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How to Make Herb-Infused Vinegar & Wetherbee’s White Bean Salad Recipe
Back in the 90′s my husband and I were organic market growers and often the first to bring a new plant, fruit or vegetable to our local farmer’s market. And having fresh herbs on display for sale was one of our “firsts”. A neighboring vendor, however, was the first to bring herbal vinegars to the market, and just as in specialty stores, the cost was a bit pricey. So after talking to the vendor and tasting their product, I knew that I could easily capture that quality in my own kitchen.
Making your own herbal vinegar is easy to do, but the challenge lies in matching the right vinegar with the right herb or blend. So with dozens of different varieties of herbs growing in our garden, I began experimenting to come up with herb-infused vinegars from delicate to robust, with flavors that heighten the taste of soups and stews, salad dressings and vinaigrettes, sauces and marinades as well as beef, chicken, pork or fish.
Herbal vinegar remains one of my “must-have” seasonings even today. And most of the items can be found at your local Kmart. Canning jars or recycled food jars, wine bottles and vinegar bottles work especially well.
- 1 quart to 1 gallon jars or containers for steeping
- bottles with lids or cork for storing
- coffee filters, cheesecloth, or plastic strainer
- fresh herbs; spices and edible flowers are optional
Choosing your vinegar:
- White wine vinegar works well with herbs having a more delicate flavor, such as French tarragon, chervil or chive blossoms.
- Red wine vinegar pairs well with strong-flavored herbs like basil, oregano or rosemary.
- Rice wine vinegar offers a sweet and delicate flavor and blends well with Asian flavors such as lemon grass, basil, lime zest and garlic.
- Apple cider vinegar works well with fruit-scented herbs like pineapple sage, lemon grass or orange balsam thyme.
- Balsamic vinegar is somewhat robust and very earthy with a touch of sweetness; use white balsamic with delicate herbs; dark balsamic with woody or more robust herbs.
Combinations to try out:
Choose your own herbs and blends, or try one of these winning combinations.
- Red wine vinegar combined with rosemary and thyme
- White wine vinegar with French tarragon, lemon thyme, nasturtium flowers or leaves
- Balsamic vinegar with basil, garlic and peppercorns
- Rice wine vinegar with lemon grass, chives, cinnamon basil and ginger root
- Apple cider vinegar with orange mint and pineapple sage.
How to Make Vinegar with Fresh Herbs:
- Start with one cup of lightly packed fresh herbs per quart of vinegar. (If using more than one herb, the ratio will depend on your personal tastes and the intended use.) If you prefer more flavor, as I do, go with a basic ratio of one part fresh herbs to two parts vinegar. When using seeds from fennel, dill, or other herbs, start with one to two tablespoons of crushed seeds.
- Clean jars and containers before use. Avoid utensils, containers, jars or lids made of tin, stainless steel or other materials that react with vinegar. Instead, use glass or ceramic containers or jars with cork or plastic lids or caps. You can recycle and reuse food or juice jars and bottles with plastic lids (such as a mayonnaise jar) to make your herb-infused vinegar.
- Begin by adding herbs to a dry wide-mouth container or jar. This will be your “steeping” container. Use glass quart jars for one-bottle batches; gallon-size glass jars or containers will produce about four bottles of herb-infused vinegar.
- Add vinegar to within 1 inch from the top of the jar; stir the contents with a wooden or non-metallic spoon. Tighten the lid or cover the top with cheesecloth and store the jar in a cool, dark area for about a month. For faster results with more herb-infused flavor, heat or microwave the vinegar until hot, but not boiling, then pour the hot vinegar in your herb-filled container and let set in a warm dark place for one to two weeks.
- When the flavor is just right, strain the contents through a plastic strainer, cheesecloth or coffee filter until the vinegar is clear. Pour the flavored vinegar into a glass or ceramic bottle with a cork or plastic lid.
- Spice up your herb-infused vinegar for gift-giving by adding a few sprigs of fresh herbs or dried seed heads to the bottle. Add a ribbon or bow tied with dried flowering herbs from the garden, then attach a label, handmade card or tag describing your creation.
Wetherbee’s Broccoli & White Bean Salad with Herb-Infused Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe
Makes 4 servings
- 1 (15 ounce can) white beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups finely chopped broccoli
- 2 cups (about 3/4 pound) diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons minced red onions
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons herb-infused balsamic vinegar*
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* (A ratio of two parts vinegar to one part blend of fresh rosemary and thyme works especially well.)
In a serving bowl, combine the beans, broccoli, tomatoes and red onions. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, herb-infused balsamic vinegar and sugar. Toss vinaigrette with bean mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 15 minutes so flavors blend, then serve - Kris Wetherbee
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