Herbal Vinegar

Herbal vinegars add flavor and nutrition to your favorite culinary creations, from meat dishes to salads and vegetables. Certain herbs also pair well with fruit when preserved in vinegar. Aside from being flavorful, herbal vinegars have a place in the medicine cabinet. They also make great gifts!

Herbal vinegars are super simple to make with just a few ingredients. Still, there are a few key things to know to get the best results…

Thyme leaf

You can use fresh or dried herbs. If using fresh herbs, be sure to inspect foliage carefully to make sure there are no “tenants” in residence; then gently rinse small bunches at a time in cool water and pat dry on paper towels or a tea towel. Feel free to use the flowers, too. Although most herbs are at peak flavor just before flowering, leaves harvested later in the season still have fragrance and flavor value. Besides, the flowers add visual appeal to the finished product.

Use clean, glass jars. Wine bottles—with corks reserved—are perfect to use to make herbal vinegars. However, just about any jar will do as long as it has a fitted lid. Even mason jars work in a pinch.

Invest in labels or run some off on your computer and printer. The appearance of herbs bathing in vinegar can change somewhat and you may not recognize or remember the ingredients. So, labeling the bottle is helpful. This is a particularly nice touch (if not a necessity) when giving herbal vinegars as gifts. 

Finally, whenever adding jalapeno or cayenne peppers, shallots or garlic to an herbal vinegar, keep them whole. Onions, however, as well as carrots and some other vegetables, will have to be cut into quarters or chunks to fit through the opening of the bottle.

Pack your jars or bottles with herbs and accompanying ingredients and then fill the jar with whatever vinegar you choose to use. As a general rule of thumb, plan to use 1 cup of loosely packed fresh herbs to 2 cups of vinegar, or ½ cup dried material to 2 cups vinegar. Recipes that rely primarily on seeds or spices come out best in a ratio of 4 tablespoons seasoning to 2 cups vinegar. Don’t be afraid to stray from white or apple cider vinegar either. Balsamic, champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar and other varieties are commonplace in most supermarkets these days.

That’s it! Once you have your vinegars assembled, place the bottles on a sunny shelf for 2-4 weeks to allow the flavors to infuse, giving each a gentle turn once each day. Then strain the liquid into a non-reactive bowl. Discard the herbal material and pour the finished vinegars into clean containers, cap and label.

Here are a few ideas to get you started making your own herbal vinegars. Feel free to experiment with different combinations of herbs, seasonings, fruits and vegetables!

Herbal Meat Tenderizer:Sage, bay, whole black peppercorns, garlic, rosemary, tarragon, white vinegar. This ingredient lineup is also excellent combined with vegetable broth and cooked with rice as a substitution for water.

Italian Vinegar: Oregano, Red Wine Vinegar, Garlic cloves, chives, basil, red pepper strips, marjoram. This combination is great for salads, soups, bean dishes and marinating vegetables.

Tarragon – Fennel Vinegar: Tarragon leaves, fresh fennel leaves, white vinegar

Raspberry Marinade & Dressing: Lightly mashed fresh raspberries, sage leaves, whole peppercorns, white vinegar. This is a great vinegar to use for salads and—believe it or not—makes a tasty and unusual marinade for grilled chicken and streak.

Apricot & Lemon Vinegar: Lightly mashed fresh apricots, lemon verbena leaves, 2-3 whole cinnamon sticks, 2 tablespoons clover honey.

Herbal Spring Tonic:Dandelion root, burdock root, rosehips, apple cider vinegar. Add a heaping tablespoon to a cup of tea each day.

Dandruff Treatment: Nettle, calendula, rosemary, apple cider vinegar. Note: This is also good to use on insect bites and rashes.

More Combination Suggestions

To White Vinegar Add:

  • Basil
  • Tarragon
  • Fennel
  • Lemon verbena
  • Lemon basil
  • Orange mint
  • Pineapple mint
  • Caraway
  • Dill
  • Calendula
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Bay
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

To Apple Cider Vinegar Add:

  • Sage
  • Horseradish
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Balm
  • Bay
  • Shallots
  • Rosehips
  • Savory

To Red Vinegar Add: