Preparing the Herbs
Herbs and roots should be clean, dry, and chopped. The more finely they are chopped, the more surface area is exposed to the action of the vinegar. Some folks even put them in the food processor for this step.
Filling the Jars
- Step One: Fill your jar to the top with your chopped herbs. The size of the jar depends on how much you want to make or how much herb you have available. With some of my favorite herbs like Dandelion, I make a ½ gallon at a time, while others I might make only a cup or a pint, especially when experimenting with new herbs.
You will be amazed at how much herb it takes to fill a jar. It’s probably close to twice as much as you think might fit, so gather accordingly.
- Step Two: Pour your vinegar over the herbs until the jar is filled within a half inch of the top. You may need to top it off again after it settles. Some herbals recommend heating the vinegar, but I never do. I think this is leftover from the days when vinegars were raw rather than pasteurized, and heating destroyed the live cultures.
Labeling, Steeping, Straining, Sweetening
Be sure to label your vinegars with the date and herbs used. Then simply store them in the cupboard or dark place for 6 weeks or longer. This long-steeping gives the vinegar plenty of time to do its work.
At the end of 6 weeks, strain the vinegar through a mesh strainer. I don’t generally strain mine until I need them. The herbs are perfectly preserved in the vinegar and will keep just fine, even for a year or more.
After the vinegar is strained, I like to sweeten it with a little honey, as it seems to really bring out the flavors and the goodness. Add 1 Tbsp honey per cup of vinegar.
The honey won’t melt in the vinegar without a little heat. I don’t like to heat the vinegars for fear of destroying some of the raw nutrients, so what I do is heat just a ¼ cup or so of the vinegar in a small pot with the honey until it is dissolved. Let cool and add it to the vinegar.
If vinegar is kept in a dark, cool place it will keep for years. There is some discrepancy in the herbal literature about how long to keep herbal vinegars, but 3-7 years is the range generally accepted. I try to use mine within two years if I can.