I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published March 1st 2011
Growing herbs and using them to prepare meals is among the most rewarding relationships you can forge with gardening. You can use fresh herbs to infuse oils or add aromatic freshness to salads, soups, pastas, and sauces.
Fresh herbs may also be used to make herbal breads, jellies, honey, and tea, but one of the easiest and most beautiful things you can do with fresh herbs is to brew herbal vinegars.
Some of the most popular herbs for infusion include chives, tarragon, dill, garlic, mint, parsley, rosemary, and sage. Make every attempt to use only the best-quality herbs that are picked at their peak of flavor. Better still, grow your own in a window garden or obtain freshly cut or potted varieties at your local farmer's market. You'll need about a half a cup of herbs to every two cups of vinegar in most cases.
Herbal vinegars are aromatic because the acid in the vinegar draws out the essential oils in the herbs, creating rich, complex flavors that add a kick to any recipe or marinade. You can use herbal vinegars in salads, stews, and to add interest to ordinary recipes like deviled eggs, potato salad, or even macaroni and cheese.
Once you have your chosen herbs, select vinegars of high quality, such as a clear white wine or cider vinegar (which pairs nicely with dill). You can also use rice vinegar. Always prepare vinegar/herbal mixtures in freshly washed and sanitized glass jars. You'll need a larger glass jar or pitcher to infuse the vinegar for up to two weeks before you bottle it.
First, prepare your herbs by washing them completely before mincing. Next heat your vinegar in a glass or stainless steel saucepan until it is warm, but not boiling. If you're using large pieces, like sprigs of rosemary, bruise them slightly before infusion to make their flavors more pronounced. Steep your vinegar for about two weeks before individually bottling your varieties. You can also add whole pieces or dill, rosemary, or parsley in the bottles when packaging them to keep them pretty or to help you identify individual flavors. For more ideas, try the following herbal vinegar recipes.