I like to make berry infused vinegars that I use as parts of marinades, sauces, and or salad dressings. When using them in a dressing, I tend to either use them to contrast with sharper, bitter leaves such as escarole, dandelion, rocket, and the like, or I pair them with more delicate lettuces and then add some fruit and or nuts to the mix.
I could see a salad of butterleaf lettuces with strawberries, slivered roasted almonds, and maybe a little bit of crumbled blue cheese with a strawberry vinaigrette made with the vinegar, a little agave syrup, some shallot, a little ginger juice, black pepper, and a light oil such as grapeseed with a touch of almond oil. Garnish the salad with candied ginger bits and a little black pepper that has been dry roasted in a pan-this neutralizes much of the heat and leaves the pepper fruity-and freshly cracked.
INGREDIENTS:1 pint basketful of ripe (very ripe is ideal) strawberries, hulled and washed
1 quart white wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns, dry toasted until aromatic
3 sprigs of thyme, rinsed well
Slice strawberries 1/4 inch thick and immerse in the vinegar. Use a jar you can tightly seal.
Keep in the refrigerator a cool dark place. Gently agitate the jar twice a day-morning and evening. Don’t shake too vigorously as you want to avoid having particulate matter from the berries in the vinegar.
Do this for seven days, or less if the berries turn white and seem to have given everything to the vinegar.
Carefully pour off the vinegar into a small sauce pan through a piece of clean cheesecloth or fine towel. Bring the vinegar just to a boil and remove from the heat. (This kills any live yeast so the vinegar will not ferment further.)
Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator or a cool dark pantry.
If you wish to use the options, add them to the vinegar when you add the berries and carry on.
YIELD: 1 quart