Herbal vinegars are a unique and inexpensive way to utilize the green world around us to the benefit of our health. Vinegar has the ability to draw minerals from plant material, making herbal vinegars an excellent natural source of mineral supplements. And unlike the alcohol needed to make tinctures, vinegar is easily affordable.
When I make an infused vinegar, I start with a good quality apple cider vinegar. Whether it’s organic or pasteurized or not is entirely up to you and your personal tastes and budget. Raw vinegar will have some “mother” growing in it, a brown slime that holds the ferment’s culture. Some people find this unpleasant, or dislike that it continues to grow while in their infusions. Personally, I prefer raw vinegar, but if you want to avoid the mother, purchase pasteurized vinegar. The only caution is that your vinegar be real apple cider vinegar and not white vinegar, as white vinegar is made from grains and is chemically processed. Watch out for “apple cider flavoured” white vinegar.
The process is to fill a jar with the plant matter of your choice and then top it off with vinegar. After that, a lid should be fastened on tight, and the infusion left to sit for six weeks, preferably in the fridge. Consider the type of lid; I have used conventional canning jar lids in the past, the thin metal kind with a white coating on the inside. Unfortunately I found that the vinegar was corroding them, potentially leaching whatever metals the lid was made of into my vinegars. After seeing an oil-like coating on top of one batch of infused vinegars I discarded the entire thing and have never used metal lids since. I now use a piece of a plastic produce bag, fastened with a metal canning ring. The plastic keeps the metal ring from being exposed to the vinegar. I also leave a bit of space so that the lid and vinegar are not touching while it sits and steeps.
The “funnest” part of making herbal infused vinegars (besides making amazing salad dressings afterwards) is deciding what to infuse. One of my favourites is oregano vinegar. This makes the most amazing Greek salads! I use fresh, mature oregano leaves, although you could use dried oregano if it is all you have access to. Not only is the flavour absolutely super, the vinegar is infused with calcium and other minerals, as well as mild doses of oregano’s anti-bacterial and other medicinal properties. Try other herbs like rosemary, thyme and savory. To get a real mineral kick, use plantain, nettle or dandelion leaves on their own, or combined with one of the above mentioned herbs. Shitake mushrooms also make a delicious and unique vinegar. For something a little different, try making mint, rose petal, lavender or fennel vinegar. Any fresh, edible flower, leaf or root can be infused in vinegar with rewarding results.
Herbal infused vinegars can also be made for non-culinary uses. A vinegar infusion of rose petals is a soothing and anti-inflammatory treatment for sun-burns. Nettle root or burdock root vinegar is excellent as a rinse for a troubled scalp or eczema. Recent studies indicate there is a property found in marijuana that may shrink tumours, I’m curious about experimenting with it as a vinegar infusion. What else can you think of?
Rose Dickson is an artist and writer with a passion for natural health. A self-taught herbalist who specializes in local, urban wild-crafting and do-it-yourself medicine.