A few weeks ago, I had my first sip of gooseberry vinegar. Honeyed and ambrosial, its sweet-sharp, muscat fragrance captivated me and I found myself wanting to go back for more. I never thought I’d end up drinking vinegar, but this was so luscious and delicious that I could genuinely imagine using it as a cordial, topped up with some ice-cold water, as the shop assistant suggested. The blackcurrant variety, naturally I had to sample this too, was possibly even more delicious, capturing that chocolatey, grassy bitterness that is a hallmark of this powerful little berry, combining it with sugar to give you a mouth-puckering, Ribena-scented taste experience that is oddly moreish.
I’ve been going to the pick-your-own farm a lot in the last few weeks, buying jewel-like berries by the crate. With a freezer already full to bursting, I decided to have a go at making some of my own gorgeous fruit vinegars to add a bit of fruity tang to summer salads, sauces, desserts and dressings.
This recipe is from Diana Henry’s wonderful book Salt Sugar Smoke, though I’ve adapted it to make three different varieties of fruit vinegars: blackcurrant, raspberry (you can make it plain or add redcurrants too, I had a glut), and gooseberry. It involves no more effort than crushing some fruit with vinegar, leaving for a few days, straining then boiling with sugar, although you do need to allow yourself about a week to let the vinegar macerate. However, there’s very little hands-on time, and the reward is immense.
Blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants produce the most incredible, vibrant juice, and there’s something immensely satisfying about crushing them and releasing all that potent liquor to mingle with the sweet tang of sugared vinegar. Show them off with pride in beautiful bottles with hand-written labels; presented this way they even, dare I say it, make fabulous Christmas presents, giving a little taste of summer’s heyday in the depths of winter.
The recipe below is for three varieties of fruit vinegar, but you can of course make several bottles of just one type of fruit, in which case just make it all in a single jar.