Herb Infused Flavored Vinegars

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I’ve long known about flavored oils, and even did a post on making your own here, but when I came across an old recipe for flavored vinegars I got pretty excited. I didn’t know that the chemistry was there to allow the aromatics to infuse into the vinegar. I shouldn’t have been surprised- after all there are vinegar and oil stores popping up all around. Have you seen them? They are these beautiful stores where they have big kegs of the stuff all around the room. You can nab a bottle, small or large, and fill your own. I’ve come away with such delights as Espresso Vinegar, and Cranberry Pear vinegar- but there are countless other oils and vinegars to choose from. It’s a super fun thing to do on a rainy day to run around and sample.

What I learned from an old cook book I stumbled upon, was that infusing vinegar was actually much LESS complicated than infusing oil. How about that? Simply sterilize a bottle, stuff in some cleaned herbs, and then pour over some warmed vinegar. Then wait.

 My first attempt was trying grapefruit, which I used in the Chevre Panna Cotta recipe. It was a tremendous success. It was recommended to allow the concoction to steep for several weeks, but I found it really only took a few days. The longer the better I suppose, but really, it didn’t take long to get a beautiful bouquet going. That early success got me going to try other combinations {there were quite a few} and they were all pretty darn good.

herb vinegar

What I really like about the grapefruit is that it add a gorgeous citrusy zing to your dish. A taste which one can truly come to adore. I have recently learned about myself ,that much of what I really like about Tabasco sauce is it’s vinegary tang. Nowadays I find myself splashing a little grapefruit vinegar on just about everything. The mint is similar as a lightening zip to things. As we are now {finally} getting into spring, it’s a nice note to add to spring vegetables. You can imagine the possibilities.

Forget the finishing oils- bring on the finishing vinegars!

The big surprise was the purple sage. I had bought myself a little plant at the farmer’s market a week or two ago. It’s growing like a fiend in my window box. It puts out these almost alien looking tufted poufs of fronds. Very very beautiful. But even more lovely is the gorgeous shade of pink that it turned the vinegar. Very blushy and girly and delicate about it. I keep it on my sideboard, just because it makes me so happy to look at!

purple sage vinegar, homemade vinegar

What is even more divine is that this little project has cost me little. Vinegar is not all that expensive, and a few herbs? pfft! The fancy schmancy store charges like $7 a pop. I am thrilled that I did mine for just over a buck a bottle. The biggest expense is the bottle, but really anything will do, just make sure it’s sterile before you begin.

So here’s the recipe- Plain and simple-

For most of the vinegars (there were many versions, these are only three) I used white vinegar. Regular, everyday white vinegar- the kind you’re about to buy to dye your Easter eggs.  You could use wine vinegar if that’s all you have, it will just give a slight roundness to the flavor, which could be stunning. Cider vinegar might be good for certain flavors- earthier things.

I used white balsamic vinegar for the mint, because I liked a little sweetness to it. Alternatively you could add a pinch or two of sugar and see how that works for you. Mostly I liked to keep the flavors clean since I do mix them into dressings and I didn’t want to worry about conflicting flavors.

So you get your vinegar, you clean out and sterilize your jars (boil and cool upside down, run through the dishwasher, bake in an oven for a few minutes), fill with cleaned herbs or peels, warm the vinegar to hot, pour over, loosely cap and then wait for awhile. Done and Done. I hope you enjoy these.


On a different note: You may have noticed, dear readers, that I’ve been making a few changes around here. I migrated my baby over to WordPress last week, with the great help of Jeni at The Blog Maven, who was supremely awesome. I decided to also make a few changes and upgrades, some of which will be coming later as I develop and play around. One big change, you may have noticed, is that I’m now putting big girl ads up. I used to sniff at those who advertised, but I gotta tell y’all, mama needs some new pots and pans, and I’m hoping this will help.

Please let me know what you think, good {preferably} or bad. I really would appreciate that.

Until next time-


Beginning, Delicious Middles and Never Ending Friendships

Making preserved lemons

I am reveling in the bounty of my summer travels. I have been {literally} around the world, to old homes, to new homes, to sweet hugs of long time friends, and I’ve felt the delicious excitement of discovering new friendships.

Since my “retirement” in January I have been indulging in so many wonderful things that I am starting to feel just a bit guilty about it. You know that “list” you have? The one titled- Someday when I have the time…  ? well, I’ve been given the gift of that time, and I am here to say that ticking off bits of that list has been sheer delight.

