1. Gather herbs in the morning, after the dew has dried. Wash, remove excess moisture in a salad spinner, and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Bruise or crumple herbs to release maximum flavor.
2. Fill dry, sterilized jars with desired herbs and seasonings. (A quick run through the dishwasher sterilizes jars—just be sure to dry with the heat cycle on. Plastic lids are top-rack safe.)
3. Heat vinegar in a nonaluminum saucepan over medium heat 10 minutes or just until bubbles appear (do not boil); remove from heat, and pour into prepared jars, making sure herbs are totally submerged. Cool completely (about two hours). Cover and chill one week. (The longer the herbs and vinegar stand, the more intense the flavor.)
4. Line a fine wire-mesh strainer with a paper coffee filter. Pour vinegar mixture through strainer into a large measuring cup, discarding herbs and seasonings.
5. Fill dry, sterilized glass bottles with fresh herb sprigs, if desired, and add strained vinegar. Tightly seal the bottles with nonmetallic lids or corks; store in the refrigerator up to one month.
Helpful Hints: To make your own herb vinegars, you'll need about 1 cup of fresh herbs for every 2 cups of vinegar. White wine vinegar pairs well with almost any herb; red wine vinegar is best with stronger herbs such as rosemary and oregano. Rice wine vinegar is a great match for delicately flavored herbs and flowers such as chive blossoms. Don't use distilled vinegar—it's a natural for household cleaning, but the harsh acidity overpowers the flavor of herbs. Quart-size canning jars with plastic storage caps make the best containers for steeping flavored vinegars. If you use metal lids, place plastic wrap over the top of the jar before adding the lid to prevent the vinegar from turning dark.
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