As versatile as baking powder, herbal vingars can be used for cooking, seasoning, preventing illness, pest control and sparkling windows, so don’t just keep it in the pantry…

Versatile Vinegars

The indispensable kitchen and first aid standby, herb vinegar can be pleasant tasting, aromatic and eye-catching. Floral, or root vegetable, spice or fruit vinegar is a fat-free delicious dressing, sweet condiment, or a natural cosmetic, a laundry aid, and an honored medicine. Resourceful and simple to make, its versatility makes it a bonus to busy chefs, who transform simple recipes into sophisticated menus, from fresh produce and other wild and garden edibles. In France, vinegar means ‘sour wine’ and whether grain, cider, beer, wine or rice, by nature, vinegar is a potent preservative.

Not just for windows, or seasoning fries (like the famous British potato chips), vinegar is as versatile as baking flour, so stock your herbal home with special flavored or scented vinegars for dressing, marinating, tenderizing, or basting foods. Stock your medicine chest with healing vinegar’s for combating illness, preventing disease, and eliminating pesky insects. Stock your bathrooms with herbal vinegars to strengthen and condition your hair, tone your skin, and treat sunburn. Stock your cleaning cupboard, with herbal vinegar to get rid of doggy odors, make your windows shine and bleach laundry.

Cosmetic herb vinegars

Mouthwash – chamomile, sage, lavender, tea tree and rosemary, vinegar

After-shave – thyme, sage, basil, dill and lavender, vinegar

Color-stay hair rinse

Blonde – Chamomile in rice vinegar

Brunette – Rosemary in cider vinegar

Redheads – Safflower in red wine vinegar

Darkest brown – Walnut hulls in balsamic vinegar

Black – Indigo leaves in cider vinegar

Dandruff treatment – stinging nettle, horsetail, southernwood and mint in cider vinegar

Deodorant – sage and thyme in rice vinegar

Lustrous hair – rose and lavender in cider vinegar

Herbs and their edible flowers can add a distinctive taste variety to homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise and salad dressings. The best carrier for preserving these floral scents and flavors is rice and white wine vinegar since both are mild, colorless and slightly sweet. Natural white vinegars allow the living essence of the flowers to come out, without the taste of the vinegar overpowering them. Do not be tempted to use white distilled vinegar as it is both too acidic and too harsh. Neither, malt (made from beer) or balsamic vinegar (aged for ten years in oak casks) are good base choices as they are either too dark in color or too strongly flavored, and will hide the subtle combinations of the infused flowers.

The best time of year for making herb vinegar is late summer, especially in the month of august and almost all-fragrant herbs are fair game. If you have a large garden, revive the old custom of making aromatic vinegars for salad dressing, iced drinks, a spring tonic or an infused compress to soothe a raging migraine. To obtain the best flavor, use fresh leaves, seeds and flowers.

Indispensable household staples, all culinary herbal vinegars add tang and richness to the foods your serve. Infusing herb flowers is quite simple. There are two methods and I prefer the energy-saving sunlight method.

* Half fill a sterilized canning jar with the chosen fresh herb flowers.
* Pour in the rice or white wine vinegar, leaving 1/2 inch space, then seal.
* Place the jar in a sunny spot in a windowsill or greenhouse.
* Leave to infuse for at least three weeks.

I am lucky to live in a warm climate, but if you live in a cold climate, there’s another faster, heat method.

* Heat the vinegar in a steel pan until hot, but do not boil.
* Half fill the jar with the fresh herb flowers, then pour over the hot vinegar.
* Leave 1/2 inch space, then seal.
* Place the jar in a warm, dark place for two weeks.

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