What a lovely morning! I even had time to take the back way from the supermarket trip, stopping at my favorite river and marshland, which reminds me so much of the salt marshes on the Cape. The trip was precipitated by an overgrown oregano plant, which I haven't yet dared to plant in the garden because of cold nights. As I fingered the oregano, I decided it was time to make another batch of my son's Red Hot Chili Pepper vinegar. It's actually not super hot, but it does have a nice bite to it. I found the peppers I'd dried last fall, and picked out a few nice red ones. Then, realizing I was out of white and cider vinegar, made a quick trip to the market. I'd washed out a nice big glass bottle for steeping the vinegar, so I was set to go.
Here are the basics:
Always use glass containers for vinegars - and if they have metal tops, fold a piece of plastic wrap between the cap and the vinegar when you close it tightly. They will rust if they come in contact with the vinegar.
I use half white vinegar, half apple cider vinegar. It's light and doesn't overpower the herb flavors.
Steep vinegar with herbs in sunlight for a week, then strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth into a very, very clean bottle. Discard the first set of herbs, and, using a chopstick, arrange the herbs as you wish in the bottle before putting the vinegar in. If you use dried spices,like the chili pepper, they will plump up as they soak up the warm-from-the-sun vinegar. I reuse the same chili peppers on the final bottling, but discard the oregano.
To make the chili vinegar:
Fill clean bottle with snips of fresh oregano - both small and long.
Place a few black peppercorns in the bottle, then drop two chili peppers in.
Slowly fill with vinegar and cork tightly.
Let sit in sun for a week.
Strain the vinegar, using a coffee filter, into a pitcher.
Take a clean bottle and fill with snips of oregano, peppercorns, and the now plumped chili peppers from the first steeping.
Fill with the strained herb vinegar.
Cork tightly and dip into some melted paraffin so it doesn't leak.
Keep in a dark cupboard for best results.
Some other wonderful herb vinegars I've made are:
Chive blossom vinegar - a gorgeous magenta color! You must fill the jar with the blossoms to get that color, and keep in a dark cupboard so it doesn't fade. Purple basil also makes a magenta vinegar.
Borage and Lovage - a nice light cucumber taste for summer salads.
Straight Dill, Rosemary, or Basil vinegars.
Give it a try! It's lots of fun and great for hostess or Christmas presents - or a farmer's market stand.