Herb vinegar is vinegar which has been blended with herbs. After a brief curing period, the vinegar will be infused with flavor and it can be used for things like sauces and dressings. Many gourmet markets carry an assortment of herb vinegars as well as herb infused olive oils. You can also easily make herb vinegar at home, if you want to try experimenting with your own combinations.
Any culinary herb or edible flower can be used in herb vinegar. Mint, orange, thyme, parsley, basil, dandelion, ginger, nettles, and many others are quite popular, along with spices like garlic and hot peppers. Cooks can also choose from a wide range of vinegars including white, cider, wine, and sherry vinegar. If you are making herb vinegar at home, use a vinegar with acidity of at least five percent, to ensure that the acidity is high enough to prevent the herbs from rotting.
When selecting a vinegar to steep the herbs in, cooks try to think about how the flavors will pair together. Lavender vinegar, for example, should probably be made with white vinegar, while rosemary vinegar can be made with a stronger wine vinegar. Classic culinary herbs like thyme, sage, oregano, and tarragon can be steeped in sherry or cider vinegar, while dill vinegar can be made with white vinegar for a fresh, clean taste.
By making herb vinegar at home, you can adjust the ingredients and the strength to suit your needs. Homemade herb vinegar can also be a great gift, especially if you find attractive decorative containers to present it in. Start by selecting fresh herbs, washing them, and gently patting them dry. Pack the herbs loosely into a glass jar which has been submerged in boiling water for 15 minutes to sterilize it, and then pour vinegar over the herbs, making sure to leave a little bit of room at the top of the jar.
Close the jar with a non-metallic lid or cork, and leave it in a cool dry place, checking it every week for flavor and strength. When the herb vinegar reaches the desired flavor, pour it through a strainer or a piece of cheesecloth into another sterilized jar. For decoration, you may want to put a sprig of herbs in the new jar. In either case, label the jar with the contents and the date, and seal it with a fresh, sterile cork or lid.