Just because I haven’t had time to write, doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. Oh, I am so busy! This will be known as the Vinegar Summer, I suspect.
Briefly, backstory. I went gluten free almost a year ago. In making this dietary switch one of the things I’ve found is that I’m really not using my jams, jellies, and fruit butters. Oh. So do I want to make lots of jams, jellies, and fruit butters? Probably not. Well, what ELSE am I going to make with all this fruit? I mean, I am still making some of the sweet spreadable things, and I use small amounts in unusual ways (something for a different post), but I found I am buying and craving unusually flavored condiments. Grapefruit infused vinegar, cilantro infused olive oil … The obvious next step was to start figuring out how to make my own. I made one last year – raspberry vinegar. It has been quite lovely, but I don’t remember what I did.
I’ve been exploring various recipes, and finding absolutely no consistency at all. Some use a ratio of 1 part fruit to 3 parts vinegar, others reverse that ratio. Some use soft vinegars (balsamic or rice vinegar), others use whatever is handy, or base the vinegar choice on color rather than taste. Some say to mash the fruit but don’t mash too much, others say chop it in chunks, others (for small fruits) say to use the whole fruit. Some say to wash and remove stems, others say to leave on stems and seeds to make the vinegar nuttier. Some add sweeteners, some add salt, some add spices, some add nothing. Some say let the flavors infuse for a few days, some for a few weeks, some say a year. Some say the infusion (sitting and waiting, really) should happen with the jar in the window for sunlight, others say it should happen in a cool dark space. Some say the vinegars must be used within a couple weeks and stored in the refrigerator, others say they can be stored in a cool dark place forever (and everything in between). And that is just for the vinegars infused with fruit! Once we get to the once infused with spices, it is a completely different matter.
I thought there would be a pattern — that vinegars made with a high fruit ratio would say they had a short shelf life, for example. Nope! None of the expected or logical patterns proved out in the recipes. Even more confusing, I have found all of these variants represented in various mixes for recipes making infused vinegar with the same fruit! So the rules aren’t dependent on even what fruit is being used. This is very perplexing.
So I am experimenting, rather like I did for my high school chemistry project. I am starting with a one-size-fits-all approach. I will test and see what happens, and then adjust and report out (I hope).
I am starting with a standard ratio of 2 cups of pureed fruit to 2 cups of standard white vinegar. For a couple fruits, I am making extra batches with the same ratio but different vinegars, to compare. I am, to start with, not adding anything else. What I have going right now:
I just bottled the pansy yesterday, but that should be a separate post. I’m also on a kick this year of pickling onion things. I made pickled garlic scapes, and leeks, and am planning to pickle some garlic cloves and various onions. We’ll see what happens. 🙂 So far, having a blend of mistakes and wonders. Let me tell you, just taking peaches and blending them with vinegar makes for an absolutely heavenly frothy tasty mix. I took some, mixed it with a little of last year’s raspberry vinegar, and some of last week’s basil infused olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Heavenly!