I think this is affecting the local strawberry crop. For two days now I've been searching my usual sources and there's none to be had. I'm hoping the berries have just slowed down until the sun returns. I'm praying they're not rotting in the fields.
On the other hand, the perennial herbs are flourishing! They need to be cut back now! In order to use up a good bit of them I'm going to start steeping jugs of herbal vinegars. It's just way too easy and takes no time at all. And it will keep me busy until the strawberries return.
You can use either your home made vinegars (here's how) or store bought vinegars. You'll need some clean jars, a funnel, herbs and spices of your choice, and your imagination. You don't need to make these in the quantities I did. Make a pint or a quart, whatever you're comfortable with. I hand out a lot of vinegars for Christmas and hostess gifts so I tend to make large batches.
First up is chive flower vinegar. You can also do this with old-fashioned sweet scented violets. Of course you get oniony, spicy vinegar from the chive flowers. The violet vinegar is delicate.
Sometimes you can find chive flowers at the farmers market. Some vendors will sell the flowers alone or bunched with the chives. If you can't find the flowers you can do it with straight chives. If you grow your own chives you may have an abundance of flowers right now. Just clip them off below the head.
|Chives are a composite flower. One flower made up of many smaller ones.|
Next, fill the jar, covering the flowers with vinegar. I recommend a white wine or a distilled white vinegar for this because the chive flowers will bleed into the vinegar. Later when you decant and filter it the vinegar will be a pale lavender color. Cap the jar, label and date it, and store in a dark cupboard for several months.
|Too pretty to store out of sight, but do it!|
In keeping with the robust Italian/Greek theme I covered these with my own aged red wine vinegar. Commercial red wine vinegar is fine too and cider vinegar would work.
Cap, label, date, and store away in a dark place for a few months to steep. I'll probably let these jugs go until late November and then I'll filter and decant them into smaller bottles for gifts. But they will definitely be ready for use in 2 months minimum. They'll just taste stronger the longer you let them steep.
Try other herb combinations like Herbes de Provence. Or go Asian with ginger, garlic, red pepper and lemon grass or lemon balm. Cilantro, lime zest, onion, dried tomato, and bell and jalepeno peppers for a Southwest feel. Single herb vinegars are great too; basil, dill, fennel to name a few. Go wild! Have fun!
A few months back I came across a recipe for Maple Vinegar. I have the luxury of having a good bit of local maple syrup on hand so I thought I'd give it a try. Today I tasted the maple vinegar for the first time and it gave me goose bumps, it's that good! Tart/sweet and a little bit smokey. Nice and complex. Oh yeah, I'm making more of this!
3 1/3 cups raw vinegar (like your home made or Braggs)
3 cups maple syrup
1 1/3 cups dark rum
7/8 cups water
Combine the ingredients in a glass jar. Cover the mouth of the jar with several layers of cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. Label, date and store away in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 4 weeks. The vinegar may take more than 4 weeks to work properly but when it tastes smooth and tart/sweet with no trace of alcohol it's ready. Filter it through several layers of cheese cloth in a funnel into smaller jars. Cap, label and store in a cool, dark place.