MAKES 4 ONE-QUART BOTTLES
By immersing fresh garlic cloves in good vinegar, they become milder in flavor and are good to use when you want a whiff of garlic in a dish, not a pungent reminder. The success of this preparation depends on garlic that is not too old. Look for tight knobs with no splits, soft spots, or sprouts growing from the knob.
Garlic grown in home gardens is best "cured" after harvesting, which means to tie the bunches together and hang them in a dry, dark place until the papers crackle. This vinegar and garlic combination will be ready to use in four weeks. In Tuscany, garlic flavored vinegar is used with boiled meats.
2 or 3 bulbs of fresh garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, and left whole
1 gallon white cider or white wine vinegar
Fresh whole basil leaves, stemmed and wiped dry
Whole coriander seeds
Coarse Kosher salt
4 one quart bottles
Use dark bottles to prevent light from turning the garlic dark. Make as many as you like, putting at least six garlic cloves in each bottle with 2 to 4 fresh basil leaves, 8 to 10 peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Fill to the top with vinegar and cap. Shake the bottles occasionally; store in a cool, dark spot. The vinegar is ready to use in 4 weeks.
Use smaller decorative bottles to make customized "presents" to share with family and friends. Use the vinegar to sprinkle on boiled meats, in potato salads and green salads, vegetable dishes, and for deglazing pans.
Note: Vinegar has a symbolic meaning to Italians, too. They use the phrase un segreto dell'aceto (a vinegar secret) to mean keeping a secret. The implication is that when you have a taste of vinegar, it is difficult to talk and the secret is secure.
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