Plant-Based DYI Basics: Infused Vinegar

by moonwatcher on June 6, 2013

Strawberry Infused Vinegar

At first blush, life with next to no refined salt, sugar or oil can seem pretty dreary to most of us. But over the years I’ve found healthier ways to wake up my taste buds. Several months ago I read an Engine 2 blog post from Ami about the joys of splurging on flavored vinegars. But it’s not necessary for me to spend the money on those specialy items to enjoy their trendy fruity flavors.  Instead I literally “lock” the fruits of my garden into a jar that can be poured out and enjoyed when Summer is long gone and the snow is flying, the days gone short and cold.

Homemade infused vinegars are a wonderful way to give your whole food plant-based meals a touch of tasty class without added salt sugar or fat. They make low fat dressings something special, and even when you don’t have time to whip up a dressing, an infused vinegar is tasty enough to be the dressing all on its own. I’ve been making infused vinegar with fresh treasures from my garden for almost 20 years. It’s literally as easy as filling a jar and forgetting about it for a while.

I learned from Susan S. Weed in her herbal classic Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way that vinegar has the amazing ability to pull out, suspend and preserve minerals from live plant material. She has a suggested a recipe for such a vinegar using one or all of several mineral rich plants, among them raspberry leaves, canes or berries. That was all the prompting I needed to try making some simple raspberry infused red wine vinegar. The vinegar gets saturated with calcium and other goodies like vitamin C from the fresh raspberries, and its sweetness rivals the brands you can buy in the store. And it tastes great on just about anything: salads, stir fries, black bean and lentil dishes, potato and sweet potato salad. It adds surprise and complexity and tart-sweetness to a homemade fat free salad dressing.

DSC00177

Last year’s raspberry and strawberry

Another flavor direction to go with infused vinegars is spicy. I do this by infusing white wine or rice vinegar with peppery nasturtium flowers ( you can also use the stems and leaves). It’s a great way to have a spicy peppery taste  to sprinkle on warm oven fries, and it adds spiciness to a salad dressing without the hard-core heat of hot peppers or black pepper, both of which I am sensitive to. I used it in just this way to make a soy free and jalapeno free version of Susan’s Pumpkin Seed Dressing, which I describe in my post Japanese Sweet Potato to the Rescue.

DSC00190

Sun lighting up nasturtium flower vinegar

It’s so simple it isn’t really a recipe, but I’ll make it into one, so you can take it with you and try out your own infused vinegar magic. Here is a template for both fruity and spicy infused vinegars. One word to the wise: keep it simple. One main fruit, and maybe a spice or herb accent. Let the sweetness or bite of the fruit or plant take the center stage.

 

The only flavor described in the Engine 2 post about exploring the world of specialty vinegars  I can’t tell you how to make yourself is a chocolate balsamic. Given my issues with chocolate, that doesn’t sound so good to me, so I’ll leave that DYI adventure up to someone else.

I just decanted my last pint jar of raspberry about 3 weeks ago. Now I’m waiting for the new crop of raspberries to ripen so I can make more. It’s a ritual I look forward to every year. No matter the flavor, homemade infused vinegar really is a healthy “secret ingredient” that never fails to make the simplest meal something special.

 

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Current day month ye@r *

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sarah June 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

So have you not tried the raspberry leaves described in the book? That sounds more economical than using the berries themselves. Just curious how different the flavor would be. I’m really glad I read your post – I can’t wait to try out a few. I always have more pears than I know what to do with in the fall – seems like some infused vinegar would make a fun gift for my more adventurous foodie friends.

Reply

2 moonwatcher June 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Welcome, Sarah! Yes, I have tried a more “leafy” version years ago–it turns out more medicinal and less sweet, so I’ve stuck with just the berries for more culinary purposes. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy infused vinegar adventures with your own pears.

Reply

3 Shelah June 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Thanks for this post Maria. I’m thinking of trying to make the raspberry one, but I don’t care for wine vinegars. Do you think it would come out good using either apple cider or brown rice vinegar?

Reply

4 moonwatcher June 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Welcome, Sheiah! Yes, you could try that. What I would suggest is experiment with a small amount for each kind, half pint maybe, to see which vinegar goes best with the raspberries. I’m thinking the apple cider vinegar would sweeten up quite a bit, yet still have a bite, which would be nice, if you already like it.

Reply

5 Shelah June 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Thanks! I’ll give it a go with small amounts — and let you know the results!

