Posts Tagged ‘vinegar’

Spring Elderflower Vinegars / Shrubs

The first Scottish Radical Herbal Gathering is in September – tickets on sale in July. We recently got talking about the important entertainments aspect of the Gathering and wanted to make sure there will be some tasty forageables for the non-alcoholic attendees – we have a lot of options for wild alcohol… As I have a lot of Elderflower Recipes of the boozy and non-boozy varieties and, one of my favourites, Elderberry Vinegar, I thought, why not combine the two and look in to some Elderflower Vinegars?

Today, I managed to collect a good stash of Elderflower heads – unexpected bonus of the cooler weather is that I only brought one greenfly in to the flat and its sensitive pre-allotment seedlings on the windowsill. When you’re picking Elderflower heads it should ideally be early on a sunny day, so that you get maximum pollen before the insects get to it. In reality, you can pick later in the day, just give the flowers a good sniff to check they’re fragrant – this can vary a bit from tree to tree as well. A few points on picking, like all foraging, Elderflower picking is best done sustainably and respectfully, leaving plenty behind for the plant and other species’ who rely on it to survive. Respectful foraging also often means securing the main plant with one hand as you pick with the other – petals like Rose  and very ripe berries are probably the main exceptions. You should also try to remove the plant material cleanly and from a growth point to prevent dead material being left on the plant and potentially creating an easy environment for deseases. When I got home, I discovered that getting Elderflowers off of their stalks with a fork is a tad more labour intensive than getting Elderberries – which you can freeze and then they pop off. I recommend a good, long radio programme for when you have a go with these recipes.

I’ve used two recipes – one with sugar from the outset from JamJarShop and another with no sweeteners (yet) from GreatFoodClub They both take 2 to 3 weeks to infuse, after which I’ll strain them and then use the vinegar to make refreshing shrubs, diluted with soda water.I’m sure there’ll be some left for the Gathering in September.

Sugar-Free Recipe

  1. Sterilise a large jar – I used a Kilner which was just under 1L.
  2. I picked 15 elderflower heads for 900ml white wine vinegar.
  3. Pick the flowers and place in the jar, covering with the vinegar.
  4. Seal, and place on a sunny windowsill for 2-3 weeks.
  5. Strain through muslin and decant vinegar into bottles.
  6. Store in a dry, dark cupboard.

Sugary Recipe

Follow the steps above with slightly different ingredients, for a roughly 1L jar, I used:

18 elderflower heads /  450g caster sugar / zest of 1 orange / 650ml apple cider vinegar

 

Immune Boosting Herbal & Fruit Vinegars

So, I’ve got a bit of a cold and, being a good herbalist, I’ve neglected to look after myself properly and have only just remembered the bottles and bottles of soothing Elderberry Vinegar that are sitting in the spare / herbal room. Elderberries are full of Vitamin C and a great immune booster, they’re also conveniently in season in the Autumn, about the time the first colds are starting with the return to school and university and increased exposure to everyone else’s germs. I’m guessing this might also explain my current cold, everyone’s back to Glasgow with new and interesting bugs after far-flung festivities.

I’ve recently taken to calling the sweetened Elderberry Vinegar a “Shrub” as some people find the idea of drinking vinegar a bit off-putting. The basic recipe for any Fruit Vinegar is here.  Although it’s a bit late for foraged fruits here in Glasgow, you can also use shop-bought Raspberries or even Blackberries if you don’t mind the food miles. A more seasonal type of medicinal vinegar, which you can make now is the pungent, garlicky, herby Four Thieves’ Vinegar. Even better, although for maximum potency, your vinegar should stew for 2 weeks – the components of Four Thieves’ Vinegar are so strong, you’ll get some medicinal effects if you drink it with only a couple of hours of stewing.

A couple of quick notes about making vinegars. I often get asked which vinegar is best to use as the base to a medicinal vinegar or shrub. I usually go for Apple Cider Vinegar for stronger flavours like the garlicky Four Thieves’ Vinegar and/or if the vinegar isn’t going to be heated. White Wine Vinegar is best if the vinegar is going to be heated as part of the recipe, particularly to add sugar, as with the Fruit Vinegars. The direct heat denatures some of the ACV goodness and the blandness of White Wine Vinegar suits sweetening. It’s not essential to stick to these though, if you’re in a hurry and happen to have only one vinegar to hand, just use that.

Another common question is around adding sugar and sugar subsititutes. The basic Fruit Vinegar recipe does add a lot of sugar and this isn’t essential for preservation, but does bring out the flavour of the Elderberries and Blackberries in particular. So, if you’re going to use your Fruit Vinegar as a culinary, Balsamic-like dressing, sweetening is really a must. If you’re going for a medicinal Fruit Vinegar, you could leave out the sugar in the initial recipe and then add sugar or honey to your warmed vinegar drink. Some people have suggested adding honey to the basic recipe, but I wonder if prolonged heat is good for honey and think adding it as you drink would be better. I’ve yet to experiment with using natural plant sweeteners like Stevia and would definitely avoid artificial sweeteners.

Bramble Vinegar