Why top all your fresh, local produce with commercially prepared vinaigrette when you can make your own?
According to food experts, it’s easy to do using ingredients typically found in most kitchens.
Jeri Woodhouse, an organic farmer and owner of A Taste of the North Fork in Southold, has teamed up with master food preserver Mark Vosburgh of Hallockville Museum Farm for a series of cooking programs the pair calls “Preserving the Harvest.” On May 3, they taught a vinaigrette class at Ms. Woodhouse’s North Fork Specialty Kitchen in Cutchogue, where many of the products sold at her store are made.
Designed for novice chefs and experienced cooks alike, Saturday’s class provided students with a basic understanding of the many ways to infuse flavors into vinegar and how to create homemade vinaigrettes using ingredients commonly grown in backyard gardens.
“You would be surprised how many products contain vinegar,” Ms. Woodhouse said. She explained that vinegar — which results from the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria — was used as a medical disinfectant in World War I and during outbreaks of bubonic plague in the 14th century.
And while Ms. Woodhouse said it takes around 25 years to make a basic balsamic, you can create your own infused vinegar in just two weeks.
Here are some tips for getting started.
BASIC INFUSED VINEGAR
The recipe for herb-infused vinegar is simple and serves as the basis for many others. Start with red or white wine vinegar with an acidity of at least 5 percent. For example, Heinz red wine vinegar, which is used in Ms. Woodhouse’s Cutchogue kitchen, has 10 percent acidity.
Mix seven ounces of Heinz red wine vinegar with three ounces of water, she said, to lower the acidity to 7 percent, thereby cutting the flavor a bit.
Once mixed, add spices and herbs like rosemary and ground pepper or fruit and a piece of lemon peel to the mixture. Pour into a sanitized clear glass bottle and let sit for at least two weeks to allow the flavors to combine. If using fruit, let it sit for three months or more, Ms. Woodhouse said.
When ready to serve, simply strain through a paper towel or cheesecloth and enjoy.
This deliciously fresh and sweet vinaigrette requires some time, as you first need to develop a berry-infused vinegar as described in the recipe above. You may be able to find flavored vinegar at specialty stores. If so, check the acidity level and add water as needed to adjust the levels.
16 ounces blueberry vinegar
6 ounces sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
12-14 fresh berries
24 ounces canola oil
In a blender, mix together the infused vinegar, sugar and dry mustard, then blend in the fresh berries. Mix well and slowly pour in the canola oil while the mixture is still being blended. Keep stirring until you achieve a smoothie-like consistency, then serve.
This vinaigrette doesn’t require any infusion time but does require vegetable chopping.
12 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (right from the bottle)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 shallots, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
12 tablespoons grapeseed oil
In a blender, purée vinegar, onion, shallots, ginger and soy sauce together until smooth. Once mixed, very slowly pour in the grapeseed oil while the mixture is being blended until you achieve a milkshake-like consistency. Quickly pulse in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.
This particular recipe is a variation based on one created by Bravo network “Top Chef” personality Eric Ripert, a chef who specializes in fresh cuisine. Mr. Ripert serves it over a salad of mesclun greens, haricot verts, avocado, mango, red pepper and cucumber, Ms. Woodhouse said.
Click here for more information on the different classes offered by Taste of the North Fork and Hallockville Farm Museum.
The next class, scheduled for Saturday, June 7, at 1 p.m., will teach participants how to use edible flowers to flavor sugars.