Can you believe that blueberries are still going? Well, they are, for today at least: Jones Family Farms (in Shelton, CT) has announced today is the last day for blueberry picking at the farm. And what better way to preserve your late-season haul than an infused vinegar? (Um… what?) OK, I’ll admit, there are a million lovely things to do with blueberries, including, but not limited to: pancakes, scones, tarts, (a blueberry-peach pie that I am making today for a party tomorrow) and this kick-ass jam. So, you’ve got plenty of options. But few options are easier than this one; and in August, (the month that would be known as Peaches-plums-tomatoes-blackberries-and-OMG-apples-already! if only we had time to say all that), sometimes the easiest option is the best option. But make no mistake – while putting this together is so quick & easy that it feels like cheating, at the end of a month (of virtually no toil on your part) you’ll have a gorgeously purple, deliciously blueberry-y, hint-o-fresh-herb-infused vinegar to liven up your salads, marinades and pantry shelves.
Sadly, this is the kind of photography assignment that always defeats me: how to impart to you just how beautiful these sparkling bottles of berry-infused goodness are, without over-exposing them in the harsh sunlight, capturing (cool, but ultimately distracting) reflections of the cottage or Your Intrepid Photographer in the bottles, or accurately depicting the complex color within the vagaries of my two-button knowledge of Photoshop. Ah, well; you’ll just have to take my word for it: it’s gorgeous, it’s easy and it doesn’t require turning on the stove. A win-win-win! Happy weekend, everyone.
Adapted from Blueberry-Basil Vinegar in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry and L. Devine, eds.
- 1 quart (4 cups) blueberries, rinsed & picked over
- 4 cups white wine vinegar
- about 1 cup basil leaves, tightly packed (1 small bunch basil)
- zest of one lemon
- In a medium glass or ceramic bowl (non-metallic), add 2 cups of blueberries and 1 cup of vinegar. Mash blueberries with a potato masher (or the bottom of a wine bottle) until all berries are split. Add remaining blueberries and continue to mash.
- Bruise basil leaves by spreading them out on a cutting board and, with a rolling pin, wine bottle, or meat tenderizer, lightly pounding on the leaves until you see dark green ‘bruising’ on each leaf. Add to the blueberries. If the basil stems are fresh (not dried, limp or browning), forego removing the leaves and just bruise and toss the whole bunch into the bowl; the stems contain a lot of flavor.
- Add lemon zest and remaining vinegar. Stir, cover tightly, and let sit, in a dark, room temperature (70 – 75 degrees F) spot for about 1 month, to allow the flavors to infuse the vinegar. Shake every few days (or when you think of it) and start testing for flavor after about 2 weeks.
- When the strength and flavor are to your liking, strain for several hours, without squeezing, through a jelly bag or a fine sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth (reserve blueberry-basil pulp for sweet & sour blueberry leather). Funnel into sterilized (to sterilize bottles heat in a 225 degree F oven for 15 minutes, or in boiling water for 15 minutes) decorative bottles.
Yields about 4 cups vinegar.
- You could try red wine vinegar for a different flavor profile. If you happen to make your own wine vinegar, you can make this recipe 100% by omitting the lemon zest.
- The original Ball recipe calls for heating the strained vinegar to 180 degrees F, filling into clean jars, then a 10-minute boiling water bath. I feel this is excessive for what is, after all, vinegar. As long as you sieve the vinegar properly (there should be no visible particulate in the final product) it should last quite well without a water-bath seal. The Ball book includes a variation of adding 1/2 cup fresh blueberries to the final product; if you go this route, you might consider the boiling-water bath processing.
- I meant to try this last year with blackberries & sage, but I never got around to it (see previous note re: Peaches-plums-tomatoes… etc. You get the idea.) Nevertheless, I think there are a range of exciting options here: blackberry-jalapeno, wineberry-lemon-thyme, elderberry-summer savory? Let your imagination go wild.
In a dark, cool, room temperature spot indefinitely.