If your looking for a great way to add flavor to foods without adding unsavory elements like sodium and fat, try flavored vinegars. It’s even a beautiful way to decorate your kitchen counters.
Vinegar is an ancient food, dating back to at least 3,000 BC in Egypt. Almost anything that ferments can be made into vinegar: apple must, corn, cane sugar, coconut, honey, rice, millet, sorghum, palm fruit, and trebbiano grapes, used in balsamic vinegar. It seems like each culture makes their vinegar from what is readily and regionally available.
So if you’re a Bon Vivant like me, you’ve already wondered if you can make your own vinegars. YES, and they are divine. But be careful, you will no longer be satisfied with the watered down flavors of mass produced vinegar.
To make vinegar you need a mother. The vinegar mother feeds on alcohol and converts it to vinegar. You can purchase it (try home brew suppliers) or use the mother that is in an unfiltered apple cider vinegar, as long as it is unpasterized. Once you make a batch of vinegar you can reuse the mother. It’s a living mass of bacteria so treat it well. If you have trouble finding instructions email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will explain my vinegar making methods. I’ve been making white wine, red wine, and cranberry vinegar for a while now.
OK, back to easy flavors. I use clamp top lemonade bottles that have been cleaned and sterilized. Fill the bottle with the flavor element (cleaned of course), top it with the vinegar of choice (apple cider is my favorite), let it sit long enough for the flavors to infuse, refill as needed. Then use it in salad dressings (including quinoa, rice, and other grain based salads), marinades, or any place else you would use a splash of vinegar. You can do the same thing with vodka too, but that’s a different post!
Here are a few of my favorite flavors…
Cacoa nibs, cinnamon, and red chiles. As you can see, this variety takes on a lot of color from the flavor elements. My favorite use for this one is to toss it with cucumber slices and chopped purple onion for a quick summer side dish.
Jalapeño cilantro. This is a great addition to marinades, especially grilled fish. Although lately I leave out the cilantro and just make jalapeño vinegar.
Kumquat jalapeño. I use less jalapeño for this one to make sure the citrus flavor comes through.
Mango and red chiles. Sweet and hot!
Rosemarry black pepper. This is another staple in my kitchen. I use it in cooking when I want a more complex black pepper flavor, the oils from the pepper will turn it almost black as it sits.
Cherry tomato and basil. A light summery flavor for salads.
If you have any other ideas please share them! Bon Vivants are always on the lookout for new flavor combinations.
Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!