Driving towards the beach Jon spotted the farm shop. “Who fancies an ice cream?” he said, somewhat rhetorically. So we pulled up and went inside. It was one of those fancy farm shops that rinses the dirt off the kale, and supplements the crops of the season with jams and chutneys and homemade lavender pillows – all very charming and lovely.
And deep at the back of the shop; pitchers of vinegar.
I’ve recently been on a flavored vinegar kick myself, so I was keen to see what the farm had come up with; raspberry, peach, apple, chive flowers … the day after I got home, with sand still in my shoes, I got back to making them.
And here’s what the gourmet farm shops of the world would probably prefer to keep secret: making flavored vinegar is really easy.
You buy some cheapish white wine or red wine vinegar, and you add fruit. Sometimes you leave the fruit sitting in the vinegar, simple as that. Sometimes you heat the fruit and vinegar together.
When ripe peaches are going for a song at farm stands, and the impossible happens – you cannot eat them all right away – this vinegar is a lovely way to preserve some of the sweet fragrant flavor for the for now unimaginable colder months to come.
You can really use any soft ripe fruit you like here – last year when it was a little cooler and peaches never got cheap, I used nectarines, which were great. I also made a version with red wine vinegar and plums, which was lovely too – there’s no mystery to this recipe, you can really make whatever you like once you get the hang of it.2 1/2 cups of sliced ripe peaches, about 5 or 6 peaches 2 cups white wine vinegar 1-2 tbsp sugar or honey
- Put the chopped peaches into a pan with the vinegar
- Cook very gently (open the windows because the vinegar can smell pretty sharp) for about 10 minutes until the vinegar is reduced a little, and the peaches are very soft
- Pour into a jar and store for 2 weeks
- (or cook the peaches in the vinegar very gently until reduced by half, mashing with a spoon to get out all the juice, then proceed as follows)
- Strain through a sieve lined with a dishcloth or muslin, then put in a new muslin and strain again (you can use a coffee filter if you don’t have muslin lying around)
- Decant into clean bottles and keep in the fridge for about a month – or properly disinfect your bottles and store for many months in a cupboard
This vinegar is lovely mixed in a 1:2 ratio with some olive oil and a good pinch of salt, then used to dress a salad of arugula, fresh peach slices and goat cheese, finished off with plenty of black pepper.
It’s also really lovely added to mayonnaise as a base for a chicken salad, or sprinkled over fresh peaches as a tangy fruit salad.