My last post was a long 11 days ago, the longest hiatus I have taken thus far. I purposely did not try to post while away this past week so that I could fully enjoy my time. This last trip took me to Portland, OR for the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), which turned out to be one of the best experiences of my blogging life. {After Portland I went on to visit with my dearest friend, Marie in Walla Walla, but more on that another time}

IFBC had approximately 300 people in attendance, which gave me ample opportunity to interact and get to know some amazing people. The weekend started out with a lovely party at the Barhyte residence, who produce the Saucy Mama collection of mustards, marinades, and sauces. There I met Cathy Pollack from Noble Pig Winery, who became an instant best friend, along with Tiffany Haugen, Kelly Mooney from This Just In, Kristy from The Wicked Noodle, JJ from 84th & 3rd, Marisa from Margaritas in the rain, and some other crazy friend of the Barhyte’s named Steve (what can I say? people can be really interesting when drinking delicious Oregonian wine), but seriously- I was amongst some incredible women who inspired me beyond measure.

That evening set the stage for a weekend of flow and intensity of meeting some wonderful people hand over fist. Some of the other incredible bloggers I met were:  Rodney Blackwell, (the burger junkie), Tara Mayberry, Sunita Budhrani from Serendipitously Sunita, Kathleen Flinn and Eliza Larson from Eliza Domestica.

I was astounded to be amongst by so many people equally passionate about food, AND so incredibly talented. I was simultaneously humbled and gleeful, like a kid in an adult version of Willy Wonka. There was delicious foods coming from all direction, long tables groaning with gifts for us to pick from, and Pinot Noir at every turn. Can you imagine it?

Now this laden and weary traveller is finally home. So weary that I have just woken from my second 2 hour nap of the day. The traveling has ground me to a halt finally, but it has also left me with so much more to tell and share. It will come, over the next few weeks I promise you, it will come. My travels has filled me with ideas from all the love and new friendships that I’ve shared- and now that will get passed on to you.

The recipe today is for making Preserved Lemons, which I put together earlier this summer. I am sharing this post now because it is a lovely symbol of these past weeks. The process of making the lemons requires an incubation time. The ingredients are combined, and then left to relax to meld and transform. After a few weeks you have something delicious that adds a brightness to your meals, and adds a different dimension. Preserved Lemons are an ingredient which is better than the sum of it’s parts developed over time.

That’s me. I am better for all my travels, conversations and shifts in perspective. As the calendar clicks past Labor Day weekend, heralding the end of “summer”, I am filled with new thoughts and recipes to share with you. Ideas, thoughts and inspiration has been filling me up, and I promise it will come spilling out onto these pages.

Preserved Lemons
approximated 4 cups
12 small fresh lemons
1 c coarse salt
Sterile quart size jar with lid
Wash the lemons thoroughly and cut into quarters. 
Sterilize jar and lid by either boiling in hot water for a few minutes, then draining face down, placing in a hot oven for 10 minutes, or running through a dishwasher with a sterilizing setting. Allow to cool.
Rub the lemons all over with the salt and pack into the jar as tightly as possible. Add plenty of salt to cover and allow some to sink to bottom of the jar.
Not all the lemons will fit. Juice the rest of the lemons and fill the jar to the top with the juice to cover.
Sprinkle any remaining salt over the top, then secure lid.
Store on the counter atop a plate for approximately a week. Each day flipping over the jar. After a week move to the fridge and allow to continue to marinate for another few weeks. 
After approximately a month your lemons will be ready. Rinse before using.

