Tag Archives | vinegar

How to Brew Bracing Homemade Fire Cider

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is dropping in today with a recipe for homemade fire cider. This invigorating tonic is said to help boost your immune system and keep you healthy throughout the winter cold and flu season! -Marisa

Ingredients for homemade fire cider

Where I am in Philadelphia, the leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler after a warm start to fall, and root crops are ready to harvest.

That means it’s time to start a batch of homemade fire cider.

This spicy, bracing infusion has been used for centuries as a way to preserve herbs and vegetables that also have medicinal value. Whipping up a big batch at the end of the growing season means that you’ve got a tasty tonic to sip on or use in recipes like sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.

I first tried making this recipe years ago, when I was a CSA manager tasked with finding with a handful of new and interesting recipes to include with each share of vegetables. One week, we included horseradish in the boxes, and I came upon the now familiar recipe.

I loved the ritual, the acidic flavor, and the kick — a powerful whoosh of horseradish, garlic, and onion straight to the nose. I’m not sure whether it was thanks to the homemade fire cider or something else, but I didn’t get sick that winter.

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Canning 101: How to Swap Vinegars

white vinegar

When I first started canning, I used a lot of distilled white vinegar. It was cheap, readily available, and a lot of the traditional recipes used it so I figured I should too. However, I found that I didn’t always love the flavor of white vinegar.

It was unrelentingly acidic and just didn’t bring anything interesting to the jars of pickles and chutneys in which I used it. Gradually, I started shifting from white distilled to apple cider, red wine, and white wine vinegars (I’ll use champagne vinegar when I can get it, but it’s pricy).

You might think that I was doing something potentially unsafe with my vinegar switch, but I wasn’t. That’s because I was making sure to only swap other 5% acidity vinegars in for the white distilled. As long as the vinegar has the same acidic concentration, you can always pull out one vinegar and replace it with another.

Whenever you buy a jug of vinegar, it should say right on the label (like the one in the picture above) that it has either been diluted or reduced with water to 5% acidity. There are a couple of cases when your vinegar won’t be 5%. Rice vinegar is typically sold between 4% and 4.3% acidity (however, Linda Ziedrich has a formula that allows you to still use it with all your favorite recipes) and in some commercial settings, apple cider vinegar is being sold at 4%.

The moral of the story is that as long as you read the vinegar labels carefully and make sure that you’ve got a bottle containing vinegar that has a 5% acidity, you can use whichever you’d like in your pickles!

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Blood Orange Shrub

prepping blood oranges

I’ve been thinking about making a blood orange shrub since they first rolled into my local markets. After all, their ruby color just screams to be made into a fizzy drink. And though I went crazy for shrubs (also known as drinking vinegars) last summer, it’s been months now since I stirred up a batch.

juicing blood oranges

Though I’m sure I’m not the first to turn blood orange juice into a shrub, I didn’t see much out there on the internet to guide my hunch. So I re-read the technique for cold brew shrubs laid out by Michael Dietsch on Serious Eats and adapted to suit my needs.

I juiced 4 blood oranges, which yielded 3/4 cup of juice. Out of blood oranges, and wanting to get to a full cup of juice, I also sliced and squeezed an aging navel orange that had been rolling around the crisper. Despite looking a little desiccated, it served admirably and provided the needed volume.

blood oranges

I combined the 1 cup of juice with 1 cup sugar and let them sit until the sugar was entirely dissolved. This took about an hour (I did give it a quick stir every time I walked by, to help things along). Once there were no visible signs of granulated sugar in the juice, I added 3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and stirred it all together.

blood orange juice

The recipe I was adapting from used a 1:1:1 ratio for the juice, sugar and fruit, but I chose to use a bit less vinegar so that the delicate flavor of the blood oranges wasn’t drowned out by the brute force pucker of the vinegar. I’m happy with the results, as the finished shrub is wonderfully assertive and fruity.

finished shrub

My favorite way to use this shrub (which I just store in the fridge, cooking does bad things to blood orange juice) is to simply combine a couple soup spoons full in a glass with sparkling water. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I do believe it would be really good with a splash of gin.

I also imagine it has a world of possible applications in cooking. Imagine deglazing a pan of chicken with this shrub instead of some wine. Instant blood orange chicken (follow that sauce up with a dollop of blood orange marmalade to emphasize the flavor).

 

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Chive Blossom Vinegar

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I use a lot of vinegar in my day to day cooking. Between quick vinaigrettes, a splash to add balance to different dishes and the array of pickles I regularly make, it’s a favorite item. I typically have between 5-7 varieties including apple cider, white wine, cheap balsamic, a spendier balsamic, rice wine and basic distilled white vinegar. I’m also working my way through a jar of blackberry vinegar I made last summer by steeping spent blackberry seeds in a basic vinegar.

plucked chive blossoms

Many months ago, I spotting mention of chive blossom vinegar somewhere out there on the wide, vast internet (sadly, I’m not sure where it was, so I can’t give credit for this brilliant idea). It planted itself into my brain and though I can lay no claim on any chives myself, I hoped again hope that I might be able to lay my hands on some blossoms this spring in order to make a batch.

Last week, a friend mentioned on Twitter that in the course of her work as a gardener, she composts so many herb cuttings that she should start an herb CSA. While the comment was off-hand and mostly kidding, I mentioned that I was always happy to adopt any herbs in need of a home. As luck would have it, she had access to wide swaths of chives and their blossoms. I’d get to make my vinegar after all.

making chive vinegar

Chive blossoms smell ever so gently of onion and when steeped for a week or two, they give both that fragrance and their light purple color over to the vinegar. The actual process is so easy that you don’t need an actual recipe.

Pick a generous number of chive blossoms. Soak them in cool water to remove any dirt or bugs that might have taken refuge inside the blossoms. Dry them well (salad spinners are great for this) and stuff them into a jar so that it is between 1/2 and 2/3 filled with blossoms (I used a half gallon jar). Fill the jar with white vinegar. Because I’m cheap, I used a basic distilled vinegar. If you’re fancier than I am, try white wine vinegar.

Let the blossoms steep in the vinegar for two weeks in a cool, dark place. When the time has elapsed, strain the vinegar and pour it into any jar you’d like. Use anywhere you think it would taste good.

How is springtime treating the rest of you? I’ve been enjoying the rhubarb and asparagus and am looking forward to the coming abundance of strawberries.

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