Have fun with your harvest — and don’t let a single leaf (or flower) go to waste.
Thoughtfully stored herbs stretch the flavors of spring and summer into the darker days of the year, and with them comes a lightness of spirit along with the many health benefits of fresh herbs. Honestly, they’re the best sort of medicine for body and spirit.
Rosemary for instance, is known for its antioxidant and memory enhancing properties, while chives boost the immune system, improve heart and bone health, and aide in digestion. It makes sense to find every little way possible to add these plants and the many others you may have growing in your garden (or your neighbors garden) into as many meals as possible. (Think of it as a tiny habit with big impact.)
Dry, freeze, or store them in oil. Flavor sugars, add them to butter, make your own teas, and infuse them in vinegar.
And it’s honestly a cinch to use any one of these methods for preserving and storing your harvest. To make your own herb infused vinegar, all you need are the herbs themselves, your vinegar of choice, and a set of clean jars.
Make Your Own Herb Infused Vinegar
1. Sterilize jars in a hot water bath or dishwasher as you would before making jam. As a rule, stay clear of metal utensils and containers when making and storing vinegars.
2. Give fresh herbs, flowers, and berries a light wash. Free any critters who might have come along for the ride, and dry plant material thoroughly on a clean towel.
3. Work with a 1:2 ratio as a rule of thumb. 1 cup fresh herbs or other ingredients to 2 cups vinegar.
I like to use champagne vinegar with delicate tasting herbs so the vinegar doesn’t mask and overpower subtle flavors, however, any type of vinegar is fine. Apple cider vinegar is another favorite.
4. Fill a pint sized canning jar with 1 cup herbs, cover with vinegar, and quark it or cap it with a lid.
5. If using a metal lid, place heavy duty parchment between the lid and mixture to prevent the two from touching. (Vinegar reacts to metal, causing it to corrode.)
6. Place your infusion in a cool dark place and shake periodically, making sure the ingredients stay below the surface.
7. After about a week, strain the vinegar into a clean jar, using an unbleached coffee filter, muslin or cheesecloth. For stronger flavored vinegars, leave the vinegar to infuse for up to a month, shaking periodically all the while.
If kept out of direct light and in a cool spot, your vinegars will keep for up to a year.
Try infusing nearly anything from your garden. Calendula, oregano leaves and flowers, rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, nasturtium blossoms, lemon verbena, and pineapple sage leaves and flowers are all wonderful. Experiment with single herb infusions or combinations by adding spices such as cinnamon, peppercorns, and cloves. Raspberries are especially delicious.
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