Thursday, May 26, 2011
Posted by Kate at 8:51 AM
The chive flowers have been blooming for about two weeks now. They are such cheerful adornments for the garden. Each year I take a division from the parent plant and start a new colony somewhere, even though one plant could easily go for three years between divisions. It hasn't seemed to hurt the plants any to divide them more aggressively.
This spring I finally got around to plucking some of the flower heads to make chive vinegar. I'd been meaning to do it for years, but good intentions got lost in the whirlwind of spring chores that must be done as soon as temperatures permit. Had I known how gorgeous the infused vinegar would be I might have gotten to it sooner. Look at the color!
For this infusion I used plain old distilled white vinegar, which, having no color of its own to begin with, probably helps the color given by the chive blossoms stand out so clearly. If I'd had any of our own apple cider vinegar left I probably would have used that and not gotten so brilliant a shade. I chose chive blooms that were just fully opened, still soft and with full color. After the blooms have been open for a while they sort of stiffen up and the color becomes pale, before they begin to dry and turn brown. I worked by feeling the blooms with my fingertips, checking for the right amount of give. I washed them gently and spun them in a salad spinner, then pulled all the individual flowers off the flower head. I got the same eye-stinging effect from doing this as I do when chopping onions. Chive flowers pack a wallop!
I didn't use all that many blooms to my quart of vinegar - perhaps ten or so. After just a week of steeping, the color and flavor of the vinegar is pronounced. The flavor is oniony of course, but it lacks the pungent bite of raw onion; strong but mellow flavor is what we've got. I'll strain off the spent blooms in another week or so, by which time I expect they'll have contributed all the flavor they've got to give. I'm well aware that the color may darken and dull over time. I've seen that happen with raspberry vinegar. But I imagine the color will still be pleasant. It seems to me, though I can't swear to it, that my chives sometimes bloom again later in the year. If the color of this vinegar holds up well, or even for a few months, I may take cuttings from a late season bloom to make more chive vinegar. If I can find pretty bottles at a rummage sale or yard sale, they would make nice gifts to give away for the winter holidays. Whether the color holds up prettily or not, we'll be using this quite a bit in salads.