By Kim Robson:
Spring will be here soon, and I’m already thinking about which herbs I’ll want to grow in my planter box. My favorites are basil, thyme, rosemary, mint and oregano. With soft herbs like basil and chives, it’s possible to utilize all of the cuttings, including the stems, but with tougher herbs like thyme, rosemary, mint, and oregano, the stems go into the waste bin or the countertop compost crock with the vegetable scraps. Did you know there’s a way to utilize those herb stems?
That’s right, we’re going to make our own herb-infused vinegar from those discarded stems. The fragrance won’t be as intense as it would be if using the leaves. Rather, the stems impart a subtle, mellow fragrance. When combined with an oil, it makes a lovely salad dressing or marinade. Here’s how:
Start with fresh herb stems. Choose highly aromatic plants such as mint, lemon basil, lavender, rosemary, tarragon, lemon thyme, chive flowers, or anise hyssop. Basil stems have virtually no smell, unfortunately, but Rama Holy Basil stems are an exception.
Strip the leaves and break up the stems so they fit neatly into the jar. Immediately cover the stems with vinegar, leaving an inch of head space at the top. Although the stems are fragrant, they will quickly lose their intensity, so cover them with the vinegar immediately. Make sure the stems are completely covered; this will prevent mold from forming.
Top the jar with a paper towel or cheese cloth, then secure with a rubber band. Don’t use the metal band as show in the picture below, as the vinegar can cause it to rust. Plastic bands are fine if you can find them.
Let vinegar sit in a cool, dark spot for two to three weeks. Check it often to make sure mold isn’t forming. Then, decant it through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into the container of your choice and enjoy!