Herb Vinegars

This unit explains why we prefer to use nourishing herbs on this course and it clearly describes how to make herb infused vinegars.

Freshly harvested dandelion, burdock, mugwort and magnolia.

Nourishing Herbs
So what are nourishing herbs and why does this course use them, rather than really strong medicinal herbs?

Nourishing herbs are generally considered to be the safest and may be taken internally by most people, in appropriate amounts for quite some time. I have included mainly nourishing herbs in this course and also some stronger herbs and a few which are generally fine for use on the outside of the body but not for ingesting. Even so, be cautious and, just as with foods, don't rely too much on any one plant.

If taking a nourishing herb, in quantity for some time (perhaps Stinging Nettle infusion daily), it is a good idea to stop and have a break after a maximum of 8 weeks. You may like to return to using it some time later but have a break. I usually eat nourishing herbs and for infusions, I rotate them every two weeks or so.

A few examples of nourishing herbs are: Hawthorn, Chocolate, Lime, Lemon balm, Ginger, Garlic, Dandelion, Burdock, Yellow dock and Astragalus.


How to Make Herb Infused Vinegar
Acid extracts of herbs.

Materials needed
Pasteurised apple cider vinegar*
Fresh nourishing herbs
Knife, chopping board
Sterile glass container with well fitting lid
Chopstick
Label

*other vinegar will also work but apple cider is preferable. I sometimes use Kombucha instead of vinegar.

One of my mixed wild herb vinegars. This one contains geranium, wild garlic, stinging nettle and deadnettle.

Method
[This is the Simpler's method]

1. Chop up the fresh herbs and loosely pack them into the sterile glass jar. The herbs should almost fill the jar without much space being left at the top.
2. Pour vinegar over the herbs, until the jar is full.
3. Prod gently with a chopstick, to release any air bubbles.
4. Top up again with some more vinegar. You need the jar to be totally full now.
5. Seal with the lid and label the jar. It is best to label the jar and the lid, in case the vinegar leaks out and wipes off the writing from a label.
6. Leave the herbs in the vinegar only for 2-6 weeks. After this time they may become moldy.

Storage
Herb vinegar usually stores well for up to one year. Check regularly for mold growth as vinegars are very susceptible to it. A jelly-like vinegar mother may form at the bottom of the jar and this is acceptable. Mold looks blue/white/grey and tends to float on the top of the contents of opened containers of herb vinegar. This is not desirable and should be removed or the whole vinegar discarded.

Vinegar mothers are living cultures of the microbes which convert fruit juice or wine into vinegar. They tend to be vinegar coloured and bounce around the bottom of the vinegar.

Sage vinegar makes a great hair rinse and can be soothing to the skin.

Uses
Herbal Vinegars made from pleasant tasting herbs can be used as salad dressing. They are also an ingredient in Oxymels which we look at later.  I like to take about a tablespoon per day, as a salad/greens dressing or used in green leafy vegetable cooking. There are many other uses for herb infused vinegars such as hair rinses and to soothe skin.

Chickweed may be more difficult for novices to identify but most gardeners know lavender. Here are both, growing in my pavement garden.

Suggested herbs
Aromatics such as Sage, Tarragon, Rosemary and Lavender and mineral rich herbs such as Chickweed, Stinging nettle and Burdock. Each year I make sure to set up a wild garlic vinegar also. It has a very strong taste and aroma which I love adding to meals.

Wild garlic. If it doesn't smell strongly of garlic, it probably is another plant.

Assessed Task
When you have tried setting up a herbal vinegar, make a record in your Crafting notebook and place a short comment about how you found the process in the Crafting Forum.

Move on to Tinctures

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