Homemade HOT sauce~ and my favorite way to eat it

Sweet and Hot- that’s how I like it. I’ve put these two hot concoctions on a pedestal because seriously, that’s where they belong.
Let me first say that I have always been pretty much a fan of fire and spice. Perhaps it’s my Latina roots, but my relationship with my Louisianaian fiancee, and our month long trip to Thailand, has completely changed my definition- and appreciation– for spicy. A few months before taking that trip I prepared by upping my spicey in increments. I am really happy I did. I was able to really enjoy everything I ate there (and I pretty much ate EVERYTHING). It was also a walking start to the leap that my tolerance level attained as the trip progressed.
The first sauce is the fantastically hot and sweet sauce that I spoke about in my recent post here. It’s a kick tuckus sauce that gives you back some love with a vinegary sweet kiss. It’s awesome. It’s addictive. You’ve been warned. It’s Sweet Thai Chili sauce, but not that super sticky sweet stuff that you get in aisle 7 at the supermarket. That’s Baby chili and it cries in single notes. This is Mama’s sauce and it sings a full chord.
In that afore mentioned previous post I spoke about my favorite Gai Yahng spot in the Neiman Heyman area of Chiang Mai. It’s a hole in the wall sort of place that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Below is a picture of the grill master at the helm.  The fiancee says he’s been working that grill every day of the 5 years she lived there and has always (and still) wearing a knit cap. A remarkable thing considering it’s rarely below 90˚ and standing over that grill don’t make it no cooler!
The grill produces great banks of billowing smoke that is blown right out onto the street. You can spot the place from quite a ways away because of it.  The chicken is served with sticky rice and a side of Som Tom- Papaya Salad and, of course, a bowl of hot sauce. The chicken and rice are eaten with your fingers for the best flavor . One  of my favorite aspects of this place is a water bucket with a dented tin cup that is nailed to a tree. It sits above the water trough that funnels into the street. After devouring our plates of deliciousness you just dip into that bucket and pour water over your hands to wash them. Call me crazy, but I just love that. A wave to the grill master and then we can head off into the day.
I made my own version of Gai Yahng, which is quite tasty. Sadly my NYC kitchen does not have a charcol grill so I roasted my chicken instead. The chicken was first marinated overnight, though a few hours is fine. The marinate is made from the stems and some leaves of cilantro and this combined with some fish sauce gives it that unique Thai flavor. Don’t get me wrong, this is delicious with our without the grill. I dove right in and enjoyed every bite, and then walked to the sink with my sticky hands in the air to rinse them off.
Gai Yahng Chicken with a side of sticky rice and HOT sauce.

My next favorite Chili concoction, though not exactly a sauce is Foodie with Family‘s “Cowboy Candy”. Fresh jalepenos are used instead of dried chilies. The technique is the same, and it produces a slightly sweeter and tangier chili with a manageable fire.

I just LOVE these and really like the look of the rings too. You can put these babies on just about anything- but a ham sandwich? oh yes. Cream cheese on baguette? sure. I’m thinking atop a turkey burger would be good but I haven’t tried it.. yet.
The real bonus of making this “candy” is that there is quite a bit of the syrupy sauce left after putting the peppers into the jar. Later that day during my late afternoon couch respite, it struck me that there was a tequila cocktail in my near future with that spicy tangy juice as the feature.
I grabbed a glass, squeezed 2 fresh limes into it, added a serious glug of tequila and then topped it out with a half glug of the juice. The result?…….HOOOOOWEEEEE!  oh yeah baby- that’s the stuff. A splash of seltzer would also be good if you liked it just a step back, but the fire of the chilies, combined with the smokiness of the tequila was just all slap happy to be conjoined with vinegary sweetness. I may just start bottling this stuff- I’m thinking stocking stuffers….

Sweet Hot Thai Chili Sauce
1 c sugar
1/2 c white vinegar
1/2 c water
2 T chopped garlic
1 t salt
3/4 c pureed red chilies or Sambal Oelek (prepared chili sauce)
Combine sugar, vinegar, water, garlic and salt in a sauce pan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer on low for about 10 mins. You should be left with a thin syrup that will thicken as it cools.
To make your own pureed chilies- take about 4 c of dried red chilies- I get this pretty cheaply in Chinatown. They come in big bags for a few bucks. Remove any stems and then place in a heatproof bowl and cover with some hot to boiling water. Let them sit for about 4 mins to get them softened.
Place the chilies in a food processor and give them a whirl. Take care to stand back and not breathe in the chili oils that get released. Though not lethal, they will invoke unsightly coughing attacks. If the mix is a bit too dry you can add in some of the soaking water to get a paste going. Don’t worry about adding too much, it’s all good in the end. If you were a proper Thai chef you would get out your mortar and pestle and pound those chilies into submission. If you get the chance give it a try one day- there is beauty in watching a ruby red paste materialize. It’s zen. It’s good.
After the syrup is prepared you can put the chilies right in and give it a good stir.
And that’s all there is to it. 
You can get yourself some fancy pants bottles, but the Thai’s use whatever they got on hand. I used my leftover vinegar bottle. There is poetry in that.
Store in the fridge and consume within a month or so.
For the Cowboy Candy recipe please visit Foodie with Family.
Gai Yahng Marinade
3 T coarsely chopped fresh cilantro roots and stems
3 T chopped fresh garlic
2 T soy sauce
2 T fish sauce
1t salt
Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz into a puree. If necessary you can add water if needed. Conversely, place cilantro and garlic in mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Add sauces.
Place chicken parts into a large plastic bag and pour marinade in and turn chicken to coat. You can put this into a bowl, but you really want this marinade to get all in there, so go for the bag.
Grill chicken on BBQ or roast the chicken at 350˚ to doneness ~40 mins.