Gourmet Vinegar Recipes

Create gourmet vinegars using recipes combining apple cider vinegar with fruits, vegetables and herbs to produce orange-rosemary vinegar, spice vinegar, mint vinegar, and onion vinegar.

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There's an old recipe for rabbit stew that begins, "First kill the rabbit." Well, like succulent rabbit stew, those delightful gourmet vinegars that command such fancy prices at the store have a very simple base and one could begin a recipe for them with the line, "First pick the apples."

You can start with apples — that is — and easily make your own base vinegar, but it isn't necessary. Not when you can take any ordinary, pure apple cider vinegar . . . add your own accents . . . and produce exotic gourmet vinegars with a back-to-nature touch.

The process is really quite uncomplicated, although the concoctions with mixed flavors do require more ingredients than the simpler one-herb vinegars. I can assure you, though, that the whole business is great fun and your creative products will be much less expensive than the gourmet varieties in the stores.

So let your imagination soar and see what you can create. Here, to get you started, are four proven recipes of my own:

Orange-Rosemary Vinegar Recipe

1 quart pure apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons (heaping) fresh rosemary leaves (or 2 tablespoons dried rosemary)
1 large, juicy, naturally well-colored orange 

Peel only the thinnest outside rind from the orange, avoiding any of the white underneath. Chop fine. Strip four tablespoons of needles (leaves) from the fresh rosemary and bruise the leaves in a mortar and pestle, if you have one. I use a heavy white crockery mortar and pestle that doesn't retain other tastes and aromas. You can also lay the leaves on doubled wax paper and crush them with a small, old-time crockery bowl or coffee cup.

Place the rosemary and peel in a quart jar. Add vinegar. Let stand, tightly covered, for two weeks and shake frequently to hasten flavor release. Strain through a sieve to remove solid matter and then strain a second time through a clean cloth laid in the sieve.

Pour into picturesque bottle, add several freshly cut curls of orange peel and a sprig of rosemary . . . and set out as the beginning of a collection of your own innovations.

The mixture is excellent with fresh fruit or as an ingredient in a fruit salad dressing made of three parts oil and one part vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste (a dash of sugar is optional).

When resorting to dried rosemary for this recipe, first bring the vinegar to a boil. Add rosemary. Cool. Add orange peel and let stand. Whether you use your own fresh rosemary or the dried bought-at-the-store variety, be sure it's still potently flavored and fragrant.

Spice Vinegar Recipe

1 quart pure apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon whole white peppers
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 small chunk dried ginger root 

Mix spices and vinegar, holding out ginger root. Simmer gently for one hour. Cool slightly and pour into a quart jar. Add ginger root. Cover tightly and let stand two weeks, shaking frequently. Strain, using sieve and cloth method. Bottle and use. Wonderfully good for marinating cooked vegetables. Fine for basting ham and fowl. Tasty on sliced fresh cucumbers.

Mint Vinegar Recipe

1 good handful fresh mint leaves (or 3 tablespoons dried mint leaves)
1 quart pure apple cider vinegar (or 1 quart distilled white vinegar)

Wash the fresh mint, shake it well and bruise it with a pestle or wooden potato masher. Pack in a glass quart jar. Pour in vinegar (when using dried mint, bring the vinegar to a boil before adding the mint). Cover tightly and let stand a good two weeks. Strain and bottle. You may want to add a few drops of green vegetable coloring . . . with cider vinegar, it produces a verdant "artist's" green.

This is an excellent vinegar with lamb. It's also good in fruit salad dressings and — believe it or not — delicious in iced drinks. You might want to freeze a tray, with a mint sprig in each cube . . . a real conversation piece. More surprising yet, this vinegar is great for bathing the forehead to banish a headache and bring on sleep.

Onion Family Vinegar Recipe

1 quart pure apple cider vinegar
4 small onions, or 6 shallots, or 3 cloves of garlic

I use such a title because this vinegar can be made from any member of the onion family . . . the straight forward onion, the potent garlic, the more subtle shallot and even chives or garlic chives (either fresh or frozen . . . chives freeze very well). 

Peel the onions, garlic or shallots. Then simply immerse them in the vinegar until the taste suits you. Keep the mixture tightly covered and when it's ready . . . remove onions, bottle and use.

To prepare chive vinegar, chop the chives fine, add them to the fluid and let stand for a week or ten days. Strain and use.

Onion family vinegar is remarkably good on tossed green salads. Use it with anything that needs a garlic accent or tenderize cheap cuts of beef by soaking them overnight in the tangy brew.