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The thing about herbal vinegars is that they are not culinary vinegars. Culinary vinegars place a small amount of a strong smelling/tasting herb (eg tarragon) in vinegar in order to extract the taste. Herbal vinegars place a large amount of herb in vinegar for a long time in order to extract minerals, vitamins, and other goodies that you don’t get from culinary vinegars. They also taste and smell wonderful.

Herbal vinegars are both food and medicine. You can use them as a culinary vinegar too.

Instructions

This is the basic fill a jar twice method that I use for tinctures, vinegars, oils etc:

* fill the jar once with chopped herb
* then fill again with vinegar.
* stir to release air and put a tight lid on
* label with date, plant, source etc and leave six weeks before decanting

Some tips

* use a plastic lid. Metal lids rust when exposed to vinegar. Metal lids with that smooth lining seem to be ok, but will rust if the lining is scratched.

* I use apple cider vinegar (acv) because it tastes good, is easily accessible and is made in NZ from NZ apples. ACV has a long history of folk lore use for health and healing. You can use other food vinegars. I’m leery of the more commercial non-apple ones, because they seem industrial to me.

* you can use raw (unpasteurised) vinegar, or pasteurised vinegar. Raw vinegar will smell more like a fermented product, pasteurised will smell just like vinegar and the herb you infuse. I like raw vinegar because it’s a live culture, but pasteurised is fine too. With raw vinegar you have less leeway – it is more likely to go off if you leave it too long or the plant sticks up above the vinegar. I don’t think I’ve ever had pasteurised go off. If you have problems with raw vinegar, try pasteurised until you get the hang of it and then try the raw again.

* put the infusing jar on a plate or other container to catch any seepage. Top up the vinegar as needed (check every day to start with, then once a week). It’s important that the herb stays completely submerged beneath the vinegar to prevent mould forming.

* some vinegars will form a ‘mother’ (in a decanted vinegar this will be a floating mass). This is part of the fermentation process and isn’t a problem.

What to do with herbal vinegar

* use it as a mineral supplement

* put it on salads or grains for a tasty, nourishing treat. Vinegar (along with salt and fat) aids digestion and increases availability of the nutrients in your meal.

* put 1 tablespoon in a glass of water and drink

* herbal vinegars can be used externally for medicinal compresses or soaks.

* some herbal vinegars make lovely cosmetics – I use lavender or elderflower dilute for a hair rinse.

* herbal vinegars are also good to clean with. Choose herbs that are antiseptic like pine, lavender, thyme, rosemary etc.

* herbal vinegars can be used as medicine. People that can’t take alcohol based tinctures sometimes use vinegar as a menstruum instead. Vinegar extracts different things from plants than alcohol (some medicinal herbs were traditionally extracted into vinegar instead of alcohol because of this), so they’re not direct substitutes, but vinegar and herbs in vinegar do have their own healing powers.

Brigitte has one of the best tutorials I’ve seen on making the vinegar itself.

Which herbs?

The list of plants you can put up in vinegar is almost endless – if you can eat a plant then you can probably make herbal vinegar from it.

Warning: there is a kind of bug you get when you make herbal vinegars, where you end up putting up every interesting plant you come across. Be prepared by hoarding jars and assigning extra storage space in your cupboards.

Here’s some of my favourites:

From left to right:

1. dandelion blossom ~ made in the spring from the flowers, but you can use any or all parts of the dandelion.

2. yellow dock root ~ I prefer yellow dock seed vinegar, but missed the ripe seeds this year. The root is best harvested once the plant has died back and after the frosts have started. Rumex crispus (yellow or curly dock) or R obtusifolia (broad leafed dock) are both fine for seed or root. I’ve not done the leaf, but am sure it would be interesting.

3. elderberry ~ berries might still available in some areas (just) if you get to them before the birds. Elderflower is a beautiful vinegar too, I like it for a hair rinse.

4. milkthistle/variegated thistle leaf ~ this should be around at the moment too.

5. plantain ~ best picked when leaf is lush and before seeding. I haven’t done this but I suspect you also could use the whole plant (leaf, seed and root, depending on the time of year). Both varieties are fine, this one was the broad leafed one. I love the subtle, dusky pink colour.

6. hawthorn berry ~ a good one to make up now. Leaf and flower in the spring would be good too.

7. fennel seed ~ also an autumn vinegar. I’ve made leaf vinegar in the past too, but prefer the stronger seed brew.

8. fat hen ~ I made this in summer from the whole above ground parts (leaf, stalk, seed). I was a bit sceptical about it, thinking it might be a bit boring, but it’s now one of my favourites.

