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May 27, 2006 | Episode 21

Fresh basil can be infused with vinegar to create new, bold flavor.
Need an easy, low-calorie way to add flavor to just about anything?  Try  basil-infused vinegar.
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Upgrading Vinegar

Tips for infusing vinegar with flavor



One of the best ways to perk up an ordinary recipe is to use flavored vinegars. Though infused vinegars are widely available in supermarkets and at farmers’ markets, infusing your own vinegar is nearly as easy as paying for it at checkout —and (best of all) it’s cheaper. Here’s how to do it:

• Use good quality red wine, white wine or champagne vinegar, and never use distilled vinegar, which is too harsh for infusion, says Jim Vitalo, proprietor of the vinegar maker Herbally Yours in Chicago, Illinois, and Michael Chiarello, chef and author of Flavored Vinegars: 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Vinegars.

• Use the freshest seasonal ingredients possible but keep ingredients to a minimum. “If you blend too many things together, it ends up being gray — in color and in flavor,” Chiarello says.

• Store vinegar in glass or ceramic containers sealed with nonmetallic lids, as metal and plastic will react with vinegar over time and corrode the container and vinegar.  Cork, glass, and ceramic stoppers make the best lids.

• Refrigerate your infused vinegars for up to six months, says Vitalo. Use them as salad dressings, marinades, to add a zesty boost to stews, sauces, salsas, vegetables and stir fries, or for flavoring vegetables and desserts.

• To get started, try the two recipes below:

Tarragon Vinegar (adapted from Herbally Yours)

  • Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
    Total Time: 2 weeks
    Makes one quart
  • <>One large handful organic tarragon, preferably organic
    One quart good quality white wine vinegar

Place the tarragon in a large glass jar.  Smash the leaves with a wooden spoon.  Add the vinegar.  Set aside in a cool, dark, dry place for two weeks. Strain through three or four layers of cheesecloth into a pitcher and pour into clean glass containers.  Seal and refrigerate.

Basil Peppercorn Vinegar (adapted from Herbally Yours)

  • Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
    Total Time: 2 weeks
    Makes one quart
One handful of peppercorns
Two large handfuls basil, preferably organic
    One quart good quality red wine vinegar

Place the peppercorns and basil in a large glass jar. Smash the leaves with a wooden spoon.  Add the vinegar.  Set aside in a cool, dark, dry place for two weeks.  Strain through three or four layers of cheesecloth into a pitcher and pour into clean glass containers.  Seal and refrigerate.


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