Infusing Vinegar is an easy way to give store-bought vinegars some character. Maybe you've already experimented with adding herbs and spices to your vinegar to add a little something to it.
Infusing Vinegar with fruits is a pretty easy process compared to the classic way to produce fruit vinegars: fermenting fruit wines with a vinegar mother. Fermented fruit vinegars (besides wine and apple cider vinegar) can be pretty pricy. So this instructable may be a nice start to get in touch with fruity vinegars.
You can use all sorts of fruits and even flowers to add some complexity to your vinegar and dress up your salad in a fresh way. In this instructable I'm going to show the process of infusing regular vinegar with Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Elderflowers, Raisins, Prunes and dried Mango. Some of those variations I've made before, some were experiments. I'm happy with most of the results. I hope these recipes inspire you to make some fruit infused vinegar yourself and to experiment with even other fruits.
These vinegar variations are rather budget-priced and are easy to make, all you need is a little time (since you have to infuse them for a few weeks). The fruity vinegars make nice presents, Christmas a few years ago I gifted a lot of small bottles of raspberry vinegar to friends and family.
Step 1: General Introduction to the Process
The basic idea of infused vinegar is to add a tasty component to the vinegar and let it steep for a while so that all the flavors end up in the vinegar. When this process is finished you can strain out the remains of the flavor-spending component and enjoy your flavored vinegar.
Some general advices about the vinegar infusion process:
Quality: You want to use really flavorful and ripe fruits, preferably in season. Don't use damaged or overripe ones. If you can't get good fresh fruits - frozen ones might be a good alternative (see step 2).
It is nice to use a good quality vinegar as a base - but if you are on a really tight budget you should safe on your vinegar spendings instead of saving on the flavor components.
Vessles: Use only non reactive materials that are able to withstand the acidity of vinegar to store your mixtures. I recommend glass maison jars for this task. If you use metal lids make sure they are well coated and undamaged (take a look at my accident step 6).
Time: Fruit infusions take about three to six weeks. Flower infusions take just a few days. You can taste test during the process. This amount of time is needed for the vinegar extract the flavors (the fruits are usually pretty much flavorless after this time). Also the flavors need some time to develop and "melt together".
Handling: You should agitate the mixture every other day.
Place: Some recipes I read call for leaving the mixture on a sunny window ledge, others call for a dark place. I like to place them on the kitchen counter, since here I see the jars frequently and don't forget to shake them...
Additions: You can add additional herbs and spices to the infusions if you like so. You can also add honey/sugar/syrup to the finished product, it takes a few days until the sweetener and the vinegar "melt togheter" so start with only a little bit of sweetner and taste test after a few days.
Filtering: If you want really clear vinegar you not only have to strain out the fruits, you need to use a coffeefilter to get rid of the fine sediments (and you should start with a clear vinegar)
Step 2: Raspberry Infused Vinegar
Raspberry vinegar is kind of a classic fruit vinegar. And it is for a reason. The raspberries flavors stand up very well against the sharpness of vinegar and they add a good amount of natural sweetness. It is a really nice fruity vinegar! It goes very well with all sorts of leaf lettuce and legumes. It's vibrant deep red color looks fabulous and makes Raspberry infused vinegar a really nice present.
I used white wine vinegar for this recipe. I think its a good choice, the result is a clear fuit infused vinegar and the raspberry flavors are in the foreground. I suspect apple cider vinegar would probably compete a little with the berries flavor...
Since raspberries weren't in season when I made this recipe I used frozen ones. There's no need to defrost them, just use them as they are.
And that's how you make it:
Put 300g / 3 cups raspberries into a maison jar and add 500ml / 2 cups white wine vinegar. Close the lid and and place the jar in your kitchen, shake it every other day. After about six weeks sift out the raspberries and strain the vinegar through a fine mesh into a bottle. Discard the berries, they gave all their flavor to the vinegar. If you like your vinegar absolutely clear you might strain it through a coffee filter - I don't mind the sediment (last picture) but if I give the vinegar away as a present I like to filter it...
Step 3: Strawberry Infused Vinegar
The strawberry infused vinegar is a nice fuity vinegar variation, it's a little more subtile than the raspberry classic. It tastes just like the beginning of summer :) I think it fits very well with carrot salad and delicate leaf lettuce.
Try to find aromatic strawberries, preferably at the top of strawberry season - the strawberry flavors are less distinct than raspberry ones...
To keep the strawberry flavor undisturbed I don't recommend apple cider vinegar for this recipe. I used white wine vinegar but in retrospect a white balsamic vinegar might have been even nicer.
I made it the following way:
I used about 300 gram / 2 heaped cups of ripe strawberries. I washed them and cut away the stems. I cut them in half or quarters (depending on their size), put them into a mason jar and added 500 ml / 2 cups of white wine vinegar. I placed the jar in my kitchen and shook it every other day. After about six weeks I sifted out the strawberries and strained the vinegar through a fine mesh into a bottle. I don't mind the sediments (last picture) but you can avoid them by straining the finshed vinegar through a coffee filter. I added a few teaspoons of agave syrup to my finished strawberry vinegar to make the fruity components stand out even more.
