Vinegar is an excellent way to preserve and enhance a variety of ingredients, similar to using alcohol for tinctures. While alcohol does a fantastic job of extracting flavor and constituents, it leaves something to be desired for overall flavor. Vinegar extracts, however, work beautifully.
Making vinegar extracts is easy and inexpensive, especially if you have a herb garden. Making your own herb-infused vinegars is not at all labor intensive, and having patience yields delicious results that last for months.
How To Make Herb-Infused Vinegar
My family loves to make various kinds of vinegar and herbal infusions as part of our homeschooling, cooking, and wellness routines, so don't be afraid to solicit little helpers.
Using room temperature or heated vinegar, you can make a herbal vinegar infusion with fresh or dried herbs. This method takes two weeks to complete, and you'll make a better product with a more robust flavor.
Hot vinegar is the best method for dried herbs and takes a week to complete.
Keep in mind…. if you're using herbal flowers, including garlic chive blossoms, you will ONLY want to use the no-heat, fresh-herb method.
Choosing Which Vinegar To Use
You may use any vinegar to make an extract, but not all kinds of vinegar are equal. The natural flavor of the vinegar you choose impacts the taste of your finished product. If you're making herb-infused vinegar for culinary purposes, you'll want to know what you plan to use it for.
It would be best if you took time to contemplate which herbs, flowers, and vinegar to use for your infusion, similar to how you would combine herbs and spices to season a dish.
For example, balsamic vinegar combines well with tarragon, rosemary, or basil. Plums infused in rice wine vinegar extract a gorgeous color. Apple cider vinegar tends to be ideal for mixing with most herbs, imparting a complementary flavor to various ingredients.
For making herb-infused vinegar, you will need vinegar with 5% acidity. Some vinegar will need to be diluted with water to reach this acidity, while others are around 5% at their creation.
Organic vinegar, traditionally prepared, tend to yield the best results. You'll want to ensure to read the label before purchasing.
For example, distilled white vinegar contains a neutral flavor and changes color depending on the other ingredients you choose. The downside: most store-bought distilled white vinegar options are made from corn, which could come from bioengineered sources.
Vinegar Options To Consider for Homemade Herbal Vinegar
- Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (with “the mother”)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Champagne vinegar
- Distilled white vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
- Rice wine vinegar
- Sherry vinegar
- Ume plum vinegar
- White wine vinegar
Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with “the mother” is one of the best for making an extract, especially when using robustly flavored herbs like sage. Unlike refined vinegars, unrefined vinegar retains its beneficial bacteria culture, similar to a SCOBY in kombucha.
White wine vinegar works exceptionally well for making culinary herbal vinegar.
Distilled white vinegar is perfect for making your herbal vinegar cleaner or fabric softener. While an excellent cleaning and gardening product that you can easily make from kitchen scraps is a bit too harsh for food recipes.
Choosing Which Herbs To Use in Your Herb Vinegar
There are numerous herbs, fruits, spices, and herbal recipes you can infuse in your vinegar, whether you purchase your herbs or grow them at home.
Choosing which one is right depends on how you intend to use it.
You may use either fresh or dried ingredients, with a few considerations.
If you're using fresh herbs, ensure they're washed and patted dry.
Don't skip patting dry your herbs! Water will dilute your vinegar and may cause bacterial growth inside your extract.
Fresh or dried fruit can be used, but avoid frozen or previously frozen options because they have a higher water content from the ice.
Examples of Herbs To Extract in Vinegar
- Astragalus root
- Chili peppers
- Chives, scallions, or shallots
- Dandelion leaves, flowers, or root
- Dill weed
- Lemon verbena
- Mustard seeds
Don't have herbs at home you want to infuse and don't have a local supplier, check out my favorite online place to purchase dried herbs.
