finally get upstate New York for a visit. Then we combine all of the berries and make a winter’s supply of jam.

I don’t much follow the USDA regulations that say all jams have to be preserved in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Nor do I use pectin. I like the pure berry taste that really stands out when you boil the berries with some sugar and lemon juice until they are thick. It does take a bit of sugar to get the mix to gel, but the lemon offsets the sweetness and highlights the berry flavor. I do make sure that my jars are sterilized and hot when I am filling them and that my caps and lids are new. I fill the boiling hot jam into the jars, cap tightly, turn upside down and let cool. When cool, I turn right side up and store in a cool spot for winter’s toast. This is the way my grandmother did it, my mother did it, and we never had a problem. So it is what I do. However, in my last preserving book, The Best Little Book of Preserves and Pickles, I tell you to follow the USDA rules – I may do it my way in my kitchen, but I know better than to mess with the government in print!

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