Making your own pickling vinegar for pickles and chutneys is really easy and far tastier than buying ready made. Make a batch in advance of the abundant summer harvest
I am a huge fan of homemade jams, jellies and chutneys, and I love my weekend afternoons pottering in my kitchen stirring a huge vat of preserve, warming jars, bottling, sealing and making pretty labels. I find the rituals of preserving calming and satisfying, therapeutic and meditative. After a tough week at work I decide to “preserve” and look forward to my trip to the market to see what is on offer, in season and looks the perfect fruit of vegetable to jam, jelly or chutnify. Sometimes things do not go entirely to plan – the kiwi fruit chutney that seemed such a good idea at the time was an experiment never to be repeated.
Such was the addiction that my production far outpaced the rate of consumption and gifting and a shelf in my cavernous hall cupboard was full of preserves, and I’ve not made any for well over 5 years. But supplies have now dwindled and I’m looking forward to getting back into the preserving groove.
For the perfect chutney you need good vinegar. There are special pickling vinegars in the supermarket, but they are twice the price of normal malt vinegars and I prefer to make my own with spices that I like (or have been in the cupboard for sometime and need using up). I’ve been making my own for some time now, and am always delighted with the results.
By making in advance and leaving to infuse you will have a lovely rounded, balanced, flavoured vinegar with no harsh or over extracted notes.
Homemade Pickling Vinegar – Hints and Tips
- Use your favourite warming spices including
- Cinnamon sticks
- Mustard Seeds
- Coriander Seeds
- Dried Chilli
- Onion / Nigella Seeds
- Turmeric Root
- Dried Ginger
- Lightly crush larger seeds like cardamom before adding to the vinegar, whole spices are best, especially for pickles rather than chutney – if you use ground use a coffee filter to filter the pickling vinegar before use, but remember the vinegar will go cloudy
- For a Christmas / Holiday chutney add more cinnamon, nutmeg and some allspice berries
- Ideally you need to make your pickling vinegar a month before use – to speed up the infusion process stand the filled and sealed vinegar bottles over night in the slow cooker, or stand on the top rack of the dishwasher for one cycle
- If you are short on cupboard space half fill an empty vinegar bottle with spices and then top up with vinegar. Dilute it at least 3:1 when you come to use it
- I find the supermarket own label malt vinegar works well for most chutneys, the economy ones are very harsh and if you are flavouring them there is no need to buy the expensive branded products.
- 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1 tsp Peppercorns
- 3 Dried red chillies (or more or less to taste)
- 4 Cloves
- 1 pint Malt vinegar
Place spices into a pint bottle of malt vinegar*. This quantity should fit into a full bottle without having to pour any of the vinegar away. Seal, give a good shake and leave to infuse for a month or more then use in chutney
I use Supermarket own brand malt vinegar – Once the spices have been added I can tell no difference from a branded label. The economy / basics ranges are by and large a false economy as they are very very harsh.
Post originally published September 2007, updated June 2017.