Herb or fruit vinegars are easy to make and fun to give

Try making something new this year as a gift, such as herb or fruit flavored vinegar to use in the kitchen.

Before the hustle and bustle begins for the holiday season, take some time and think about whom you will be exchanging gifts with this year. If you have a “foodie” on your list that is hard to buy for, perhaps making a fruit or herb-vinegar would be just the right gift idea for that someone who has everything! These homemade herb or fruit flavored vinegars are easy to make and a wonderful change to everyday salad dressings and sauces. They can also be used in meat dishes and cooked vegetables.

Michigan State University Extension wants gift makers to know it is very important to know the difference between flavored vinegars and oils. One can safely make and give vinegars from home. When you start adding herbs to oils it could become a problem with botulism, so we do not recommend making homemade gifts with those ingredients.

To make herb-vinegar, you need fresh or dried herbs, (the herbs may be from a garden or grocery store) clean sterilized glass jars and lids, vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar may be used – apple cider’s darker color may not be as favorable for the lighter colored herbs; white will have a smoother flavor), containers to put the vinegar in when it is done and decorative labels for the jars.

For herbed-vinegar, mint, basil, dill, oregano, chives and tarragon may all be used by themselves or in combinations. It is recommended to use three to four sprigs of fresh herbs or three tablespoons of dried herbs for each pint of vinegar. Flavorings such as berries, lemon peel or garlic may also be added.

To make fruit-flavored vinegars, it is best to use frozen fruit such as raspberries, blueberries or cranberries. The frozen fruit works better than fresh fruit because the cells of frozen fruit have begun to break down, releasing more juice.

Steps to making herb-flavored vinegars:

  • Sterilize large (quart to gallon) glass containers to prevent microorganisms from clouding the vinegars.
  • Insert the desired amount of herbs into a sterilized glass jar and fill with vinegar (one pint of vinegar per three to four sprigs of fresh herbs) vinegar, may be hot or cold.
  • Loosely cap the jar (plastic lids or corks make the best seals, metal jar tops will rust).
  • Store in a cool, dark place for several weeks.
  • Filter with cheesecloth or paper coffee filter and put into smaller containers for gifts.

Steps to making fruit-flavored vinegars:

  • Put frozen fruit in a non-metal bowl and pour vinegar over the fruit.
  • Cover and let it set a couple of weeks to blend.
  • Filter with a cheesecloth or paper coffee filter.
  • Put into smaller containers for gifts.

It takes at least 10 days for most flavors to develop and about three to four weeks for the greatest flavor to be extracted. Desired flavors are most often a personal matter of taste. Crushing, “bruising” or chopping fruits, herbs and vegetables before adding to jars will shorten the process by about one week. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends that to test for flavor development, place a few drops of vinegar on plain white bread and taste. If the flavors are developed to where you would like them to be, strain the vinegar and bottle. If the flavors seem too strong, dilute the flavored vinegar with more of the original vinegar you used in preparing the recipe.

Make sure you label what you put in your vinegars. Also include a note to use the vinegar up within three to four months for best quality, including a date on the bottle. Refrigeration is best for maintaining freshness and flavors.

Planning ahead and creating wonderful gifts from the kitchen will make memories for those who make the gifts and for those who receive them. It takes a bit of planning, but by beginning early you will find yourself preparing some fun and welcome gifts this holiday season.

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