Thursday, January 28, 2010

Herb Infused Vinegar!

Tonight I was treated to a delicious husband-prepared meal.  Part of the meal was a bowl licking good beet and kohlrabi dish, including the greens.  Though they are amazing on their own, I always run for the perfect green and bean topper, vinegar.  How can that get better?  Make it an herbal vinegar!

Nothing could be simpler than making your own.  All you need is a glass jar, some wax paper, some raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar (no white distilled stuff please) and some herbs, preferably fresh.  I have made vinegars from plants many and varied: plantain, purple dead nettle, woodland nettle, elder flower, goldenrod flower, dandelion leaf, dandy or burdock root various culinary herbs and my very favorite cold and flu vinegar of horseradish, garlic, onion and ginger!  Right now, here in Tennessee, you can go outside and find plantain, dandelion, and if you have a kitchen herb garden, thyme and rosemary.

The method is simple: fill a glass jar the size of your choosing with plant material (this is called the 'marc') and then fill the jar with vinegar (the 'menstrum') to the top.  Cover with wax paper and put the lid on.  The wax paper keeps the vinegar from corroding any metal on the lid.  Let this macerate, or steep, for 6 wks or more.  I have jars of goldenrod and elder still steeping from midsummer.  There are no hard and fast rules here, but 6 months is excessive ;)  At whatever point you choose, strain the vinegar and refrigerate.  Compost the marc, or in the case of garlic and onions, eat it with potatoes, greens, or beans. 

Why use vinegar?  Not only do the flavors infuse into the vinegar, but so do some of the nutrients, especially minerals.  So you are really making a medicine here, not just a fancy vinegar.  The vinegar does double duty, not just pulling the minerals out of the plant material you give it, but when used on food its acidity will help break the bonds of the minerals in your food.  This is something that is very difficult for the body to do, requiring strong stomach acid that the majority of people do not have.  (an aside: if you have frequent heartburn or acid reflux, you do NOT have strong stomach acid, it is in fact just the opposite and vinegar with your meals will help you).  Taking vinegar with meals "stokes the digestive fire" making all digestion more efficient.  And it tastes sooooo good.

Medicinal qualities are also carried in vinegar.  For example, a garlic and thyme infused vinegar would be excellent for chest congestion because both herbs are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory for the upper respiratory and vinegar has a special affinity for clearing the lungs.  I think vinegar was made for winter.  It is cold outside, our bodies get cold and our digestion gets "cold", while our friend vinegar is warming and stimulating.

My favorite recipe:
1 qt jar
1/2 c horseradish root
1/2 c ginger
1/2 c garlic
1/2 c onion
1/2 c parsley

Chop everything up, fine but not too fine, and follow the directions above.  Now be careful with the horseradish.  If you think onions are strong, just wait.  I don't bother with peeling the ginger, what's the point?  You could add a cayenne or other hot chili to make it even zestier.  This particular recipe is great for so many reasons.  Not only is the taste superb, but it has lots of anti-everything herbs to ward off any unwanted invaders in the body, almost all of these herbs enhance digestion, and it is mineral rich.  I highly suggest this for pregnant women, too.

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