On our kitchen windowsill - tarragon macerating in white wine vinegar, some rather optimistically taken soft wood cuttings and ripening tomatoes.
We are into the last couple of weeks of summer and our tiny Cyclamen hederifoliums (hederifolia?) are flowering, which I always take to indicate a change in the seasons. And the grapes surrounding the house are being picked today. They are white grapes, always picked by hand, and sent to Bordeaux to be made into Cremant, the Bordeaux version of Champagne or Prosecco. It is time to make some tarragon vinegar - my attempt to capture one of the great flavours of the summer for year round use. Tarragon vinegar could not be easier to make.
The ingredients are:
A big handful of tarragon; try to choose the young tips of your tarragon if you are growing it yourself.
A bottle of white wine vinegar - the best quality you can find.
Rinse the tarragon stems and put them into large a sterilised jar. I use a Le Parfait jar which has been sterlised in the oven for 30 minutes before use.
Heat the vinegar in a pan (this is so that there is no risk of the cold vinegar cracking your jar) and then pour it over the tarragon. Push the stems of tarragon under the vinegar if they are not fully submerged.
Put the jar of tarragon and vinegar on a windowsill and leave for about two weeks, shaking gently from time to time.
After a fortnight check the taste and if you are happy then strain the vinegar and put it into a clean, sterilised bottle which you can fasten tightly. Leave it to macerate for a little longer, adding some more tarragon if you want to, if you think the flavour is too weak.
That is it - Label and store in a cool dry place. You can add a sprig of tarragon to the vinegar for decorative purposes. I don't because I can never get it out of the bottle once it is empty.
I use the vinegar in salad vinagrettes and as part of the dressing for a heftier salad I make from lentils, walnuts and bulgar wheat. This is a complete protein so can be the basis of a vegan meal. I have also frozen small portions of it successfully.
Bulgur and Lentil Salad with Tarragon and Walnuts
With acknowledgements to Ruth Reichl who inspired this dish.
A small red onion very finely chopped
Approx 3 tablespoonfuls of white wine vinegar - see above.
One mug* of lentils
One mug of bulgar wheat
Half a mug of chopped celery
Half a mug of grated carrots
3 tablespoonfuls of olive or walnut oil
Half a mug of shelled and coarsely chopped walnuts which have been lightly toasted in the oven.
*The size of mug is up to you. All you really need to do is get the proportions right. I find that if I use a half pint mug this gives plenty for about a dozen helpings - remember you can freeze the excess.
Put the bulgar wheat in a pan with about one and a half times its volume in water and bring the pan to simmering point. The simmer, covered until the water has been absorbed and the bulgar is cooked. Drain if necessary and put in a large bowl. Leave it until it is cool, breaking it up with a fork as it cools down.
While the bulgar is cooking simmer the lentils in some water in a separate pan until they are tender but still holding their shape.
Meanwhile, mix the finely chopped onion and the tarragon vinegar in a medium sized bowl. and put to one side.
Drain the cooked lentils and add them to the vinegar mixture while they are still warm, stirring together carefully with a metal spoon. They should absorb some of the vinegar as they cool.
Once the bulgar wheat and the lentils have both cooled down add the lentil mixture to the bulgar wheat along with the oil, carrots, celery and walnuts.
Add salt and pepper if needed.
That is it.