Supplies You'll Need for Making Herb Vinegar
Supplies you'll need for either method:
- Vinegar of your choice
- Herbs to infuse
- Glass jar
Because of the acidic nature of vinegar, you will need to use glass for your extractions. Plastic will leach into your concoction, so it is best to avoid it altogether, especially when using vinegar. I prefer wide-mouth jars to make removing your material easier in the end.
It isn't necessary to sanitize it first (as long as your jar is clean), but to do so, boil the jar for 10 minutes.
Additionally, you'll need cheesecloth, a fine mesh strainer, parchment paper, rubber bands, sharpie markers, and labels to make a safe and delicious end product.
Homemade Herb Infused Vinegar Using Fresh Herbs Without Heat
There is something to be said about good things being worth the wait (in this case: 2 weeks). Making your own homemade herb vinegar is no different. Leaving your vinegar at room temperature and adding fresh herbs is undoubtedly the best way to make your own herbal vinegar.
This slower method to create your herb vinegar results in a more robust aromatic and flavor profile. It is worth the extra week's wait compared to the faster way mentioned below.
- Lightly crush your fresh herbs and/or fruit, and loosely pack them into a clean glass jar. The jar should be filled approximately 1/3-1/2 way. Lightly crushing the herbs helps to release their scent and flavor.
- Pour room-temperature vinegar over the herb mixture until it's completely immersed.
- Tightly cover the jar, labeling it with the herb(s) you used and the date.
- Store at room temperature for 2 weeks, out of direct light and away from heat.
- Strain the vinegar into a clean glass bottle (DO NOT USE PLASTIC).
- Compost or discard the spent herbs.
- OPTIONAL: If you choose to float herbs in the vinegar for decoration, use a dried sprig or two of the same herb used to make the vinegar. For example, use fresh rosemary leaves to make the vinegar, but float a couple of dried rosemary sprigs as decoration in the finished vinegar. Fresh herbs impart the best flavor, but dried herbs keep their shape and color better.
- Cork or tightly cover the bottle.
Occasionally, you will find a kombucha-like SCOBY (the Mother) forming on the top of your vinegar, either during the extraction process or after your vinegar has been strained. This is especially common when using raw apple cider vinegar.
Although not harmful, the SCOBY formation indicates the vinegar is entering another stage of fermentation which may dilute your vinegar infusion. Remove the SCOBY from the bottle with tongs to keep your vinegar more potent, or strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. If yours develops one, you'll want to toss it into your compost pile or feed it to backyard chickens (they LOVE it!).
Homemade Herb Infused Vinegar Using Hot Vinegar & Dried Herbs
If you don't have fresh herbs on hand, use the dried herbs with the hot vinegar method. The hot vinegar does better than room temperature vinegar extracting the aromatic oils and flavor from dried herbs.
I don't recommend using the hot vinegar method with fresh herbs because it causes them to lose flavor.
- Add 3-4 tablespoons of herbs (and/or fruit) to a clean, heat-proof glass jar
- Heat vinegar to a simmer (not a full boil).
- Pour the hot vinegar over the dried herbs, filling the jar.
- Cover your jar tightly and label it with the date and the herb(s) you used.
- Store your infusion at room temperature, keeping it out of direct light or heat for 1 week.
- Strain the vinegar infusion into a clean glass bottle.
- Compost or discard the spent herbs.
- OPTIONAL: Add a few sprigs of your infusion's dried herbs for decoration if you like
- Tightly cover or cork the bottle.
Store herbal vinegar for up to 2 months, keeping it away from direct sunlight or heat sources. You may also store it in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
How To Use Herbal Vinegar
There are many ways to use your herb vinegar:
- Create a thoughtful homemade gift for birthdays, Christmas, housewarmings, or to show someone you care
- Use your infused vinegar for cleaning
- Create your own flavorful, healthy vinegar-based salad dressing
- Create your own healthy vinegar-based marinades
- Use it to add flavor to your sauces or soups
- Homemade Fire Cider and other vinegar-based herbal remedies
- Mix with honey to create delicious oxymels