Homemade Flavored Vinegars

Making your own homemade flavored vinegars to give as gifts is a great idea! It's inexpensive, easy to do and can look very impressive with the right bottle. Plus, you can customize the flavors to make a vinegar that is not easy to find, making your gift truly unique.

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You’ll need three things to make this gift: some vinegar, some flavors and a few good looking bottles. Let’s talk about the bottles you need first.

It’s important to use only glass jars or bottles. Plastic and metals can be reactive with the vinegar and you don’t want to have any chemical interaction at any time during the vinegar-making process. Those glass jars or bottles should ideally have corks or plastic lids. Again, metal lids could react with the vinegar with undesired results. If the bottle or jar you want to use does have a metal lid, make sure the vinegar doesn’t come into contact with the lid (in other words, only store the vinegar upright and not lying down). Before you make the vinegar and before you store the vinegar you need to sterilize the jars. You can do this by submerging the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes or you can use the sterilizing cycle on your dishwasher. Do this right before you plan on using the jars. It’s also a lot easier to make the vinegar in a large jar and then transfer it to a prettier smaller bottle once it’s had time to blend the flavors – after two weeks.

Homemade Flavored Vinegars on a counter with half a pomegranate and some hot peppers.

The next thing you will need to decide is what vinegar is going to be your base. There are no limitations here – you can use pretty much any type of vinegar you like. Distilled white vinegar is a good, affordable choice that is best used with delicate herbs or delicate flavors. White wine or champagne vinegar is also good for delicate herbs and fruit, but it is a little more refined and adds some caché to the name of your vinegar. Apple cider vinegar can be a popular choice for fruit-flavored vinegars. Red wine or balsamic vinegars are much stronger flavored and need to be paired with stronger ingredients like spices or fragrant herbs.  The only downside of using balsamic vinegar is that you won’t see any color imparted to your vinegar from your other ingredients. There is a solution to this, however – use white balsamic vinegar as the base.

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Four bottles of Pomegranate Fig White Balsamic Vinegar.

Then it’s time to put the “you” in your gift – what flavors will you use? Herbs are an obvious choice and you can use any combination of herbs that you like, but they need to be very fresh and very clean. If you’ve grown the herbs yourself or are using organic herbs, make sure there are no bugs or spores on the leaves by giving them a light bleach wash. I know that sounds crazy, but make a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach with 6 cups of water and give the herbs a swish around in that. Then, rinse with fresh cold water and pat the herbs dry with clean paper towel. You will want 3 to 5 sprigs of whichever herb you’re using to about 2 cups of vinegar. Give the herbs a “spank” or crumple them up in your hand before adding them to the vinegar – this will help release the natural oils and give more flavor to the vinegar.

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One bottle of Lemon Sage White Wine Vinegar

Fruit are also popular ingredients for flavored vinegars. You can use all sorts of different berries, or citrus fruit, pears, figs, pomegranate, etc… If the fruit is small, leave it whole. Larger fruit can be cut into pieces which has the added benefit of exposing more of the fruit so you can extract more flavor. If you choose to use citrus fruit, use the peel and try to add as little of the pith (the white part) as possible. Everything needs to be washed before you add it to the vinegar. Other interesting flavors that you can use are hot peppers like Jalapeño or Habeñero peppers, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, fresh ginger. The vinegars will last about 3 months. 

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Homemade flavored vinegar - Hot Chili pepper vinegar on a counter with some hot peppers.

I truly believe that homemade food gifts are the very best gifts. The time it takes to make something is no small thing in today’s busy world, so the fact that you take the time to make something for someone else is very meaningful. But wait… it isn’t always about the other person – making your own food gifts can be a lot of fun for you too. When the holidays come around, lots of people make cookies and give them to their friends and neighbors, but those cookies have a shelf life and need to be eaten up before they go stale. Why not, this year, make something that someone can hold onto and enjoy over several months?

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Pomegranate Fig White Balsamic Vinegar

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 15 m
  • Servings:
    32
    Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 4 cups white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 4 fresh figs quartered

Instructions

  1. Bring the white balsamic vinegar to 190ºF (just under the boiling point) in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cut open the pomegranate and remove the seeds. (Click here to learn how to remove pomegranate seeds.) Crush the seeds gently with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Place the pomegranate seeds (and any juice) and figs in a sanitized non-reactive 1-quart jar or container. Pour the warm vinegar over the top and let the mixture come to room temperature before covering with a lid. Store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.
  4. After 2 weeks, strain the vinegar through a fine strainer or a piece of cheesecloth. Transfer the strained vinegar to sanitized decorative bottles. If desired, add a few fresh pomegranate seeds and figs.
  5. Tie a label on the bottle and give away to friends and family, or keep for yourself.
  6. Enjoy this vinegar on salads or in a marinade or sauce for chicken or duck.

Lemon Sage White Wine Vinegar

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 5 m
  • Total Time: 25 m
  • Servings:
    32
    Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 4 cups white wine vinegar
  • 4 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Bring the white wine vinegar to 190ºF (just below the boiling point) in a medium saucepan.
  2. Wash the fresh sage very well. Swish it around in a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 6 cups cold water, rinse with fresh cold water and then dry very well with clean paper towel. Place the sage in a sanitized non-reactive 1-quart jar or container.
  3. Use a peeler or knife to remove the peel of the lemon, trying to get as little of the white pith as possible. Place the lemon peel in the container or jar with the sage.
  4. Pour the warm vinegar over the lemon and sage. Let the mixture come to room temperature before covering with a lid. Store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.
  5. After 2 weeks, strain the vinegar though a fine strainer or a piece of cheesecloth. Transfer the strained vinegar to sanitized decorative bottles. If desired, add a fresh sprig of sage and some fresh lemon peel.
  6. Tie a label on the bottle and give away to friends and family, or keep for yourself.
  7. Enjoy this vinegar on vegetables, in a salad or as an ingredient in dips or spreads.

Hot Chili Pepper Vinegar

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Total Time: 10 m
  • Servings:
    32
    Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 4 distilled white vinegar
  • 3 to 7 hot chili peppers depending on how spicy you want the result

Instructions

  1. Bring the distilled vinegar to 190ºF (just below the boiling point) in a medium saucepan.
  2. Make a slice down one side of all the peppers. This will help release flavor to the vinegar and allow the pepper to sink in the vinegar. Place the peppers in a sanitized non-reactive 1-quart jar or container.
  3. Pour the warm vinegar over the peppers. Let the mixture come to room temperature before covering with a lid. Store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.
  4. After 2 weeks, strain the vinegar through a fine strainer or a piece of cheesecloth. Transfer the strained vinegar to sanitized decorative bottles. If desired, add one or two fresh peppers to the vinegar, but understand that this will continue to flavor the vinegar, making it even spicier.
  5. Tie a label on the bottle and give away to friends or family, or keep for yourself.
  6. Enjoy with homemade potato chips, on shrimp or as an ingredient in a marinade for meats.
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