Herbal Vinegars, a How-To Guide
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is all the rage right now. ACV is cider that has gone through a fermentation process to produce vinegar that is filled with healthy bacteria (probiotics) and enzymes (that help you break down the foods you eat). ACV has been used medicinally for a long time and science now supports the many health benefits of ACV from lowering blood sugar levels, to helping with asthma symptoms, to supporting gut health and weight loss.
ACV can also be used as a medium to deliver other nutrients - by steeping herbs, spices and other ingredients in the vinegar you can extract the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals out.
For example, if you want to get more calcium in your diet you can steep nettle, chickweed and violets in your ACV. Stinging nettle also contains vitamins A and C, B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. Nettle can be found in your garden or in patches near the seaside mostly in Spring. Be careful when picking it as does cause a prickly, stinging rash; so be sure to wear gloves. You can dry nettle to use throughout the year. Nettle is a wonderful addition to cooked greens, just add it to any dish that calls for kale, silverbeet/chard or spinach. Learn more about nettle here.
Chickweed, comes out in Autumn so look for it's delicate white flowers then. It can be used to aid recovery after illness and to support thyroid health. Learn more about chickweed here.
For a mood boosting tonic, steep unsprayed rose petals in ACV.
Garden thyme can used for respiratory complaints.
Generally, I fill a glass jar with the plants I want to use, chopping them roughly, then pour the ACV over them. Leave the jar in a cool place out of the sun and shake it daily for two weeks or so. Once you are ready to use the vinegar, strain it from the plant matter into a clean glass jar.
To use the flavoured vinegar, place a tablespoon or two in kefir water, still or mineral water, and drink prior to meals. You can also use flavoured ACV in salad dressings or anywhere you would normally use vinegar. Another option is to make a 'shrub' - a traditional Middle Eastern drink made with fruit and vinegar.
Here are a couple recipe ideas from Urban Moonshine blog for Lemon, Dandelion & Herb AVC and Beetroot, Turmeric, Ginger & Orange ACV.
You can also use ACV to make digestive bitters instead of brandy or other alcohol. Read about digestive bitters in my previous post.
(Strawberry and Dandelion Bitters)
If you are really keen, you can make your own ACV using apple scraps!
I hope this helps you on your way to using apple cider vinegar both medicinally and as a culinary ingredient; two words of advise though.....make sure you identify the plants you want to use correctly, especially if you are foraging, and don't be afraid to experiment.
Enjoy - N x