9. shiitake ~ an imported plant! I make this from dried shiitake stalks left over from using whole shiitake mushrooms in cooking. Shiitake is an excellent immune assistant, and this vinegar is one of the tastiest.

10. feijoa ~ another import for down here but up North they’ll be ripe soon. I made this originally to see if the delightful fragrance of feijoa persisted (it does but mildly). I used the skins (because the fruity pulp had to be eaten), but if you had alot you could make some with the whole chopped fruit.

11. dandelion root ~ late autumn or winter vinegar (after the frosts and before the plant puts on its spring growth). The white colour is from the inulin in the root, a complex sugar that has many health benefits [link]

If you’re completely insane you can make Fire Cider.

Further reading on herbal vinegars and minerals:

A good overview from Black Toad herbals on which herbs have what vitamins and minerals in them.

Susun Weed’s articles on making herbals vinegars and which plants make good mineral supplements.

Brigitte’s post on Herbal Minerals has a list of minerals, some of their functions, and the herbs they can be found in. You could make herbal vinegar from most of those.

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WordPress has just let me know that its spam blocker has removed 5 comments before I got to see them, permanently afaik. I’ve changed the settings so it can’t do that anymore, but if anyone has commented and their post hasn’t appeared please let me know, or post again (I think the problem is only on my blogposts over a month old, but would apply to posts made at anytime including recently).

I’ve been wanting to fix the categories section for ages. When I started the blog I read something about it being good to not have too many categories, but I can see that if I have one for each plant it will get mighty long. So I’ve stopped adding plant names as a category, and am trying to sort out how I want to do organise the categories in general. I’ve been looking at how other bloggers do this, but if any one has any suggestions, they’d be most welcome. Do you use the category links on this or any blog? Is it because you’re just looking around or is it for something more specific?

There’s a bit of other tinkering I need to do too, so there might be some odd changes (noticeable especially if you’re using the RSS feed I think).

I’ve been uninspired for naming this moon, so have settled on the obvious – Easter Moon, even though full moon was a week ago. Easter is a moveable feast and the date is wonderfully pagan, being the first Sunday closest to the full moon after the autumn equinox.

I love the equinoxes, much more than the solstices. I feel like I am standing on the edge of a circle, facing inwards, with my arms spread wide. On my right hand is the summer solstice past, and on my left is mid winter approaching. In front of me, across the circle, is the spring equinox, where I will be standing in 6 months time, again with my arms stretched out and marking the even-ness of days.

Of course the equinox was a few weeks ago, but I like the idea of celebrating or marking time according to the moon. Lunar time is easier to keep track of (maybe that’s a women’s thing too).

And I like that it moves. The first full moon after the equinox can be anywhere from right at the equinox to a month later.

I’ve not spent a whole autumn in Central before, and it’s been surprisingly changeable like I am used to on the coast in summer – hot and sunny one minute, then overcast and the temperature dropping the next. Normally autumn is my favourite time of year, but this autumn has thrown me, I wasn’t ready and I’m feeling the cold too much. I think it’s because on the coast the summer is usually crap, and the autumns are more settled, with the hot weather straddling the two. So autumn is often better than summer, or there is a sense of ease in the transition. But here in central, where the sunny day is god and infuses everything else that happens, it feels like a loss when the days get shorter and the leaves and temperature are dropping. It’s happened fast too, I don’t know if that’s normal for here.

Nice to have a few frosts though, I do like a decent frost.

This Easter I made hawthorn vinegar, and picked berries for drying.

My Mum taught me this the other day. I had badly scratched a wooden table (pine, so easily done). She got a piece of walnut and rubbed it on the scratch, which made the scratch blend in with the surrounding wood stain.

The other thing she taught me was to clean windows with just a few sheets of newspaper. I’d always cleaned with soapy water, rinsed with clean water, and then dried off with newspaper, but this new method is so much easier.

Scrunch up a sheet of newspaper and run it under the tap.

Squeeze it out a bit so it’s not dripping.

Use this to clean the window. You need a bit of pressure, but if you just go over the window well a few times it removes pretty much everything including flyspots. Don’t clean frames this way as the ink leaves black marks.

Check the window for smears by looking from the side.

Get a second piece of newspaper, scrunched up and dry the window. This is important as water that dries on the window leaves marks.

Put the newspaper in the compost, wormfarm or garden.

I love low tech solutions that don’t require buying anything or having waste afterwards.

Here’s another one from Brigitte: a broom broom.