It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Thank goodness for autumn. Besides the local apples, thick soups, and spiked hot drinks that come with the season, the best treat will be a well-earned break.
I've barely kept up with the relay race of summer produce: Just when I finally got around to using up the rhubarb, strawberries brightened, fast and furious. The jam wasn't even canned when blackberries and raspberries added to the harvest pile. And then bushels of peaches perked up, sweet and soft and too quick to ripen. It was enough to seriously drown me in daily late-night canning projects.
One night while pickling, I tossed some too-ripe fruit into white wine vinegar and -- voilà -- my life instantly eased. Every week, extra-ripe fruit now becomes bright fruity vinegar. Rhubarb, strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry vinegars glisten from the shelf. With a snipped length of ribbon and a swipe of a marker, they're instant last-minute gifts.
Fruit vinegar is definitely a cure-all of sorts for dull weeknight meals. I use it to lighten up salads, and I love a little rhubarb vinegar added to a pan sauce for roast pork. This basic fruit vinegar recipe isn't sweetened, but when it's mixed with a little simple syrup, a quick fruit shrub emerges; it's great with bubble water and a bit of booze. We've earned it.
1 part fruit (picked over, cleaned, stemmed, and chopped into 1-inch chunks, as needed)
1 part white wine vinegar
Sterilize a large glass jar and lid, then set aside.
In a pot over medium heat, combine the fruit and the vinegar. Smash and stir the mixture with a fork to help break up the fruit and distribute a little color.
Bring to a gentle boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool just a few minutes.
Pour the warm mixture into your sterilized jar and store it away on a shelf for 5 days.
Strain the vinegar from the fruit -- toss the fruit -- and pour the vinegar into a newly sterilized jar. Store on a shelf and use liberally, or gift it to friends all season.
Photos by Heidi Murphy