Transforming vinegar and lemon juice

We have so many visitors here that sometimes it feels like we're camping in the middle of Central Station. I'm a solitary soul and while I thrive with my family around me, I need silence and solitude as well. Hanno and Jamie went to the movies yesterday so I took the wonderful opportunity for some alone time. I spent some time in the garden pottering around and planning future projects and when I came inside again, went straight to the kitchen and made up two quick liquids that we'll enjoy in the coming days. I feel refreshed and full of beans now, so watch out. 😊


When I make salads, I prefer a no-oil dressing. I grew up long before the days of bottled salad dressing and olive oil. If we dressed salads at all, it was with vinegar. I remember my grandmother making salad by sprinkling a teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper over the salad and then pouring in some vinegar. By the time the salad was eaten, the dressing was a mix of tomato, cucumber and onion juices mixed in with the vinegar and sugar. Grandma drank it straight down and taught the habit to my sister, Tricia. I drink it now too and have discovered there is nothing quite as bracing as a mouth full of vinegar juices.


I often have flavoured vinegar in the cupboard. I make it up ahead of time so it can develop flavour and add extra depth to potato salad, coleslaw, fish and quick pickles. If you add two tablespoons of this vinegar to mayonnaise, it cuts the creaminess back nicely and gives it a little kick.  I've been using flavoured malt vinegar recently so I decided on an apple cider vinegar this time.  It's a simple process that takes less than five minutes. All I do is place vinegar, sugar and spices in a saucepan and bring it up to a hot, but not boiling, temperature.  You can use any spices you fancy, I tend to use the traditional pickling spices of mustard seed - I have yellow and black here, celery seeds, pepper, chilli flakes and salt. I used two small fresh bay leaves too. I'm not giving you any set amounts because this is one of those things where you throw the recipe out the window and rely on your own taste to guide you. When it tastes right, it's right.  But as a little hint, I used 400 mls of cider vinegar and ½ cup raw sugar.  If the taste is too sharp and it's already sweet enough, add a little water to mellow it. When you have the base liquid to your taste, start adding the spices you like.


White vinegar will result in a clear liquid, cider vinegar will go cloudy.

Pour it into a jar while it's still hot and let it sit on the bench while it cools. Stir it occasionally to bring in the flavour of the spices even more.  If you don't like the floating seeds in the vinegar, strain them out after a couple of days when the flavours have completely developed.  I always store this in the fridge. I'm not sure of the acidity level of the vinegar, it needs to be 5% to be stable in a cupboard, so it's safer in the fridge.



A great use for this is to do a quick pickled cucumber. Three to fours hours before using it, slice cucumber and some onion and place in a bowl. Sprinkle over about a tablespoon of salt and let the cucumbers sit for 45 minutes. This draws water from the vegetables so you don't get watered down vinegar when you fill the jars. Wash the salt off before placing the cucumbers in a jar. Pour over just enough vinegar to cover the slices and allow it to sit until you use them.



We're still working our way through the citrus. The orange tree has been picked, we have a jug of fresh orange juice in the fridge and the last bucket of oranges waiting to juiced.  There are still a lot of lemons on the trees and I had about 1500 mls of lemon juice in the fridge waiting to be used. I made more 100ml portions of lemon juice ice blocks and used the rest of the juice I had to make a small amount of lemon cordial.  It will give us a nice boost of vitamin C over winter.  This is my usual recipe for cordial.   It's delicious made up as a cold drink but you can also add it to hot black tea in winter.

Such simple liquids, but they both transform any food they're added to. Do you have a favourite vinegar or juice recipe?

31 comments

  1. Rhonda Jean, I read this post just after we had made 7 quarts of dill pickles suing our homegrown cucumbers and garlic! Thank you for the ever-inspiring posts and encouragement on living a quiet life. --Beverly in TN

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    1. Hi Beverly, it's reassuring reading your comment because I sometimes wonder if I'm one of only a few doing this kind of kitchen work. It's great you're using your own produce. Enjoy the pickles. xx

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  2. I just love these sort of recipes that get handed down through word of mouth. I'm definitely going to use this thanks Rhonda.
    NZ Ingrid

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  3. I just found the subscribe by email button. I don't know if this is new or if I just haven't paid attention. Anyway, it is great.

    Thanks for continuing the blog

    z

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    1. Thank you for mentioning this! I have now subscribed also 😀

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  4. I have two orange trees and a lemon tree to get through, what kind of juicer do you have Rhonda? My little glass one will not cut it for this amount! It's fine for adding the juice or a few lemons, but not for bucket loads.

    Thanks for the recipes, I will certainly be trying them. Adding paprika to our pan juices in making a rich gravy is something I always do now thanks to you! It helps bring what would be a pale gravy (for what ever reason) into something great!

    Xx

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    1. Hi Em, we persevered with A Breville juice foundation for many years and finally gave it away. It made frothy juice. Ugh! Now we have the Breville Citrus Press. It's great. Easy to use and clean and gives a nice stream of juice. xx

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  5. I've never made anything like this, but I was just looking up recipes for fermented cranberry soda. Our downstairs (basement) fridge has given up the ghost and I had to cram everything in the kitchen fridge. Now I am desperately looking for ways to use things up. I had cranberries in the freezer, but there's no room for them. I think I'd really like to try a fermented soda. I'll have to strain some yogurt tomorrow to get whey, and then I'll begin.

