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My secret flavoring agents... tweaked vinegars

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ChrisFlanders View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08 March 2012 at 05:55

There are lot of things you can use as a "flavoring agent". I've seen people making flavored oils and I made many of those too. Sadly enough they don't keep and by experience, they are always a bit suspicious in my eyes; are they still good or not? So I stopped flavoring oils unless they are used immediately and ristricted my "secret flavoring agents" to making flavored vinegars.

Always use the vinegars sparingly, merely a few drops will do wonders, not only for tweaking the taste, but also for correcting the balance in dishes. It will take many dishes to another level.

Nothing fancy procedures, just plain good natural white vinegar in which I macerate stuff. They keep forever and get better the longer they are stored away!
Tarragon vinegar; Let's begin with tarragon. When it fully starts to grow, cut off a lot of branches, pour some vinegar out of the bottle and put the branches in the bottle, using the handle of a wooden spoon. Put as much in as you can. Now, put the bottle away for at least a year! The picture below was taken past year and as you can see, the tarragon bottle I just started to use dated from... 2002! The vinegar has lost the harshness but kept all tarragon flavor. This stuff is used to make béarnaise sauces, to sprinkle on a simple tomato salad (delicious!), to make mayonaise and in lots of sauces and jus. Simply a must have!

Then I tried out other stuff; elderflower blossoms, rose petals, purple basil.

A little different procedure than tarragon vinegar. I cut the blossoms from the flower"umbrella" of the elderflower and put them loosely in a large pharmacists glass jar and cover with vinegar. In another glass jar go the rose petals (I use rosa rugosa picked in the wild), and the leaves of purple basil in another jar. Note; green basis doesn't work well. I leave these blossoms, petals and leaves in their respective jars to macerate for up to two months, then sieve and put in small bottles; look at the color!

Elderflower blossom vinegar; fantastic when used in couscous, fish dishes, when blanching vegetables, a real "waaw" effect in many creamy sauces.

Rose petal vinegar; couscous and all other oriental inspired dishes

Purple basil vinegar; any preparation with tomato like tomato sauces but also in meat sauces and jus from pork roast etc.

A nice label made with Coreldraw and they also get in the cellar. You can start to use these vinegars immediately. Also, ...nice gift to cooking friends!!!

I also tried to make vinegar flavored with common green basil; however, it's a waste of time. Purple basil works best!

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HistoricFoodie View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 March 2012 at 07:14
Great minds run in the same channels, Chris. Based on the discussion about tarrago on another thread I've bee thinking about an herbal vinegar post.
 
One flavor we tend to not think of is chive. I never had until last year. We're about to enter the chive season, so it's a good time to talk about it.
 
What you use for chive vinegar is the flowers. You fill the jar with them, pour in the vinegar, and you're set to go. With this one you want to wait a few days, so the color leaches into the vinegar. You wind up with a lovely purple vinegar, with a hint of oniony flavor from the chives.
 
One general comment: If all you're interested in is the herbal flavor there's no reason not to use other vinegars. Apple cider, red- and white-wine vinegar, etc. can all be enhanced by the addition of herbs. What you lose, however, is the visual impact. For that, plain white works best.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 March 2012 at 04:23
I should have mentioned that the tarragon flavored vinegar is by no means something I came up with. It's been used all over France and my country since eternity. It's always stored with the tarragon branches still in the bottle.
 
@Brook; I tested a lot of flavored vinegar variations, but I now ristrict myself to the more or less exotic ones like I mentioned above. However, can't stop experimenting, last year I made a combined batch  with dille and an entire small horse radish root. Very nice in the poaching liquid of salmon and other fish!!
 
I haven't tried chives, but I was thinking to try of what we call "daslook" (translated badger garlic), if I'm not mistaken you call it "ramps". Could also be something interesting.
 
I'm certainly going to try lovage which we also call "Maggi herb" (Maggi refers to the cubes) which tastes incredibly strong like celery. It's impossible to dry but I keep some lovage leaves in my freezer, that works very well.  A few lovage leaves in steamed mussels... heaven!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 March 2012 at 10:32
i have never tried this, but growing my own herbs, i really should. will see how it goes this year.
 
chris, thanks for this comment right here:
 
>>>merely a few drops will do wonders, not only for tweaking the taste, but also for correcting the balance in dishes. It will take many dishes to another level.<<<
 
this concept has never occurred to me, but of course it makes sense, and gives me another reason to try this - thank you!
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 March 2012 at 12:01

Lovely lovely post and wow, on the rose vinegar ... Where is the rose vinegar corporation from ? Have you ordered that from a company or purchased in Montana supermkt ? I have had edible roses in salads and an icecream --- made with rose petals.   

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 March 2012 at 05:01

Here's a simple dish that undergoes an incredible change in taste, using vinegar and a little sugar. Nowadays you can buy precooked beetroot that's easy to work with. Of course you can boil your own if you like. Peel and cut the cooked beetroot in small cubes. Add red onion slices, a good sprinkle of ajowan (=lovage seeds, ethnic stores) which taste like a softer version of thyme, a pinch of chili flakes, a tbsp of tarragon vinegar or another vinegar mentioned above, a good sprinkle of sugar (1 teaspoon to start), s&p. You can tweak the balance by adding more vinegar and sugar. Beetroot has never been that alive!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 March 2012 at 08:36
chris, this looks similar to some pickled beets that i made last autumn:
 
 
these turned out really well, and i am thinking they can even be improved by incorporating some of your methods, including the onion and tarragon vinegar.
 
thanks for sharing!
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 March 2012 at 08:47
Plus, Ron,  the ones you made are ideal for making Amish Red Beet Eggs, which can be another use of flavored vinegars:
 
12 eggs, boiled and peeled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
3/4 cups vinegar
1 quart canned red beets and juice
 
Mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, water and vinegar in a saucepan and heat until the sugars dissovle, strirring occasioally. Add the beets and their juice to the mixture and pour over the peeled eggs. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.
 
