In the Garden:
Mexican mint marigold is a lovely fall-blooming perennial for the south that also makes a wonderful addition to herbal vinegar blends.
Herbal Vinegars Make Great Gifts
If you've never tried making herbal vinegar, you are missing out on a great late-season bonus from your herb garden. Vinegars add pizzazz to your cuisine and make decorative additions to the kitchen as well. They also make nice gifts.
Around our house we are especially fond of herbal vinegars. Our herbal harvests get transformed into various herbal vinegar blends that we have discovered or developed over the years.
We have experimented with several herb blends steeped in white or red wine vinegar. If you've never tried lemon pepper vinegar on a pasta salad, or red wine vinegar (with rosemary, oregano, and garlic cloves) on a dish of skillet beef and lentils, you are really missing something!
My favorite is the lemon pepper vinegar using lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, spiraled lemon peel, dill, and peppercorns. White wine vinegar makes a good base for this mix, and it allows you to see the herbs through the clear bottle. We cork and wax the tops of the bottles for that extra touch, and then attach a label with suggestions for use. Many people have never tried a really good herbal vinegar. With some suggested ways to use it, they'll quickly fall in love with this wonderfully versatile product.
We often bottle the vinegars in wine bottles, which are available by mail order or from local home brew stores. I also like to keep an eye out for unusual and appealing clear bottles to go into the stash for the next herbal vinegar batch.
Herbal vinegars can be quite attractive, and rather than being used in cooking, they may end up being displayed to give the kitchen an inviting, country look. We sometimes include blooms for just that purpose. Some good late-season flowers are pineapple sage and Mexican mint marigold. Add a nice raffia bow to the bottle and display the vinegar in a kitchen window where the light will shine through!
Southern Lemon Blend Herbal Vinegar
Here's an easy recipe to get you started. This special blend is excellent in a vinaigrette for green salads or a fresh pasta dish. If you don't have all the ingredients, just go ahead with the ones that you do have and it will still be good!
To a clear glass quart jar add:
2 sprigs Mexican mint marigold
2 sprigs lemon verbena (or two blades of lemongrass)
2 sprigs marjoram
2 sprigs salad burnet
6 chive leaves
1 twist of lemon peel about 1/3" wide and 4" long
Fill jar with white wine vinegar heated to just above boiling. Seal and allow to steep until cool. Strain out herbs and fill a clear wine bottle with the vinegar blend. Add sprigs of the above herbs for decoration. Cork the bottle, and to maintain attractiveness for later use as a holiday gift, keep the finished vinegar in a dark area, such as a pantry.
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