Go to any grocery store these days and you will find a vast selection of vinegars--red wine, white wine, rice wine, apple cider, and several kinds of pricey balsamic vinegar. In fact, some bottles of balsamic vinegar are as expensive as high-end wine.
One type of vinegar that you will never find on the shelf is pine needle vinegar. Pine needle vinegar has a strong, resinous flavor similar to balsamic vinegar, and can be used to make salad dressings, flavor soups and stews, or cooked down to make a reduction sauce for fish or chicken. It can also be taken as a medicinal tonic. Pine needles are high in vitamin C, while apple cider vinegar is a digestive aid and immune-system booster.
Enhanced vinegars are simple to make at home. For this kind, start by gathering enough fresh pine needles to loosely fill a clean glass jar or bottle. Pine needles are safe to eat, but you may find that you prefer the flavor of some more than others. Eastern white pine needles are easy to pull out and have a milder taste than some other pines. However, any type of fresh pine needles can be used.
When you return from your foraging, loosely pack the pine needles into a glass jar or bottle, and then fill to the top with pasteurized apple cider vinegar. You can begin with any kind of apple cider vinegar, though unfiltered organic vinegar will be the healthiest. Boil the vinegar and then let it cool to room temperature before pouring it over the pine needles in the jar.
It is best to use a plastic lid for vinegar products instead of a metal lid. A piece of plastic wrap and a rubber band will work fine if you don’t have a fitted plastic top. Secure the top of the jar or bottle and let the vinegar sit for 6 weeks in a dark, cool place. You may want to label the jar with the date to help you keep track.
After 6 weeks, your pine needle vinegar will have the aroma, depth and complexity of a good balsamic. It will also be infused with minerals, flavenoids, and vitamins, including vitamin C. Pine needle vinegar helps keep your immune system strong and is particularly good to have around during the winter months to help ward off colds and flu, so make sure you start a batch some time in the fall. Recycle attractive bottles and brew up pine needle vinegar as a unique Christmas gift for the foodies on your list. You will enjoy watching their skepticism transform into amazement when they sample their first taste of pine needle vinegar.