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    1. Hi Lisa. I hope your cranberry soda works. If it does, I'd love to know how you made it. xx

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  6. I always marinade onions in vinegar before making a salad - it cuts the rawness of them. That is a good idea to make up the flavoured vinegar and keep it handy.

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  7. Hello Rhonda
    Whenever I am juicing citrus I firstly "zest" them using a micro plane grater. I do this onto baking paper/parchment which I carefully fold and then pop into a small ziplock bag and keep in the freezer. This is very handy to use in other cooking and baking. I find that either a ziplock bag or small sealable container is vital with today's freezer often having a fan in them. Hooray to not having to defrost the freezer but it can dry out food more if not carefully packaged. Sent from a cold but beautifully sunny Wellington day!
    Michelle in Wgtn, NZ

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  8. My mother was diabetic, so growing up those refrigerator cukes didn't have any sugar in them. I still make them that way, and swig the liquid in the bottom of the bowl, like a shot!

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  9. Hi Rhonda. I haven't done any flavoured vinegar as yet. After reading your article, I am feeling inspired to make my own. Thank you

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  10. I have lots of lemon juice in my freezer, Rhonda, as a lovely friend gave me a big bag of citrus from her trees. I think I will make some cordial...we don't normally have cordial here but I think it will be lovely. Thanks for recipe link. Meg:)

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  11. I shall try your flavoured vinegar on our cucumber crop. This is the first year we have grown them, not sure why that is as we grow tomatoes and peppers. I remember my mother just slicing cucumbers and covering with vinegar and sugar for a salad when we were children but it is not something I have ever done. I make my own preserves, jams and chutneys but have never bottled fruit or vegetables. There seems to be a craze in the UK at the moment for fermented vegetables like sauerkraut which are apparently very good for gut health. I might look for some recipes to try. I always love your posts. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Catherine. I make sauerkraut and kimchi occasionally. Here is my post on sauerkraut. http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com.au/2007/08/making-sauerkraut-from-scratch.html

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  12. Hi Rhonda
    I make elderflower cordial and elderberry cordial some summers and also chilli sherry - just split a red chilli in half and put in a small bottle of sherry - leave for a month or so then strain. A splash of this in soup gives a nice kick and it's an easy homemade gift. We also can make sloe gin in England - don't know if you have sloes in Australia?
    Thanks for the recipes.
    Penny

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  13. Hi, I've never heard of a vinegar based dressing before, can't wait to try it!!!! Do you think crushed garlic would work in it????

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    1. Yes Karen, I think garlic would work. Do a trial run and see how it works.

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  14. Hi Rhonda, Does the pickled cucumber last for a long while when pickled this Way. I've just bought some organic Apple Cider Vinegar so I'm ready to experiment with different methods even though I make lots of chutneys and other pickles.Thanks for a great post. Pauline.





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    1. It's not a keeping pickle, Pauline. That's why you develop the flavours in the vinegar - so you can make up a quick, fresh pickle. The longer you keep it, the softer the cucumbers become. About a week would be the longest I'd keep it.

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  15. Hello, Rhonda! Such a warm feeling to see you again. Suzan from Colorado

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  16. I make a refrigerator pickle using sliced radish. My usual brine is apple cider vinegar, water, sugar and a few tablespoons of pickling spice. It's the easiest way I've found to keep my excess radish. I use them mostly as a topper for tacos or sandwiches. Cheers. SJ in Vancouver BC

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    1. That sounds very tasty, SJ. I'll try it when I have some radishes. Thank you. xx

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  17. I'm using my garlic scapes in vinegar this year and it is yummy, I think I would keep it just for the aroma!

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  18. Hello Rhonda. I had been procrastinating about making lemon lime cordial and my fruit was getting less fresh by the day. I've now made some using your method of just fruit juice, sugar and water (I didn't even use zest) and the kids have said they like it better than the more complicated one I've made before with citric acid and tartaric acid, so thanks very much for the recipe!

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  19. HI Rhonda, this is Linda in Texas.
    I love your blog. I started this ginger drink today. Looking forward to watching it 'grow'.
    I make Kombucha Tea, which seems similar. You do need a "starter" or "mother" to make it. It is fermented for about a week, and is delicious chilled.
    It's nice to read 'like minded' recipes and life styles on here, even though we are many miles apart.

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  20. Hi Rhonda. Im just wondering if you are happy with your juicer. Im thinking about buying one but the reviews are not very good. A lot of ppl complain about the motor overheating and the machine stops after juicing 10 lemons. We have a few citrus trees and would love to speed up the juicing process by using this machine. Your review would be much appreciated. Keep up your blog Ive been reading it for years, :)

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    1. We've used this juicer for a couple of years, we juice 70-80 lemons or oranges at a time and it's never given us any problems.

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  21. Oh that is great to know, thank you Rhonda.

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