Flavored vinegars offer us the choices of surprisingly beautiful and colorful bottles filled with herbs and garlic, unpeeled fruit slices or orange rind, whole peppercorns and cloves and/or cinnamon sticks. The simple beauty of flavored vinegars provides a nice addition to a kitchen, and their flavors always add interest to foods.

To make: Fill sterilized bottles with the desired fresh herb sprigs, crushed garlic, fruit slice, orange rind, etc. Bring about 2-3 cups of white vinegar (depending on the bottle side) and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and pour directly into prepared bottles. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or bottle top; then refrigerator at least a week before giving or using.

These combinations excel in salad dressings or served with oil on the side as bread dippers: rosemary-garlic vinegar, rosemary-pear-lemon vinegar and lemon-garlic-thyme-peppercorn vinegar.

 

Tomato-Herb Vinegar

10 sprigs fresh rosemary

6 large sprigs fresh basil

4 large sprigs fresh oregano

12 cloves garlic, peeled and haled

10 dried tomato halves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

3 (32-ounce) bottles red wine vinegar

Additional fresh rosemary sprigs

• Twist stems of herbs gently and press garlic with back of a spoon. Place herbs and garlic in a large glass container. Add tomatoes and peppercorns. Set aside.

• Bring vinegar to a boil and pour over herb mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature two weeks.

• Pour vinegar mixture through a large wire-mesh strainer into decorative bottles, discarding solids. Add additional rosemary to bottles, if desired. Seal bottles and store in a cool, dry place.

Yield: 11 cups.

 

Southwest Vinegar

1 large bunch fresh cilantro

10 to 12 fresh jalapeño peppers, unseeded and cut into half lengthwise

10 to 12 cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise

1 lime, thinly sliced

10 to 12 dried tomato halves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

5 (17-ounce) bottles white wine vinegar

Additional fresh cilantro sprigs and line slices (optional)

• Twist cilantro stems gently. Place cilantro and next five ingredients in a large glass container.

• Bring vinegar to a boil and pour over cilantro mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature two weeks.

• Pour vinegar through a large wire-mesh strainer into decorative bottles, discarding solids. Thread additional cilantro sprigs and lime slices on a wooden skewer, if desired, and place in bottle. Seal and store in a cool, dark place.

Yield: 10 cups.

 

Susan Woody has been a food writer for more than 25 years and is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.