I was inspired to make my own specialized vinegars over the Christmas holidays when I volunteered at a local arts and books fair. There were people selling books, herbal tea blends, artwork, and homemade jams. Most of the people there knew each other and everything was locally produced. There was a real sense of community and personal accomplishment amongst the vendors. I myself was only there to hand out tickets; I knew someone who had a booth selling his books, and he said the organizers needed help so I popped in for a few hours. It was an interesting experience to watch people make money from the items they made in their spare time. It must be a really great feeling to know that your stuff is good enough that people will pay for it. I daydreamed of having my own booth selling something that I enjoy making. But what would people buy? Maybe oils? Or cute bottles labelled in fancy handwriting and filled with special homemade vinegar, yeah people would probably love that. Step right up folks and buy some raspberry vinegar, or perhaps some garlic-chili oil is more to your taste? For the bread lovers, I have some wonderful bread-dipping sauce of my own invention: artichoke parmesan, with a touch of fresh thyme. They make great gifts, too!! Unfortunately, I have no idea how to make infused vinegars, oils or dipping sauces, so that fantasy never came true. The idea did stay in my brain for many months afterwards. So I searched about for a specialty book. I found and bought Michael Chiarello’s Michael Chiarello’s Flavored Oils and Vinegars book , from which I made two vinegars: mango, and caramelized onion. The mango vinegar recipe requires vanilla sugar syrup, which can be bought or made cheaply at home. I chose to make my own.
Vanilla Sugar Syrup
All I had to do was boil 4:1 parts sugar and water together in a pot. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, it is left to cool. Two tablespoons of pure vanilla extract are added to it before pouring it into a jar. Now that the vanilla sugar syrup has been made, the only other ingredients we need are 2 ripe mangos and 1/2 cup of vinegar. The recipe calls for champagne vinegar with 6% acidity but I could not find it anywhere so instead I used white wine vinegar with 6% acidity. The mangos should be cut up and blended along with 1/2 cup of the vanilla sugar syrup and a pinch of salt. Next, the vinegar can be added. A bit of water can be added if the acidity is too much or if the mixture is too thick. I added about 1/2 cup of water to my batch.
The mixture can then be strained to remove the bits of mango pulp. A fine plastic or metal strainer seems to work best; I tried using coffee filters and cheesecloth without much success. It should then be stored in a glass or plastic container with non-metallic lids.
Next up is caramalized vinegar. The first thing we need to do is heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and saute the 3 chopped onions in it. In order to caramelize properly, they should be cooked at low heat for about 45 minutes until they are a deep brown colour. Being impatient, I only kept them on for about 20 minutes. They look dark enough to me.
Onions being caramelized
They can then be pureed in the blender along with 1 cup of white wine vinegar. If it’s too thick, thin it out with water, then add salt and pepper for taste.
Caramelized Onion Vinegar
Okay, so it doesn’t look too appetizing, at least not to my mind. That’s okay, it still tastes good! I used both the vinegars together in a recipe from Michael’s book: Carpaccio of beets with Goat Cheese.
Carpaccio of beets with goat cheese
I’m not a huge fan of beets, so I was a bit wary of trying this recipe. Overall, it wasn’t too bad. I found the flavours of the dish to be far too sharp, probably because the tartness of the goat cheese competed with the acidity of the vinegar. I don’t think I would make this particular dish again. I would most definitely make the mango vinegar again, though! Have you made your own flavoured vinegar? How do you like to use flavoured vinegar in your cooking?