Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Make Your Own Herb Flavored Oil, Butter & Vinegar

I harvested my first crop of spring chives which is quickly followed by a flurry of kitchen activity making compound butters, flavored oil & vinegar and drying chopped chives.   The compound butter in particular makes a fun gift for foodies, it's easy to make, and comes in handy for quick / delicious meal preparation.  Below I've captured my thoughts on using fresh herbs in this way featuring chive blossom vinegar.
Spring Chive harvest - Using all parts to make Compound
butter and flavored vinegar

Compound or Herbal Butters

A great method for using fresh herbs is to make them into flavored butter. 

I've tried two techniques - 

1) blend the herbs in a small amount of olive oil and then add that mixture to the softened butter. This approach makes a very smooth and homogeneous compound butter. Depending on how much oil you use it can change the consistency to more of a spread.  In the photo below the mixture in the white bowl is the olive oil-herb blend. 
2) just blend the chopped herbs into softened butter. I like mine more rustic with large herbs so I usually use this technique.




Here's the basic proportions and steps for herb compound butter: 
- Mince 1 part herbs (one type, or a blend) 
- Mix herbs into 2 parts of softened butter
- Shape into a log, or put in serving bowls 
- Wrap in wax paper and then again in plastic wrap
- Chill and/or freeze. 
- Cut off slices of herb-flavored compound butter as needed 

Making the logs with the blended butter - that can be tricky, but don't worry, it will taste great no matter how it's shaped!



Shaping up home-made, fresh herb compound butter 


Here are some of my favorite combinations: 

  • Italian: 4 T butter, 2 T Parmesan cheese, 1 T chives, 1 T parsley, pepper to taste
  • Garlic: 4 T butter, 2 cloves garlic, 3 T chives
  • Citrus-spice: 
            -  4 T butter, 2 T chives, 1 tsp lime juice, 1/2 tsp lime peel, to taste salt, cayenne
            -   4 T butter, 2 T chives,  tsp grated lemon peel (or orange)
  • Flaming: 4 T butter, 1 T paprika, 1 jalapeƱo , 1 T each chives & cilantro
  • Steak butter: 

       -    4 T butter, 1 T blue cheese (to taste), 2 T chives, salt/pepper to taste 
       -    4 T butter, 1T parsley, 1 T chives, 1 tsp lemon juice (steak butter)


Herb-Flavored Vinegar
Herb-flavored vinegar is a delicious surprise. I like to place in glass bottles and cork stoppers - but to make them up I just use Tupperware - so easy! All you need in white vinegar and fresh herbs.  You can use wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and others especially for strong herb flavors and combinations like rosemary and tarragon.  The vinegar may also extract color from the herbs so you may end up with pink vinegar, like the chive vinegar shown below :) 

Here are the simple steps:
1) Wash and pat dry fresh herbs. Inspect so that you use only leaves and stems that are undamaged with wilt, spots, or decay.
2) Slide the whole leaves or herb sprigs into the empty bottles or Tupperware. A pair of chopsticks or small wooden skewer helps if the opening is narrow. 
3) Next add larger items such as peeled garlic cloves or small peppers 
4) A good ratio is about ½ cup of herbs/flavorings per 2 cups of vinegar, or more if you want a very concentrated flavor. 
5) Fill the bottles with vinegar and firmly seal it. 
6) Come back the next day and top off with more vinegar. The dry herbs will absorb some. 
7) Store in a cool, dark place. 
8) You can use it the next day but the flavor will build over time. They will easily keep for four to six weeks. I often strain the vinegar, removing the herbs, and place into an antique cruet. If you leave the herbs in the the vinegar eventually the liquid level will fall below the herbs - then remove the vinegar to another bottle and discard the herbs. 
8) To store vinegar longer, melt some wax and dip the corked end of the bottle into the wax to coat the top ¼ inch of the glass and the exposed cork. Let the wax harden, and repeat several times to build up a good coating. 
Home-made Chive Vinegar

So today, not wanting to waste any part of my chives, I made Chive Vinegar.  This is exceptional on fresh cucumbers and tomatoes - and in vinaigrette. Here's the recipe:

  • Rinse chives with water and pat dry. 
  • Remove some of the blossoms from the stems and put into the Tupperware or other seal-able container
  • A few blossoms with stems is OK - you don't have to be precise
  • Fill container with white wine vinegar and seal. 
  • Add more vinegar in 8-10 hours. 
  • The blossoms turn the vinegar pink and the vinegar will have a subtle garlic flavor.
  • Next day - strain out the flowers and place vinegar into glass containers, seal.
  • Keep the fresh pink vinegar out of direct sunlight or it will fade - but the flavor remains.
  • This will last about 3 months.
Herb-Flavored Oils 
I have blogged before about making flavored oils the process is largely the same. Before placing herbs or garlic or peppers into oil they must be completely dried.   I add about 2-4 tablespoons of crushed dried herbs to 2 cups of oil.   I tend to strain the oil after the flavors have matured, but some folks like the look of herb stems in the glass.  Store herb-flavored oils in the refrigerator and use them within a few weeks. If the oil becomes overly cloudy you should discard it it could be botulism bacteria in the plant material. 
You may find that you want or need even more herbs! of so check out these other blog posts that might be of interest.

Enjoy!

Teresa Marie