Next time I'll make this vinegar I'll probably use white balsamic vinegar and increase the strawberry amount a little. I really like this one and wish it was a little intenser.
Step 4: Blueberry Infused Vinegar
The Blueberry infused vinegar was an experiment for me and I'm really happy with the result. It has a nice complex taste with an aromatic, almost earthy flavor. I was especially exited with this vinegar because the blueberries I used where rather bland tasting, not in season, cultured blueberries. They were an impulse shopping item I bought when I picked up the raspberries and the vinegars. I suspect vinegar infused with nice, in season blueberries or even wild harvested ones to be spectacular.
I used apple cider vinegar in the mix and I think it was a good choice. The blueberries have enough flavor not to let the apple cider taste become overwhelming.
The final vinegar has a beautiful dark red color.
I used 1 heaped cup blueberries, I used a fork to crush them. I mixed the mashed berries with 2 cups of clear applecider vinegar in an old mason jar. I've let the jar sit in my kitchen and shook it every other day. After six weeks I sifted out the blueberries and strained the vinegar through a fine mesh into a bottle.
Bonus: Blueberry relish
The remaining blueberries, much to my surprise, where still flavorful so I decided not to waste them and made a quick blueberry relish.
I added three tablespoons of sugar, about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of ground cinnamon and clove. Cooked it for a few minutes and filled in a small jar. The resulting relish is a nice condiment to cheese. (I think with a few tablespoons of fresh blueberries added it would be even fruitier and nicer - but even this pure-waste-preventing recipe is quite tasty)
Step 5: Elderflower Infused Vinegar
I've read about the deliciousness of elderflower vinegar a few times and since I really like elderflower syrup I had high expectations on this flowery vinegar variation. But now as I've finally tried it I'm not completely satisfied with the result. It has a nice complexity but think it tastes a little gruffly (at least compared to the flowery delicateness of elderflower syrup) So far I only used it for potato salad which was nice but not spectacular. I think this vinegar will come to use when the berry vinegar bottles are empty :)
I made it the following way:
I harvested about 10umbels elderflower, shook them to get rid of any insects (don't wash the umbels, you would wash away the pollen, which bring all the taste) and put them in a mason jar. I covered the flowers with 0,75 liters / 3 cups of apple cider vinegar. I've let it sit on my counter for 4 days and stirred it every day.
I used unfiltered apple cider vinegar but in retrospect I should have rather used white wine vinegar or another bright and clear vinegar. I don't like the cloudy look and I think a rather restrained vinegar would be a better fit.
Step 6: Raisins Infused Vinegar
A while ago I've read an interview with a german chef who mentioned he makes raisins vinegar by adding chopped raisins to white wine vinegar. I was intrigued to give this a try and made my on raisins infused vinegar. My result was nice but not great because my vinegar had a little accident: The top of the mason jar I used had a tiny scratch in the inner coating (second last picture). The acidic vinegar corroded the metal in the lid a little (last picture) and gave the finished product a slightly metallic taste. But besides that the raisins added the apple cider vinegar a nice and round sweetness that reminded me of white balsamic vinegar. I want to give this recipe another try (with another jar).
Here is the recipe:
Chop up about a third of a cup of raisins and mix it with a cup of apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar).
Place the jar in your kitchen and shake it every other day. After about four weeks strain the vinegar through a fine mesh into a bottle.
(I think it is a good idea to use organic / not sulfurated raisins for this recipe)
Step 7: Prune-Vinegar-Cream
The raisins infused vinegar inspired me to experiment with other dried fruits as well: For this recipe I used prunes and I'm pretty exited about the result. It reminds not only visually of balsamic vinegar - there is a nice round sweetness to this vinegar. I like to use it whenever I would usually use balsamic vinegar.
Since the prunes almost completely dissolved during the infusion process it became impossible to strain them out. I bypassed this problem by simply using the blender. The result is a viscous vinegar cream.
You can make it like this:
Cut 1 cup prunes in quarters, mix it in a jar with 1,5 cups applecider vinegar and let it sit on your kitchen counter and Agitate the jar every other day. After about four weeks you can use a blender to blend the mixture. If you don't have a high speed blender you can use a four times folded cheesecloth to strain out the bigger prune skin pieces. Fill the vinegar cream in a bottle.
Step 8: Dried-Mango-Vinegar-Cream
Like the prune vinegar this dried mango vinegar was an experiment and like it it was almost impossible to strain and so was made into a vinegar cream :)
It tastes much less intense like dried mango than I expected. It is a kind of hard to define fruitiness with some exotic aftertaste. I use it rather as a condiment than for salad. I really like it, but I'm not sure if I'm going to make it again since dried mangos are pretty expensive here.
How to make it:
Use 1 cup dried mango and cut it in small pieces, add 1,5 cups apple cider vinegar and mix it in a jar. Put the jar on your kitchen counter and shake it every other day. After about four weeks put the mixture in your blender and blend until it is smooth. Fill the resulting vinegar cream in a bottle.