Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Herbal Oils & Vinegars

As I'm typing this, about to lament the horrible cold & wet May weather we've had here on the coast, the sun is momentarily shining brightly against the dark clouds. What a tease...

What to do on these spring days now that the gardens are all seeded, the flowers are all weeded & the yardening projects are put on hold due to rain & the threat of severe bug swarming at any hour of the day?

I thought it time to restock my supply of homemade herbal vinegars & oils - especially since I noticed that I'm down to my last bottle of lavender olive oil & sage-lovage-wandering onion white wine vinegar!

I raided the gardens - all of them - for a supply of fresh herbs.
Back Row: sweet cicely, Egyptian wandering onion tips, flat & curly leaf parsley
Front: Bronze fennel, rosemary, lovage, sage & thyme

It's a rather straight forward proceedure to make your own herbal vinegars. I was introduced to the idea while web-wandering last winter & stumbling across Susun S Weed's Wise Woman web site that delved into all things magical in the garden - mostly about how to eat weeds. But, the advice & suggestions for herbal vinegars had me intrigued.

Also - what better way to get through the dull-drums of winter than with homemade salad dressings that use your own herbs grown that year!

I mix & match my herbs & really should pay better attention to what I absolutely love combined together, but that's half the fun of making your own - it's different every time. I use apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar & this year have made use of some rice vinegar, as I ran out of apple cider. I don't suggest using white vinegar, that, while being very inexpensive, just doesn't do justice to your herbs. I use red wine vinegar strictly for berry vinegars - which will come later on this year once the berries start ripening.

Today I made 4 herbal vinegars & used some very handy snap-lid jars. I could have used a whole lot more fresh herbs (finely chopped), & will add more in a few weeks if I think the flavour needs to be stronger. If using jam jars with metal lids, I would put a piece of plastic wrap over top the glass before putting the lid on to stop any potential corrosion between the vinegar & metal.

My blends today are: (left to right) - 1) rosemary, wandering onion & thyme. 2) thyme, sage & wandering onion. 3) lovage, thyme, parsley & wandering onion. 4) fennel & parsley. The predominant flavour for each blend is the herb listed first. They were made with apple cider vinegar, with the exception of the last jar; I used rice vinegar.

My herbal oils today are: (left to right) - 1) sweet cicely & grapeseed oil. 2) lovage, wandering onion & parsley in olive oil. 3) thyme & sage in olive oil. 4) sage & wandering onion in olive oil.

With the oils, you would want to poke a knife or chopstick down into the jar as you are filling to ensure that there are no air bubbles & that the oil covers the top of the herbs. If the herbs aren't covered, there is the potential for the herbs to start to mold & hence, ruin a potentially wonderful batch of oil. Same with the vinegars. Also, with oils, try to make sure they are not wet - put them through a salad spinner if you had to rinse them (before chopping them up) because oil & water don't mix & might start molding in the jar. I used plastic wrap on the metal lids with the oils too.

Now I'll let them sit for about 5 or 6 weeks (more if I get busy & forget), in a cool & dark place. I'll stir or shake them around about once a day for the first week & then less frequently afterwards once I see that they aren't molding & the herbs are starting to sink & break down a bit. I actually stored my oils in the fridge - mainly because the fridge is empty & I'll remember to check them more often & also because I picked the herbs today in the rain & I'm not too sure I got enough water off - so there might be an issue with spoilage.

Once you think they are ready - it's all about how strong you want the herb flavours to be - I strain out the oil/vinegar through a fine mesh strainer, squishing the herbs as much as possible to get it all out & then bottle them up for use. I've got a handy supply of glass beer bottles with snap-lids (Grolsh - a pretty green bottle) & I just make sure to put a label on it & have it handy for cooking or making dressings. If you want, you can put a sprig of fresh herb into the bottle for decoration.
 Here is my last bottle of oil (lavender olive oil) in a handy spot along side my herbal salt & pepper grinder. Mmmmmm, I think it just might be time for lunch!


Michelle's Green Thumb said...

Ok - putting the herbal oils in the fridge isn't such a great idea. The oil turned solid!!

So I've got them sitting out on the counter to return to liquid & will put them in a cupboard that I use frequently so that I remember to check on them & stir them up.

Ruralrose said...

I thought you couldn't use fresh herbs only dry - great post! Am going to follow you if that's ok. Peace