Historic Flavored Vinegars
Author: Michelle Evans, Conner Prairie Adult Experience Specialist
Though vinegar could be purchased at a store, the frugal made their own. Any of the following will do to start.
Mix one quart of strained honey with seven quarts of lukewarm water, put it in a keg or jug, and expose it daily to the sun, leaving the bung loose till it is done fermenting, and then cork it up tolerably tight. In a short time you will have a very pleasant tasted vinegar.
Mix with ten gallons of cider five quarts of strained honey; put it in a cask, and in six months you will have a vinegar too strong for common purposes, without diluting it with water.
Mix together whiskey and water in the proportions of four gallons of water to one of whiskey; put it in a cask, and fill it up with ripe peaches. After standing two or three weeks, draw off the liquid, empty the cask of the peaches, and put the liquid again into it; cork it up slightly, leaving the bung a little loose, and in five or six months, according to the quantity you make, you will have an excellent, strong and well favored vinegar.
Another Way to Make Whiskey Vinegar
Mix the whiskey and water in the proportions of two and a half gallons of water to one of whiskey, and to every ten gallons of the mixture add three pints of good yeast and three pounds of powdered charcoal. Put it in a cask, leaving the bung loose, and place it in a sunny part of the yard till the fermentation is over: then close up the bung tolerably tight, and in four or five months you will have a fine white vinegar, answering for many nice purposes that dark colored vinegar would not.
A Very Cheap Vinegar
Have a barrel with one head loose; set it in a snug place of the yard, and when you are drying your peaches, apples or pears, put the parings and cores in the barrel, filling it quite full; then fill it up with cold spring water, spread a cloth over the top, and let it stand for several weeks. It will not injure the taste of the vinegar to remain with the pumice the greater part of the winter: then draw it off into a clean cask, and in four or five months from the time you commence making it, you will have a pleasant tasted vinegar, strong enough for common purposes.
Now that you have your vinegar, it's time to flavor it.
Flavored vinegars are particularly useful to flavor gravies, soups and sauces. Take the large spring eschalot; peel, wash, chop them small, and put them into a jar: sprinkle on a handful of salt, cover them with the best vinegar, close the jar and set it by for one week: then strain it, empty the jar, fill it up again with eschalots, prepared in the same manner; pour the vinegar, close the jar and set it by for another week; after which strain and bottle it for use. Onion vinegar may be made in the same manner. Tarragon Vinegar Pick the leaves of the tarragon from the stalks just before it blooms; spread them out on a cloth, and let them lie for two or three days to dry a little; then put them into a jar, close it and set it by for one week; then strain and bottle it. If you wish it very strongly flavored with the tarragon, fill it up the second time with fresh leaves and soak them in the same manner. Any kind of nice sweet herbs may be soaked in the same manner for the purpose of seasoning.
Chop a good quantity of ripe red peppers very small, put them into a stone or earthen jar, close it and let it set for several days: then boil it for a few minutes in a covered vessel, and strain and bottle it for use.
To make celery vinegar, use the seeds, pound them fine, put them into a jar or wide mouthed bottle; pour on enough good vinegar to cover them, stop it closely and let it stand to infuse for a week or two; then strain and bottle it. Black mustard seed vinegar is made in the same manner.
Sweet basil is in full perfection about the middle of August. Fill a wide-mouthed bottle with the fresh leaves of basil (these give much finer and more flavor than the dried,) and cover them with vinegar, or wine, and let them steep for ten days: if you wish a very strong essence, strain the liquor, put it on some fresh leaves, and let them steep fourteen days more. Obs.-- This is a very agreeable addition to sauces, soups and to the mixture usually made for salads.
It is a secret the makers of mock turtle may thank us for telling; a table-spoonful put in when the soup is finished will impregnate a tureen of soup with the basil and acid flavors, at very small cost, when fresh basil and lemons are extravagantly dear.
The flavor of the other sweet and savory herbs, celery, &c. may be procured, and preserved in the same manner by infusing them in wine or vinegar.
Vinegar For Salads
Take of tarragon, savory, chives, eschalots, three ounces each; a handful of the tops of mint and balm, all dry and pounded; put into a wide-mouthed bottle, with a gallon of best vinegar; cork it close, set in the sun, and in a fortnight strain off, and squeeze the herbs; let it stand a day to settle, and then strain it through a filtering bag.
Vinegar was not just used in cooking as we usually think of it. Many drinks were based on vinegar. Vinegar also had other useful purposes.
The best way to make this, is to pour three pints of the best wine vinegar on a pint and a half of fresh-gathered red raspberries in a stone jar, or china bowl (neither glazed earthenware, nor any metallic vessel, must be used;) the next day strain the liquor over a like quantity of fresh raspberries; and the day following do the same. Then drain off the liquor without pressing, and pass it through a jelly-bag (previously wetted with plain vinegar) into a stone jar, with a pound of pounded lump sugar to each pint. When the sugar is dissolved, stir it up, cover over the jar, and set it in a saucepan of water, and keep boiling for an hour, taking off the scum; add to each pint a glass of brandy, and bottle it: mixed in about eight parts of water, it is a very refreshing and delightful summer drink. An excellent cooling beverage to assuage thirst in ardent fevers, colds, and inflammatory complaints, &c. and is agreeable to most palates.
Take of the dried tops of rosemary and dried sage leaves each four ounces, dried flowers of lavender two ounces, and two drahms of cloves; put them in a quart of distilled vinegar, macerate for one week afterwards, express the liquor and filter it.
Another Mode is to steep rose leaves, pinks and lavender blossoms in equal proportions, in distilled or white wine vinegar, and express and filter as before directed.
Take equal proportions of lavender blossoms, rosemary, rue, sage, wormwood, mint and thyme; put them in an earthen jar, cover them with good vinegar, close the jar, and set it in the sun for two weeks; after which squeeze out the liquid, filter and bottle it, putting in each bottle a sliced clove of garlic. It is very good to sprinkle in the chambers of sick people, or in sultry rooms to prevent faintness.
The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryan 1839
(reprint: Troll Publishing, P.O. Box 996, Paducah, KY 42001)
The Cook's Own Book by a Boston Housekeeper (Mrs. N.K. Lee) 1832
(reprint: Arno Press Inc., New York, 1972)