As I left out on my morning run, for the first time this year I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my t-shirt and wind-pants with a cap on my head. For us here in East Texas, that is just almost cold. I could see my breath but there was no frost on the ground, just a heavy dew. Oh, but how brilliantly the dew shone in the early morning sun with the reds and golds of the leaves finally beginning to show. I was not the only one feeling invigorated by this Autumn morning, as I ran by the field across from our place, the resident horse came galloping up to the fence and ran along with me until she ran out of field. Some days, it is an effort to choose to run but not today.
One thing the morning did tell me was that basil and it’s other hot weather friends are not long for this world. So, in preparation for the influx of herbs & peppers that are about to line my drying racks and the hall (I have to make use of the space I have so I have fishing line strung down the hall to hang herbs on) I am getting the jars and vinegar’s ready to go. Making herbal vinegar is an easy process, they make wonderful gifts and they add so much to your kitchen prowess. A pork loin marinated in basil vinegar tastes like something from a five star restaurant.
For the most part, which herb you use and which vinegar to use are completely up to you and your taste buds. A good place to start is with white wine vinegar and basil. This will make a wonderful vinaigrette or marinade. If you have purple basil, you will have the most beautiful purple/pink vinegar you ever laid your eyes on as seen in the above picture. The purple basil is Dark Opal and the green is Sweet Genovese- both of these are the standard type basil flavor with which you would make pesto or spaghetti sauce. Health food stores will generally have better prices on large quantities of vinegar in its various forms.
The recipe below calls for chives, if you don’t have any you can leave that off. If you have not been growing herbs long enough to have this much material to cut from, you can purchase fresh herbs at your local farmer’s market. Remember, any flavors you like together will go together in the vinegar such as rosemary and garlic, oregano, basil, and sun/oven roasted tomatoes. While learning the way, start with small batches this way if it tastes bad, you didn’t lose much. However, every mistake is a lesson learned and experience is the best teacher.
For sterilizing your jars, wash them with hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a 225′ oven for 15 minutes or use a dishwasher.
Basil, Chive, & Lemon Vinegar
Zest of ½ lemon
5 Basil Leaves
10 stalks of chives
1 cup white vinegar ( any type such as rice or wine)
Zest lemon, crush or chop basil and chives, place in a clean dry jar. Pour vinegar in and cap- vinegar should cover all the herbs completely add more if needed. After 24 hours add more vinegar if the herbs have soaked up the vinegar. Vinegar is ready to go after 24 hours, but the flavor will develop the longer it sits so 10 -14 days is fine too. Strain herbs out and compost them. Store vinegar in a cool dark place, it will keep indefinitely.
Making these things at home is a safe activity- it has been being done since ancient times. Use good sense, clean and dry utensils and jars- moisture is your enemy- and all will be well. Remember- if it is growing funny things, bubbling like it is boiling but there is no heat or it smells raunchy- throw it out. Please consult your county extension office if you would like more detailed information on canning.
The choices are endless, just make certain that you label and date all your creations at the time to place them in the jars. Trust me, you won’t be able to remember it later!