Simple gifts from the garden make for special memories during the holiday season. Whether you’re planning a big holiday get together or need a few hostess gifts, infused or seasoned vinegars always add to the festivities.
Infused vinegars use easy-to-find ingredients and are a snap to make. A basic recipe uses white wine vinegar and any combination of garden-grown herbs, fruits and vegetables. If you start now, your vinegars will be ready to serve at Thanksgiving or to wrap and give at holiday time.
Take a stroll through the discount store to find clear or decorative glass bottles. You can use any size glass bottles, although 3-4 cup capacity bottles with corks make for the nicest presentation. Be sure to wash containers and corks (or lids) and sterilize with boiling water before filling them with ingredients.
Select ingredients based on what you have available from the herb and vegetable garden or shop the farmers market. Just about any combination of ingredients makes for a delicious infusion. Go with different kinds of chile peppers, assorted fresh or dried herbs, peeled garlic cloves, citrus peels and other favorite flavors.
If you’re sticking to herbs, for every pint of vinegar, use one cup of fresh herb leaves or 2 teaspoons dried herbs. Otherwise you can make some tasty combinations like 1-4 chile peppers with sprigs of cilantro; 2-3 peeled garlic cloves with chives; basil with the peel from an orange; whole cranberries and sprigs of thyme or get creative with your own combinations.
Heat vinegar in a saucepan or large pot to get vinegar warm, but not boiling. Plan on 3-4 cups of vinegar, depending on the number of bottles to fill. Pour the warmed vinegar over the ingredients and top with the cork or lid.
Store the filled bottles away from heat and light for 3-4 weeks. The longer the vinegar has to steep, the stronger the infusion.
When the vinegar is ready, strain it through cheesecloth into another container to remove any sediment from the seasoned vinegar. Save a few of the best-looking ingredients or use fresh ingredients to put back into the bottle before refilling with the clear, infused vinegar. Compost the remaining used ingredients.
When giving the vinegars as a gift, add a label and a few ideas for how to use in recipes from simple vinaigrettes for salads to marinades or seasonal sauces.