cinnamon ginger nutmeg star anise

Vinegar has been appreciated since ancient times. It is the fermentation of ethanol alcohol that creates vinegar and anything that contains it such as beer, cider, wine, grain alcohol, or champagne can be transformed into a vinegar.

The Babylonians fermented the fruit of the date palm tree over 7,000 years ago to create both wine and vinegar and the first written mention of vinegar was discovered in Chinese texts dating back nearly 3,500 years.

Ancient Romans created infused fruit vinegars for dipping bread and long before it became a health food darling in modern times. Hippocrates prescribed apple cider vinegar for all manner of health ailments. Vinegar was even mentioned in both the Old and New testaments of the Bible as well as in the Quran.

Fall is the perfect time to make infused vinegars from scratch because autumn flavors like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and star anise pair so well with the brightness of vinegar. They are easy to make and are the perfect hostess gift. Infused vinegars are ideal as a finishing for rich braising sauces, chutneys, jams, marinades, creamy white sauces, warm salad vinaigrettes, pickling agents, bread dipping, and even mayonnaise.

  1. Select jars or bottles to infuse your vinegars in. Decorative bottles or clear Mason jars are perfect for not only getting the job done but also as a means to display your infused vinegars in an enticing way.
  2. Be sure to wash your bottles or jars and their lids thoroughly in soapy water and then rinse them well before using them.
  3. Select the spices and vinegars you will be using for infusion. Fall spice suggestions include cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, allspice, dried orange peel, fennel, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and dried chiles. Apple cider vinegar works well with all of these flavors but red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even balsamic are also welcome dancing partners.
  4. For added flavor, toast your spices before using them by placing them in a dry, nonstick pan over low heat and toasting them until they are aromatic. Be sure to shake the pan every few seconds once the spices begin to heat up to prevent scorching.
  5. Place your toasted or untoasted spices into your jars or bottles.
  6. Place your vinegar in a saucepan and heat it over medium heat until warmed through but not boiling.
  7. Place a funnel over the lip of your bottle or jar and carefully pour the vinegar into it until it is a half inch from the top.
  8. Let your vinegar cool to room temperature before sealing it. Infuse for at least a week in a dark place at room temperature. The longer the infusion, the more flavor the spices will impart. Give your bottles or jars a vigorous shake every few days to encourage the infusion.
  9. Once your infused vinegar is ready, pour it through a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter to separate the vinegar from the infusion ingredients. Return the vinegar to its jar or bottle and discard the spices. You can also return a few of the spices to the container for decorative purposes.
  10. Store the vinegar at room temperature for between four to six months.

Autumn Apple Salad with Cinnamon Honey Dijon Dressing

autumn apple salad with cinnamon honey dijon dressing

I Can Cook That

Autumn is celebrated in every single bite of this flavorful salad brightened up by a vinaigrette laced with cinnamon and flash of heat from the Dijon mustard. Instead of incorporating the cinnamon into the vinaigrette itself, plan ahead by infusing apple cider and red wine vinegar with cinnamon sticks for a flavorful vinegar that can be incorporated time and time again into vinaigrettes and marinades. Get the recipe.

South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce

carolina barbecue mustard bbq sauce

Self Proclaimed Foodie 

Carolina barbecue sauce is heavy on the vinegar and consequently, singing with zesty flavor perfect for lacing barbecued meat cooked low and slow on a lazy fall day. Swap out the standard apple cider vinegar called for in this recipe with your own vinegar infused with autumn spices like star anise, nutmeg, cloves, or all three. Get the recipe.

Balsamic Beef (or Chicken) Kebabs

balsamic beef kebabs

Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

This crowd-pleasing recipe is as fun to eat as it is tasty. Balsamic vinegar does double duty as both a coloring and flavor enhancer. Instead of using plain old balsamic, infuse it beforehand with fall spices such as ginger, fennel, or dried orange peel for even more flavor. Guests will gather quickly around your autumn party table when these kebabs take center stage. Get the recipe.

Garlic Mayonnaise

homemade garlic mayonnaise (aioli)

Tyrant Farms

This beautiful recipe invites southern France into your fall kitchen with a garlic mayonnaise reminiscent of the aioli this region of the world is famous for. Use it as a vegetable dip, slathered on sandwich buns, or as an accompaniment to roasted chicken. Instead of incorporating apple cider vinegar into it, infuse your vinegar with an autumn spice such as ginger or fennel for even more Provençal flavor. Get the recipe.

Sweet and Spicy Asian Style Pickled Carrots

sweet and spicy Asian pickled carrots

Foodie With Family

These carrot pickles are as vibrantly beautiful as they are addicting and satisfying as a crunchy garnish on virtually anything. They’re especially good on sandwiches or atop a stir fry for just the right amount of tangy zip. Infuse your vinegar with the star anise and ginger before adding it to the pickles for even more welcome flavor. Get the recipe.

Homemade Apple Shrub

homemade apple shrub drinking vinegar

Nutmeg Nanny

Shrubs, or drinking vinegars, are as popular for their intense flavor as they are for their health benefits. They are consumed unadulterated, stirred into cocktails or combined with soda water for an afternoon pick-me-up. This shrub recipe celebrates the autumn apple and would be even more delicious if the apple cider vinegar was infused with fall spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and star anise before using. It’s the perfect addition to a bourbon cocktail on a chilly autumn day. Get the recipe.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Jody Eddy is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. She has cooked at Jean Georges, The Fat Duck, and Tabla and is the former editor of Art Culinaire Magazine. Her most recent cookbook was "Cuba! Recipes and Stories From a Cuban Kitchen", published by Ten Speed Press. Her cookbook "North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland" was published by Ten Speed Press in 2014 and won the 2015 IACP Judge's Choice Award. She is the author of the James Beard nominated cookbook "Come In, We're Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants" and her upcoming book for Ten Speed, "The Hygge Life", will be published in November, 2017. She is writing a cookbook for W.W. Norton profiling the cuisine and food traditions of monasteries, temples, mosques and synagogues around the world which will be published in 2019 and a cookbook with the Food Network chef Maneet Chauhan profiling the cuisine of India via an epic train journey throughout the country. She writes for Travel+Leisure, Saveur, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, Plate, and VICE, among others. She is the author of JodyEddy.com, leads culinary trend tours for food and beverage corporations in Iceland, Peru, Mexico, Ireland and Cuba and is the Vice President of Marketing, Partnerships and Events at Hop Springs, an 85 acre agritourism destination opening in Nashville in May, 2018.
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