In our basement, there was a collection of empty gallon-size wine bottles that my grandmother had saved. In the summer, the cumbersome bottles were brought upstairs, given a good scrubbing and scalding, and then stuffed with fresh herbs, such as basil and parsley.
A funnel was placed over the mouth of the bottle and wine vinegar was added, filling the bottles to the brim. Then they were left to steep for weeks so the herbs would flavor the vinegar. Almost any fresh herbs can be used this way. I like combining herbs too, for thyme-mint vinegar, or parsley-chive vinegar.
I use these vinegars on salads, in marinades, and to deglaze chicken dishes. You don't need gallon wine bottles to do this. I save interesting bottles of different sizes, fill and label them, and often give them as Christmas presents with a favorite recipe for using the vinegar.
3 or 4 sprigs basil per bottle
1 clove garlic, peeled, per bottle
Apple cider or red wine vinegar
Sterilized glass bottles and caps or corks
Wash and dry the basil sprigs. Place 3 or 4 sprigs in each bottle. With a knife, make a small slit in the garlic cloves. Add 1 clove to each bottle and fill the bottles with vinegar. Cap or cork the bottles and place them outside in the sun or in a sunny place indoors to "ripen" for 4 or 5 days.
Let the vinegar sit for at least 6 weeks before using; the vinegar will keep for up to 6 months.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company Inc., in 1991.
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