For those who know me, it comes as little surprise that I am writing about making your own vinegar. For years I have been obsessed with the stuff- using it to pickle literally every vegetable I can get my hands on, making interesting dressings, and just generally learning and trying new vinegar to add into my repertoire.
…For the record, I also have been known to love wine, vinegar’s long-lost cousin. Just saying.
For a while, I have been experimenting with ways to age and flavor vinegar, and I’ve been meaning to share one very close to my heart. A couple years back, I was shopping at a market and stumbled upon this beautiful Chamomile. It was amazing, but I was still a young cook and had no idea what to do with it. It was too good to pass up, however, and I bought some and took it home. I made dessert but still had a bunch left over and decided to make a vinegar recipe I had seen in the I Love New York cookbook, from the guys over at EMP.
Long story short, after a few tweaks, tests, and trials, I made a few vinegars and tasted some. But I forgot one in the fridge at my parents house. For YEARS. Two, to be exact.
When I moved into my current apartment, my parents begged me to clean out the fridge and take all my pickles and crazy fermentation experiments with me. Most were unsuccessful and just found their way into the trash (or drain, I should say), but I decided to take this one unopened jar with me and open it when the time was right. I wasn’t sure if it would even been good, but I just had a feeling it should come.
Last winter, I had some friends visiting. We were making salad and needed a dressing. It felt like the right time to open up this two year old jar of aged chamomile vinegar.
It was a revelation. Smooth and buttery, the aging process took off much of the bite of the original balsamic used for the mixture and added this soft, floral note with underlying flavors of sweetness and funk. It was slightly thicker, somewhere between a syrup and a liquid.
This summer, when chamomile season came around (and it’s still here!), I made another batch. A larger one this time. And I cannot wait to try it. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my secret, a vinegar that is well worth the wait. This goes well in literally anything, from topping fish and chicken to making dressings. Use it to finish a sauce or to dress up some tomatoes. Just a little packs a punch, so use sparingly. I just wouldn’t heat it up, as it would lose some of its flavor.
If you have the patience, the aging process pays out in droves.
1 Tablespoon Honey for every 2C White Balsamic used
1 Large bunch fresh chamomile
Ball jar or other canning jar, processed
Place bunch of Chamomile into jar
Whisk honey and white balsamic together very well; pour over chamomile
close lid tightly and allow to sit on the counter; I like it to be in semi-sunlight, for 2 weeks and up to a month. Make sure seal has formed on the jar.
Place in fridge and allow to age for up to two years. Open and enjoy.
If you cannot wait, let sit outside for 2 months, open and enjoy then. The consistency will not be the same, but the flavor should be nicely developed.