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Friday, May 24, 2013

Just how inexpensive is it to make herb vinegar? (*plus* my Chive Blossom Vinegar)

(Once again, Saturday's post is going up a little early. But maybe that's a good thing, as you can now plan making herb vinegar into your weekend?)

A gallon of white vinegar costs me $2.49, that's 62 cents per quart, or about 38 cents per 20-ounce bottle. You may find white vinegar for less in your area.

I grow a variety of herbs, both in pots on the deck, and in the garden down below. I make flavored vinegars with many of my herbs. One of my favorites is Rosemary Vinegar. It's delicate rosemary flavor makes a delicious vinaigrette for salads, but I also enjoy it mixed with mayo for a cole slaw dressing.

My herbs are mostly free at this point. Many I started from a packet of seeds. Some I received as divisions from friends. And one or two I actually bought plants at the nursery. My chives I bought as a plant, 22 years ago, and dug up and moved with us to our home 18 years ago. Over the years I have divided it numerous times, so that now I have 4 nice little patches of chives.

So, let's say that the "cost" of my herbs is about 1 cent per batch of vinegar infusion. I reuse bottles year after year. Some of these bottles are repurposed food/sauce bottles, with a cork for a cap. Other bottles were gifts from a friend. And a couple of bottles were purchased either second hand, for about 50 cents per bottle, or retail for about $2 per bottle. Given that I reuse these bottles for years one end, even a $2 bottle will average out to about 20 cents/year after 10 years (and I expect to get many more than 10 years of service from each bottle).

For the sake of argument, we'll add 20 cents for the bottle to the 38 cents (for 20 oz. vinegar), plus 1 cent cost of herbs to the cost of making herb vinegar. So, for a total of 59 cents I can make 20 oz. of beautiful and delicious herb and fruit vinegars (I make berry vinegars as well).

With shop-bought flavored vinegar, you can spend as little as about $3 per bottle, or as much as $20. And a single bottle of shop-bought herb vinaigette salad dressing will set you back between $3 and $5. You can make your own herb vinaigrette for the cost of oil, a pinch of salt and dash of pepper, added to your homemade herb vinegar.

Home-infused herb vinegars keep for a couple of years. I alternate years on which vinegars I make. And I like to experiment, mixing different herbs and spices for new, interesting combinations.

One last thing . . .

herb vinegars are incredible easy to make!!!!!

Here's this month's vinegar, Chive Blossom Vinegar. (for details on making other herb vinegars, see here)  Chives are blossoming heavily this month in my garden. And I like to use the blossoms as well as the greens in recipes.

To make a bottle of Chive Blossom Vinegar, fill a clean jar 2/3 with rinsed and dried chive blossoms. (Spin them out in a salad spinner.)

If you don't have a full 2/3 of a jar of opened blossoms just yet, but you can see that there will be more in a couple of days, you can rinse and store what blossoms you do have in a salad spinner in the fridge for up to 4 days (then pick and wash the rest in 4 days time, for one jar of vinegar). Alternatively, you can make several smaller batches of infused vinegar, over the course of a month or two.

If your chive blossoms are already spent, you can try cutting an area of your chives back, to produce more blooms. This works in my garden, but I keep it watered all summer long.

After you have all the rinsed blossoms in the jar, fill with white vinegar. Cap the jar and wait 1 to 2 weeks. During this time, twice a day, open the jar and poke the blossoms back down into the vinegar.

one week later

After 1 week, you'll have a mild onion-y vinegar. Another 3-7 days and you'll have a slightly more intense vinegar.

Your vinegar is now complete. Strain the vinegar and decant into a clean bottle.

You can make the bottle look "fancy" for gifting, with a single strand of raffia and a tag.

Chive Blossom Vinegar has a delicate onion-y flavor. It's delicious on green salads in vinaigrette, but also, I found it to be a wonderful substitute for rice wine vinegar in many recipes. I make an Asian chicken salad that normally calls for rice wine vinegar. I subbed my Chive Blossom Vinegar for the rice wine vinegar all winter long (saving me a couple of dollars on rice wine vinegar). This vinegar is also wonderful sprinkled over fish and chips, or used in any savory recipe that calls for vinegar.


  1. Gorgeous! I hope I get enough blossoms. Not quite there yet. My chives are in a pot, and they always come back despite the Wisconsin winter. I bet they would do better in the ground though. Love the idea of using this on chicken salads in summer.

    1. Hi Jen,
      You can just make a small batch, with whatever amount of blossoms you do get. That would give you a chance to see how much you liked it, without the big commitment of your vinegar that you'd have in a larger batch.

      It really is quite pretty, isn't it?

  2. I don't know how much I would use all of the flavored vinegars, but they sure are pretty.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Each family is different in their likes/dislikes. Our family favors vinaigrette-style salad dressings over the creamy ones, in large part because I can't have any dairy. And I do have to make all our dressings from scratch, with my food allergies. So we do go through a surprising amount of vinegar each year!

  3. This morning's blog made me laugh ... I totally forgot that I made chive blossom vinegar last year, until I read your blog. Thank you -- I will now proceed to use up the two small bottles I made. And what a great tip that it easily substitutes for rice wine vinegar. I've been ignoring recipes that called for that ingredient -- now I have an ultra frugal solution, thanks to you!!!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      I hope you find many uses for your store of chive vinegar! It doesn't taste anything like rice wine vinegar, but it's mild onion-y flavor goes well with the recipes that I use, that do call for rice wine vinegar.

  4. Lili,
    This is not only a beautiful vinegar-I think that I would want to display mine! But I can tell it would be very tasty as well!
    Thank you for sharing this-so neat that you have such a selection of herbs!
    Happy Hugs!

    1. Hi Jemma,
      I actually do keep a couple of flavored vinegars on the counter, on display. They do look pretty enough to display! And keeping them on the counter reminds me to use them. The rosemary vinegar I like to add to minestrone-style soups for a bit of tang with a hint of herb, or for tossing tomatoes and basil in to top bruschetta. Yummy and pretty!

  5. I didn't realise making herb vinegar was so easy. Rosemary vinegar sounds delicious - do you use fresh or dried rosemary?

    I've been meaning to try making raspberry vinegar, which is very trendy at the moment. It's a similar recipe - just with frozen raspberries instead of herbs.

    1. Hi Economies,
      I use fresh herbs. You could make a delicious vinegar with dried ones as well, but it wouldn't be nearly so pretty as seeing the stems of fresh herbs through the glass.

      Raspberry vinegar is delicious. I just put a handful of fresh raspberries in a jar and cover with white vinegar. Allow to sit for a few weeks, and voila -- raspberry vinegar. Nothing could be simpler. I've never thought to use frozen berries for this. Making it with fresh berries was one of the first things I did when we got our first harvest of raspberries several years ago.


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