Archive for the ‘Vinegar’ Category

Nasturtium Vinegar

Monday, July 18th, 2011

I’ve loved nasturtiums ever since I planted some along an ugly wire fence when I was a little girl. They were a vining/trailing variety, and I was amazed at the transformation the bright green foliage and jewel-like blooms brought to the depressing fence that bordered the porch of the house my family lived in at the time.  Later in life I discovered you could eat nasturtiums.  Just like the blooms livened up an ugly fence, they can also liven up a plain salad with their intense color and peppery taste.  Nasturtium vinegar is an easy way to capture the color and flavor of the flowers, so you can have a little taste of summer to brighten up a dreary winter day.  This is so simple, I’m almost ashamed to blogging it.

Stuff some nasturtium flowers into a jar, and pour a mild white vinegar over the blooms. Rice wine vinegar is my favorite to use for herb and flower vinegars.

I’ve made a couple of batches of this so far this summer. I usually pick a few blooms each day and add them to the jar of vinegar over a period of two or three weeks. I like to enjoy the flowers in the garden, and this way I don’t have to pick the plants clean.

After 2-4 weeks the vinegar can be strained and bottled.

Homemade Vinegar Part 2 – Wine and Raspberries

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

About 3 weeks ago I shared my first venture into making vinegar.  I had mentioned that I would be saving some of the vinegar mother to start a batch of white wine vinegar.  Even though the project isn’t done, I’d like to go ahead and show you what I’ve started.  We’re at the beginning of the growing season, and I want to get the information up for those who would like to take advantage of in season produce.   Rhubarb is already in season here in Indiana, and strawberries should be coming along shortly.

Above is a picture of a batch of raspberry vinegar that I just started.  The weird-looking stuff at the top is the mother from the apple vinegar that I made back in February. Here’s what it looks like on a plate before I added it to the raspberries.

I was scrounging through my freezer and found a gallon bag of raspberries from the summer of 2009. Some of them were starting to look a little freezer burned around the edges, so I wanted to get them used up.  I’m hoping for a nice rich raspberry vinegar to use on summer salads.  Once I thawed the berries, I placed them in a half gallon jar with a big dollop of raw local honey.  To top up the container I needed less than a cup of water, so the berry juice is thick and not watered down.  I have high hopes for this batch. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that I placed the mother in the top the jar, but you probably figured that out already.

I also started batches from some elderberry wine my parents made last summer, and some tomato wine that we’ve all decided wasn’t very nice to drink, but should make good vinegar. This reminds me that I had promised an update on the elderberry wine, so I will try not to forget to write about it soon.

And, here is the wine with a piece of the mother floating in it.  Later in the summer I’ll get everything bottled up, and let you know how the batches turned out.  If any of you decide to experiment with different vinegars, please do drop me a line.

10-14-11 Update:  Unfortunately, the vinegar did not turn out. Some searching led me to the Leeners site, a company specializing in cultures and yeasts for fermented foods. It appears my big mistake with the raspberries was using so little water. After the initial ferment the raspberry developed mold. The problem with the wine was two fold.  First, because my wine had an alcohol content in excess of 9%, I should have diluted it at the rate of one part water to two parts wine.  Secondly, I discovered that there’s a better chance of converting wine to vinegar if you use an actual wine vinegar mother.  I have plans to purchase mothers from Leeners, as well as the vinegar making book.

Homemade Cider Vinegar

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Recently, I decided I wanted to learn to make my own vinegar. I happened to recall that Leslie, an online herbie friend of mine, had tried her hand at vinegar this past fall. After checking out her blog post on making vinegar, I also picked her brain clean, and she was kind enough to hold my hand over the several weeks it took to make my vinegar. A big “thank you”, Leslie! If you take a look at her post, you’ll notice that she was taught how to make vinegar by someone she knew.  Unfortunately, Leslie’s friend’s blog with the step-by-step updates is no longer available.  One of things I enjoy about the online herb community I’m involved with is the willingness to share knowledge.

What I love about this particular method of making vinegar is that it can be made in small batches, and utilizes apple scraps that would normally end up in my compost pile.  I used the chopped up cores and peelings of some organic apples I used to make a batch of apple crisp.

I decided to use an half gallon glass jar for this project, instead of my crock, so that I would be able to watch the whole process and take pictures.  In the future I will probably use one of my smaller crocks.  On a side note, it’s very important to use a container made of a non-reactive material like glass, crockery, or stainless steel.  Your finished vinegar is highly acidic and will react with a material like aluminum.

I placed the apple scraps in the jar and covered them with water. Next, I mixed in a nice dollop of raw local honey and about 1/4 cup of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar that I picked up at the health food store.

The addition of honey helps get the first stage of fermentation going, where sugars are converted to alcohol.  I didn’t have access to a vinegar “mother” for this first attempt, so I used the Bragg vinegar to provide Acetobacter.  Acetobacter is an acetic acid bacteria required for the second stage of fermentation, where the alcohol is converted to vinegar.  In the future I will be able to start batches from the mother that developed in this batch (more on that later).

Once I had given the whole thing a good stir , I covered the jar with a piece of butter muslin and set the jar aside to start doing it’s thing. It’s important for the mixture to get plenty of air while the fermentation process is taking place, thus the use of a cloth cover.  If you don’t use a cover you might end up having problems with flies and such getting into your project.

Now, after the above warning to keep your project covered, I will admit to keeping my project uncovered for the first few days.   I wanted to be able to provide a few good shots of the process, and it had been cool enough that flies weren’t a problem.  I placed a little antique glass canning jar lid on top of the mixture to hold the apples down below the surface of the liquid, and still allow me to see what was going on.

Within 24 hours I saw the first bubbly signs that yeast were happily munching away, and fermentation was underway.

By the end of day 2 serious foaming was underway, and I could see the gaseous bubbles moving under the glass lid much like carbonation bubbling up in a glass of soda.


Once the primary fermentation activity had settled down, I covered the jar and set it aside for the next several weeks. When I checked it at week 3 I found a skim across the top of the liquid, which indicated the secondary fermentation was progressing along.

This substance that forms at the top of the vinegar is called a “mother”.  It contains the acetic acid bacteria that convert the alcohol to vinegar, and can be saved to start future batches of vinegar. As time passes, this bacterial colony continues to multiply and increase in mass.  By week 5, which was this morning, the mother had increased significantly, and my vinegar tasted sufficiently “vinegary”.

I removed the mother, setting it aside in a small dish, and strained the finished vinegar into a quart jar.  After tasting the vinegar, I decided that I’d like it to be just a little more sour, so I placed a small piece of the mother in the jar and will take it out when the flavor is just a little stronger.    The rest of the mother has gone into a small jar with a bit of the vinegar, and I will be using it soon to start a batch of white wine vinegar.