At the end of the summer, I start preserving herbs in quantity. A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of blog posts about ways to preserve herbs: in salt, in vinegar, in jelly, in sugar, in syrup, and also by freezing, by drying, and so on. I’ve started to develop a nice repertoire of herb salts and need to restock my pantry. Not to mention stockpiling for winter herb tea. I do make herb oils but not to preserve; they’re too fragile and likely to spoil. But not so with vinegar.
Our CSA grew a great long row of tarragon this summer so I have a nearly endless supply to supplement the perennial plant in my pot garden. I love my tarragon; it over-winters well and is among the first herbs to emerge in the spring. We sprinkle its tender leaves on all kinds of food. But now, toward the end of the season, the base plants are getting woody, although the new growth is still pretty tender. Since I’m not fond of dried tarragon, I came up with a better alternative: preserve it in vinegar. This not only makes a superbly tasting vinegar, but it also produces useful tarragon leaves that can be stuffed inside a roasting chicken, laid across a fish fillet, chopped and added to a cucumber and/or potato salad, and so on.
For other herb vinegars, like the combination of basil and dill, I tend to remove the herbs after a few weeks or a month since they’re not so great on their own (dill has a chance but basil is too tender). Sturdy tarragon preserved in vinegar lasts a year.
To make herb vinegar, rinse and thoroughly dry branches of herbs and place them in a sterilized jar. To sterilize, pour boiling water into a clean canning-type jar, let it sit for a few minutes until cool enough to pour the water out, and let it air-dry, taking care not to put your fingers into the jar after that point. Pour in vinegar (I use white wine vinegar for tarragon but other types, like white or cider, would probably work too), seal and set aside in a dark cupboard for a few weeks before using.