You may have to turn the eggs, from time to time, to assure even color.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 06:46

And some updating, it's fourraging time!

1. Vinegar

Now is the very best time to make elderblossom vinegar!!!

The "umbrellas" of flowers just come out and they smell fantastic. Just pick some and add to a plain white vinegar. Use some good quality vinegar. I use a pair of scissors to cut the flowers from their umbrella at 1/2 inch from the top, you don't need to measure, just cut at the height you want. Put the flower part you just cut off in the vinegar and set in the sun for a few weeks; 4-6 weeks, it's not important. Shake from time to time. You will be so pleased to have your very own unreal flowery and fruity tasting vinegar. So simple to make, incredible taste for use on salads, couscous, mayo, vinaigrettes...

2. Elderflowerbuds capers

I've seen this done by one of those new young inspired chefs that go fourraging in the wild. Something I had to try. Pick the buds just before they open, take the buds from the "umbrellas" (I used... a comb!) and add to a 6% vinegar. Store away for 5 weeks at the least. There you go, your own very special tiny capers. A little warning; it's an insane bit of work and your kitchenfloor is covered with tiny flowerbuds... it may well be my first and only try!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 14:18
Would that work with dill heads/flowers too?

About the chive vinegar- do you put the flower heads in whole, or pick the little individual blossoms off?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 16:31
The dill flowers, per se, aren't really big enough to play with, Melissa. Try just putting the complete umbrels in the vinegar. Works just as well, and looks pretty.
 
With the chive vinegar we use the complete flowers. Being as they'll be strained out anyway, no sense trying to separate the blossoms. Only takes about a week to leech out the color and the oniony aroma.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 18:13
Thanks! Mine are at peak bloom right now. Maybe a little past, but I hope there will still be some good ones left tomorrow.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 04:43
Melissa, I have to count on Brook on how to use dille. That herb just won't grow in my garden. However, I experimented with lots of other herbs to make flavoured vinegars. It just takes some of your time and a bottle of vinegar, not such a big expense for try-outs. And, it's always exciting to see how it comes along, the color changing, the aroma... and last but not least the satisfaction of having captured such wonderfull taste and aroma, ready to be used in so many dishes.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 05:19
I vote with Chris on this. Vinegar is cheap, so leaves lots of room for experimenting.  
 
Virtually any herb can be used to create a flavored vinegar (technically, they're called "acetums"). Whether the flavor and color is appealing is merely a personal taste thing.
 
Among the herbal vinegars I've made are chive (of course), tarragon, tyme and basil, (which I don't recommend). Others, like dill, have been used to flavor pickling brines.
 
Nor do you need confine yourself to herbs. Chilies in vinegar, for instance, produce a hot condiment many find appealing. (a variation on that theme, btw, is to use Sherry instead of vinegar)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daikon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 08:21
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

 
Nor do you need confine yourself to herbs. Chilies in vinegar, for instance, produce a hot condiment many find appealing. (a variation on that theme, btw, is to use Sherry instead of vinegar)
And now you are starting to drift off into the whole world of vinagre and Jalapeños en Escabeche.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 11:35
Well, yes and no, Daikon.
 
The vinagre would be a flavored vinegar, such as we're discussing. The Jalapenos en Escabeche, however, are pickled chilies. The goal there isn't the liquid, but the peppers themselves.
 
Symon is a big believer in serving pickles with every meal, and the pickled chilies are just one of nine recipes he has in his book.
 
The peppered vinegar (or Sherry, if you prefer) I referred to is a basic condiment in the Southwest---and other places as well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daikon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 11:45
Actually, the pickling liquid from Jalapenos en Escabeche is sometimes used as a condiment or flavoring ingredient on its own (Symon's recipe isn't the best for that because of the amount of salt, but there are Jalapenos en Escabeche preparations that don't use any salt), while vinagre is more about making vinegar from fruit (sometimes with chilies) than it is about putting things into already-made vinegar.  Another vinagre.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 15:40
Well, I now have a jar of chive flowers steeping in vinegar. Thanks for the suggestion!

The only other things I've got growing right now are mint and lavender. Don't know how they'd be in vinegar.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AK1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 19:39
I think that the mint would work well, 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2012 at 05:58
Melissa, whatever you try with mint, do not use the flowers! They taste very bad!!! Only the leaves are usable. I had the experience in making tincture with mint flowers and some research confirmed that mint flowers are very bitter! I haven't made vinegar yet from mint leaves, but I guess it's very possible.
 
However, I make a syrup with 50/50 water and sugar, let it boil for a while, take from the heat, add a good handfull of mint leaves only (no flowers as said!) and let them infuse until the liquid has cooled entirely. Sieve and cool in the fridge. Fantastic on strawberries, fresh pine apple (yummmm...), vanilla icecream etc. 
You can reduce the syrup on the fire and freeze in small containers for later...
Edit; add some fresh lemonjuice to this syrup to give it more depth.
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