Thursday, January 2, 2014

Infused Vinegar Workshop Holiday Fun

Michele K. Koskinen

The end of the year party this year was attended by veterens as well as trainees in the Master Gardener program. Calls of winter advisory of snow and ice did not deter the intrepid gardeners to come together and have some end of the year fun. On tap….food, a raffle of donated garden and decorative items and two workshops.

The first workshop had Anna Herman helping all to design a personal Ask the Master Gardener button. It was fun and the buttons are made in such a way that you can change the button to another design.

The second workshop had everyone making infused vinegar from herbs and assorted vinegars. Linda Grimwade gave a brief presentation and the directions for the entire workshop is below.


Herb or Fruit Infused Vinegars

There are many do’s and don’ts for preserving foods. Infusing oil and vinegar uses the same food safety  rules to inhibit the growth of bacteria that makes us ill.

Wash and sanitize your jars.
Heat and sanitize your lids, corks, or other closing devices.
Heat the liquid and put it into a heated jar or bottle.

            In addition to those rules, infusing vinegars also have a few more.
Do not use metal utensils or bowls for vinegar.
Don’t use ground herbs as the vinegar will be cloudy.
Clean the herbs, fruits or vegetable, or spices using prescribed methods.
What you use to infuse your vinegar determines the preparation .
Several extension websites give very good advice on making your vinegar and keeping it safe. Several recommend a bleach solution (yes diluted bleach) for the herb preparation. Other sites recommend heating the vinegar and pouring it over the herbs to steep, still other recipes clean and dry the herbs and pour the vinegar right into the jar. Regardless of the preparation in tour recipe, always keep food safety measures in mind.

Penn State

To begin making infused vinegars requires you to use the correct vinegar. Many recipes recommend not using distilled vinegar because it is too harsh, others say you can use white distilled, you have to decide based on your taste buds. Most of the best vinegars are made with apple cider vinegar (not distilled cider vinegar), red and white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, champagne vinegar, and sometimes balsamic. Your choice should be determined by your taste and what you are using as infusion ingredients.

Once you have chosen your recipe, combine the vinegar and herb in a jar with a plastic lid or a metal id with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 2 to 4 weeks in a cool dark place before decanting into an nice bottle. If you want the vinegar to have a flavor more quickly, try bruising the infusion ingredient. The tasting as it ages will help you determine when to decant it. Taste is everything and a personal preference.

Decanting requires you to strain the vinegar and place it using plastic funnels into a nice bottle. Again NO metal tops.

Vinegars should be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool dark cabinet. They usually last from 3 to 6 months, some upto a year. Always be aware of spoiling as in any food. (Do not put the vinegar onto a window ledge and then use as food as bacteria will become a problem.)

Matching the types of vinegars with the herb, fruit or vegetable, or spice you are using is a personal evolution in your cooking taste. To make the best vinegars you need to keep in mind the strength of the ingredient, the type of vinegar and your likes and dislikes.Vinegars can be used on salads, as glazes for meat or poultry, or as a marinade.

Below a few of my favorites from Eating Well: What will yours become?

Fennel, Orange & Star Anise Vinegar
From EatingWell:  November/December 2012
Try this vinegar infused with fennel, orange and star anise in Asian-inspired dishes. Combine with soy sauce, chopped scallions, ginger and a pinch of sugar and use it as a sauce for a chicken-broccoli stir-fry. Or try it drizzled over hot-and-sour soup. The recipe makes enough vinegar so you’ll have extra to decant into a decorative bottle or two to give away as a simple homemade gift.

Shallot, Tarragon & Lemon Vinegar
From EatingWell:  November/December 2012
Stir a little of this shallot-, tarragon- and lemon-infused vinegar and some fresh chopped tarragon into reduced-fat cream cheese and try it as a spread for crackers. Top with a piece of smoked salmon for an instant appetizer. Or combine the vinegar with a little olive oil, low-fat mayonnaise and chopped celery and use as a dressing for tuna salad. The recipe makes enough vinegar so you’ll have enough extra to decant into a decorative bottle or two to give away as a simple homemade gift.

I have listed several recipes sites for you to browse at your leisure. The sites from the extensions above also have recipes to get you started. Enjoy.

Tip: A cheap bottle can be a Perrier or glass soda bottle with a new clean cork, snap cap, or pourer

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