Recently, I was walking through my herb garden with my neighbor and local herb expert, Rita Heikenfeld, when she spied my patch of scallions all a-bloom. She exclaimed, “Oh Erin! You have to get those flowers off before they go to seed. I’m going to get you a recipe for flavored wine vinegar!” And so, my newest project began: learning how to make white wine vinegar infused with the garlic scent and taste of scallion blossoms.
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First things first, I had to get out there and harvest the flowers. I went out with my trimmers and a basket and collected the freshest, healthiest looking blossoms. The plant was truly lush with purple flowers. Scallion flowers look a lot like purple clover blooms, but their smell is pungent like garlic. Even if you are already growing garlic, it’s worth it to plant some scallions too. The green shoots are an easy and flavorful topping for lots of foods; my favorite is baked potatoes. Plus, you’ll get the pretty flowers for making vinegar or just for tossing in a salad for an added punch of color and taste.
Once I had my flowers, I put them in a strainer and rinsed them thoroughly. Lots of tiny little bugs came out of all the folds of petals when I did this so don’t skip this step! I measured and found I had eight cups of purple blossoms.
Then I was ready to mix up my vinegar. While you can buy prepared wine vinegars at the grocery, it is much more cost-effective and allows for more creativity if you make it yourself at home. It’s pretty simple too! With Rita’s help on ratios, I mixed up my own white wine vinegar in minutes. Starting with plain white vinegar, I measured out 12 cups into a large bowl. I wanted a dry white wine vinegar so I chose a dry white wine – Chardonnay. I measured 4 cups and added this to the vinegar (ratio should be about 3:1 for vinegar:wine). Mix, mix, mix and … ta da! White wine vinegar! I made a gallon of white wine vinegar for a total cost of about $6.40.
The process would be the same to make homemade red wine vinegar except you’d obviously use red wine. Also, if you want a sweeter final product, you can use a sweeter wine. The possibilities are endless.
This is your base and where the real fun begins. My project wasn’t just to learn how to make white wine vinegar, but also how to infuse it with herbs for flavor, scent, and nutrition.
An Aside on Nutrition from Herbalist Rita Heikenfeld.
“Erin’s onion chives love where they’re growing, witnessed by the fact that the pinkish purple flower heads are prolific and large. Chives are a perennial herb and have many health benefits. As members of the heart healthy, anticancer allium family, chives have antioxidants that kill free radicals. The Folate they contain is essential for healthy babies, and chives also have good amounts of blood building iron and potassium. Their slight diuretic effect can help lower blood pressure, and if you love the taste of onions but your tummy doesn’t, try substituting onion chives. Ditto with garlic and garlic chives.”
For garlic-flavored white wine vinegar, Rita told me to mix the vinegar I had prepared with the flowers in a ratio of 2:1. I cleaned out some large mason jars and began by adding 1.5 cups of flowers to each jar. My eight cups of flowers got me six jars to work with.
Next, I measured the vinegar mixture: three cups per jar. I screwed on the lids and gave them each a good shake to mix things up. Next came the long wait for the flowers to infuse the vinegar.
I let my jars sit for a week on the kitchen counter. Day by day, the color got richer and richer. Several times, I opened them up to smell. Be warned – the scent is powerful! When I mentioned this to Rita, she said that’s good. Often times infused vinegars are watered down so much that you just get a whiff of the smell and lose most of the flavor of the herbs. She assured me that I can always cut it when it’s finished if the flavor is too much for my taste.
The remaining liquid had turned a beautiful fuschia! What a lovely product.
I tasted mine and decided not to cut it with more white wine vinegar. Taste yours and see what you think! Remember, you can always add more but you can’t remove it once you’ve added it so do it in small increments, tasting the vinegar as you go.
Now that you’re an expert on how to make white wine vinegar, head out to your herb garden and see what inspires you! If your rosemary plant is profuse, it might be time to make some rosemary infused vinegar. I think tarragon might be my next flavor to try.
There are so many possibilities with what you can make through infusion, which is such a simple process requiring just a few ingredients and a lot of patience. A similar process can utilize, for example, when learning how to make vanilla extract.
Here’s a recipe for a vinaigrette you can make with your new vinegar – courtesy of Rita.
CHIVE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
Go to taste on ingredients. This is delicious drizzled over Caprese salad or mixed greens.
3 tablespoons chive vinegar
1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
Squirt of Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup oil
If you love reading about this stuff but don’t have an herb garden going yet to make your own, my bottles are available for sale if you live in the Cincinnati area. I hope at the very least, this has inspired you to plant some herbs! Maybe by this time next summer you will be growing garlic or a healthy rosemary plant and asking yourself: what kind of infused vinegar should I make next?