cider vinegar

A bottle of leftover apple cider travelled with us from a flat in London we’d stayed in at the end of summer, to our cottage in the countryside. I brought it home to subject it to a science experiment. After several unsuccessful experiments using leftover wine and even the elderberry seeds left from summer’s cordial-making, I’m ever so pleased to have pulled off my own homemade vinegar.

apple cider vinegar © elisa rathje 2012

Apple cider fermenting on the mother from an older bottle of unpasteurised vinegar, exposed to wild yeasts in the air, protected by a cheesecloth.

apple cider vinegar © elisa rathje 2012

I cleaned the jar well and poured the cider over the mother, gave it a spoonful of sugar to begin with (probably an unnecessary step) and stirred it now and then, where it rested on the kitchen counter, otherwise covered by the cheesecloth. I waited throughout autumn, a bit nervously, and tasted it in the first days of winter. Glorious – just a beautiful flavour. I’ll decant the cider vinegar into a bottle, and use it in the kitchen, I love it in salad dressings particularly. Or you know, as a hair tonic. My mistake, previously, was not to have used a wide-mouthed crock or jar, the process needs air! I’m inspired to try making red wine vinegar and fruit vinegars next, using the mother from this batch to give it a good start. Do you make vinegar?

hair tonics

The other day I read a gorgeous description of using a rosemary infusion to dye fabric. It inspired me to try a recipe in my beloved copy of Sloe Gin and Beeswax, for making a hair rinse in Mid-Winter. For my little brunette child and my little blonde child, I’ve been infusing a pair of herbal hair tonics.

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Rosemary for dark hair, picked from the garden.

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Chamomile for light. I would have preferred whole flowers, but in a few months we can harvest some. Meanwhile organic Royal Chamomile tea is just fine.

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I made an infusion of each by pouring boiling water over the herbs; I covered them and let them infuse for a few hours.

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I’ve halved the recipe: 4 or 5 stems of rosemary, a litre of spring water, 75 ml of apple cider vinegar, and 3 drops of rosemary essential oil. A cup of chamomile flowers and lemon essential oil for the light version. I put the infusion through a strainer, mixed the cider and oils well in;

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Decanted them into bottles and corked them. Rosemary is said to darken hair over time, to stimulate the scalp and roots, and condition the hair. Chamomile is said to enhance highlights in light hair, strengthen it and restore shine. Cider vinegar is known to be excellent for removing excess products, conditioning and restoring ph balance. We’ll use a generous splash of the tonics after washing our hair, no need to rinse.