Make an infused herb vinegar gift for easy, homemade Christmas presents everyone will appreciate.
These are great gifts even for the non-cook since you've saved them time by flavoring the vinegar. Print simple recipes on small cards and tie them to the bottle so the recipient knows what to do with the vinegars. And even if they don't use the vinegar, at least you've given them a lovely decoration for their kitchen.
I try to make a few jars of herb vinegars in the fall, before the garden freezes, for my kitchen and to give as gifts — but you also can buy herbs at the supermarket. Once you have the ingredients, the preparation time on these bottles is about 20 minutes.
Recycled narrow jars and bottles (not large)
Corks for lids, if needed
fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, hot peppers
Vinegar — red or white wine, champagne or rice (seasoned)
Thin ribbon or gold cord
Thick paper or unlined 3 1/2 — 5-inch index cards
Herbs and vinegars: Under $15
Ribbon, etc.: $3
Start early by saving empty vinegar, olive oil, and dressing bottles, or any other pretty bottles you can find (take a second look at your recycling — or your neighbors'). Make sure the opening of the bottle is large enough to feed in the herbs, garlic or hot peppers. To sterilize, wash the bottles in bleach water, soaking them if necessary to remove labels. Then run them through the dishwasher. If the bottles are missing lids, buy a package of corks at a craft store. (Corks come in various sizes, so take the bottles and a tape measure with you.) Type or handprint your recipe cards.
Prepare the vinegars using any combination you like. How many herbs or peppers should be in a jar? Enough to infuse the vinegar with flavor — one stem of herbs won't do a thing. But if you pack the jar too full, you'll dilute the vinegar, reducing its acidity and creating an environment for bacteria, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
NOTE: This brings us to the question of why we can make our own vinegars but not infused oils. The folks at Wild Thymes Farms, who have been putting food in jars for decades, tell us that in an anaerobic (airless) environment, oils with herbs, particularly garlic, can grow some dangerous organisms. Vinegar is so acidic that bacteria won't survive in it. So let's stick with infused vinegars and not poison our friends.
See the Inexpensive Christmas Gifts link at the top of the article for vinegar recipes.
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