I've recently come to the conclusion that sauces and dressings make the meal. Although these little additions can feel unnecessary, they're often what ties the dish together and adds that extra little oomph. When I learned about infused vinegar, I was immediately intrigued. As a big fan of balsamic vinegar, I love the acidity and extra flavor that it brings to a dish.
It turns out DIY infused vinegar is not only delicious; it's super easy to make, with a prep time of about ten minutes! After researching a few recipes, I decided that this was something I needed to add to my repertoire. Flavored vinegar is very simple to make, and the most important ingredient is time. The biggest challenge is keeping your vinegar in a cool dark place for a few weeks of fermentation before trying it out.
Infused Vinegar Recipes
There are many variations of infused vinegar, just like infused olive oil and infused alcohol. A popular choice is fresh herbs, like fresh basil, oregano, tarragon or sprigs of rosemary. Although fresh herbs will have the strongest flavor, dried herbs can also be used for herbal vinegar. The yummy herb vinegar that you'll end up with is ideal as a salad dressing, condiment or marinade for meat.
Another way to go is fruit vinegar, with can add a pop of sweet flavoring to your salad or even your cocktail. Raspberry vinegar is a popular choice, or you can go the citrus route by adding lemon peel or orange peel into your vinegar to infuse. Ingredients like garlic cloves and chives also add a yummy savory flavor to your vinegar.
Most infused vinegar recipes call for white wine vinegar or rice vinegar, but you can use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar in some cases instead. Using high-quality vinegar is the best way to ensure that your end product has the tasty desired flavor you're looking for, but you can also just go with what you have on hand.
How to Make Infused Vinegar
The first step of infusing vinegar is deciding which flavors you'd like to have in your vinegar. Since I couldn't decide, I went for a spicy one, a citrusy-cinnamon fall time vinegar, and a fruity one. Although the spicy infused vinegar recipe I found called for cayenne peppers, I used jalapeño instead (it was what I could find at the grocery store), and it tasted great.
Once you're decided on your ingredients, you need a clean jar and something to use as strainer like a cheesecloth. A canning jar or mason jar is the perfect size, plus it has a metal lid that's easy to seal closed.
Following your recipe, chop, peel or crush your ingredients to prepare them for infusion, then place them in your glass jar. Then, heat up vinegar on the stove to just before boiling. Pour vinegar into the glass jar and allow to cool to room temperature. Then, seal the jar tightly and put in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks, depending on the recipe.
Once your vinegar is infused, open it back up and strain it into a clean jar to get rid of any food chunks. If you're feeling fancy, add a garnish of fresh fruit to your bottle for decoration. And Voila! You have fancy, delicious DIY vinegar to add to salads, sauces, marinades and cocktails!
Here are the recipes I used:
Cranberry Orange Infused Vinegar
Tangy, citrusy and delicious! This is perfect for a salad dressing or fruity cocktail. Get the recipe here.
Strawberry Basil Infused Vinegar
From the inviting pink-red color to the strawberry-basil flavor, this brings any green salad up a notch. I loved it on arugula! Get the recipe here.
Hot Chili Pepper Vinegar
This one has a bit of kick, but as a lover of spicy food, I can say that it's the perfect amount. Delicious in dips, BBQ sauces and salad dressings. Get the recipe here.