Reply

6 Nicole O'Shea June 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm

These are SO cool! I never thought of making my own vinegars with infusions. Bet it is a LOT LESS expensive than buying the fancy-pants ones at Whole Paycheck :-)

xoxo

Nicole

Reply

7 moonwatcher June 7, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Thanks Nicole!! Whole Paycheck. . .I like that. . .xoxo

Reply

8 Silvia June 8, 2013 at 4:03 am

This is a really good idea and sounds actually pretty simple to make.
Whether I make an infused voinegar myself or start using bought ones I do not know yet. But I will try them for sure because I had to give up soy a few weeks ago – couldn’t believe I had issues but a trial time of leaving it out and then reintroducing it proved without doubt that soy is not for me. And now I really start feeling deprived which is not a good thing.
I had to give up gluten completely about a year after going vegan and that was really, really hard. Soy is nothing in comparison but I think you’ll understand the way I feel.
I really admire the way you adjusted to this kind of eating.
It seems it is important to give the tastebuds a treat in this situation. And it is helpful to do it with simple types of food.
You are an inspiration to me in many ways!
Greetings from Silvia in Germany

Reply

9 moonwatcher June 8, 2013 at 7:47 am

Thanks so much, Silvia. I wish you all the best on your gluten free soy free journey. I do think it’s important to find a healthy way to give the tastebuds a treat. I also enjoy the creativity of the experiments! Here’s to your flavored vinegar adventures in Germany!!

Reply

10 Jacqui June 8, 2013 at 4:52 am

I think I might try this with dewberries that grow wild on my property. Since they are similar to a blackberry, do you have a suggestion for the type of vinegar to use? Thanks!

Reply

11 moonwatcher June 8, 2013 at 7:50 am

Welcome, Jacqui! Thanks for your comment. Making some with the wild dewberries on your property is a great idea. With berries my first choice is a wine or balsamic vinegar. To me the flavors seem to go well together. But go in whatever direction inspires you.

Reply

12 Cheryl June 8, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi Maria,

This sounds simple and delicious! I don’t grow my own fruits, and I like to stick to organic as much as possible. I’m wondering if I could use organic frozen berries?

Am I understanding this that there’s not canning magic here, I just need to fill the jar and seal it, and it’ll keep for months till I’m ready for it?

This all sounds too good to be true!

Thanks, Maria!

Reply

13 moonwatcher June 8, 2013 at 10:36 am

Hi Cheryl! Thanks for your comment. Yes, you are understanding correctly that there’s no canning magic. It’s merely a matter of filling the jar and closing it tight. No need to force a seal, although sometimes it will seal itself. And yes, it should keep for months until you’re ready for it. Just make sure whatever you’ve got in the jar is completely covered. I’ve never had a problem with an infused vinegar going bad. It practically IS too good to be true, but it really IS true. :)

As for organic frozen berries, I’m not sure. As they defrost, they will release a flood of their juice into the vinegar, so proportions may need to be adjusted. I know the vitamin C in raspberries is somewhat lost once they are frozen too, though with other kinds of berries I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve always shied away from frozen, and used fresh. Sometimes I buy a pint of strawberries at the farmer’s market just fot that purpose if I don’t have enough in the garden at home. If you experiment with frozen, let us know how it turns out.

Reply

14 Cheryl June 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Thanks, Maria! I’ll start with fresh before experimenting with frozen!

Reply

15 Diane June 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I too want to give this a go (and chuckled and agree with Nicole’s, “LOT LESS expensive than buying the fancy-pants ones at Whole Paycheck”)! My question is: How long will the infused vinegars keep before decanting? ie, After I decant, I’m wondering if I can close the jar and shelf the infused vinegar for 6 months to a year or more? I’d like to experiment with this and make one or two types of infused vinegars in bulk for the year while berries are in season. What do you think? Peace and thanks,

Reply

16 moonwatcher June 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Welcome, Diane, and thanks for your comment. In my experience the infused vinegars have kept for months without decanting. I just decanted the last raspberry one probably about a month ago and it was made in July. My strategy is to keep the berries in the bottle with the vinegar and decant as needed. On the other hand, over the years I didn’t always refrigerate the decanted vinegar and sometimes did not use it for quite a while (a couple of months? cant remember) and it was always fine. We are basically “pickling” the fruit and plants in the vinegar, so once decanted it should keep for year, possibly up to five years, like an herbal tincture would, if the lids are on tight and it’s stored in a cool, dry place. I once discovered a bottle of nasturtium flower vinegar that had literally been in the cupboard for years, and much to my amazement, it was fine. The flower was like wisps of disappearing paper, but it was not rancid or anything like that. That’s been my experience anyway. Hope it helps!
Maria

Reply

17 Chile June 11, 2013 at 7:50 am

I take it one step further (earlier?) and make my own vinegar with fruit scraps. This yields different flavors of vinegar, is cheap and easy to do, and pretty darn fun.

Reply

18 moonwatcher June 11, 2013 at 8:25 am

Hi Chile! Great to have you chime in on this. I tried doing that, but alas, my experiments developed mold. This is a mold proof way to use up the extra vinegar I already have. :) But am hoping some day I can make it work. Your directions are excellent. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

19 pawpaw September 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I have some Elder Berries in my freezer do you think they would be good in red wine vineger

Reply

Previous post:

Next post: