If you ever get a chance to try dragon’s beard, do it.
It’s unique and truly, delicious. I experimented with different flavors and liked them all. That said, honey pecan and sumac were my favorite. I use sumac for sweet and sour juxtaposition (an oversimplification of this incredible ingredient).
Here is a video recipe card and me making a mess, enjoy.
There seems to be an entire religion based on the selection of appropriate woods and charring levels to make the perfect barrel. Good barrels are critical for the vintner. And, Master Distillers are keen to use barrels for their bourbon. The Scottish Distiller (ie. Laphroig) will go one step further and use spent bourbon barrels (i.e. Jim Beam) to age their Scotch whiskey.
Barrel use isn’t exclusive to alcohol
I have friends that keep their vanilla tinctures in very small oak barrels, others age soy sauce this way and of course there is Tabasco and vinegar. Of all the methods employing wood barrels, you will learn that traditional balsamic vinegar is the most complex.
Barrels aren’t cheap
A good barrel will run a few hundred dollars, or more. This is way “out of bounds” for most kitchens. For those wanting a very affordable / modern approach, I have a solution. In the video, I explain a simple method that will unlock the door.
When vinegar asks how to join the “hyper-local movement”, this is what you say: culture mother from wild bacteria floating in your local atmosphere and use that to make vinegar…and, you’re in.
Vinegar you buy at the store is made through a brute processing method using inferior ingredients. I’ve tasted and measured brix, ph, tds of several leading brands and my general opinion is this stuff doesn’t taste great and isn’t drinkable. But, should it be? The answer is simple. Yes, anything that is worth putting in your mouth should have redeeming taste qualities. The stuff you buy at the store does not have redeeming taste and is certainly, unsuitable for making artisan Shrub. In fact, it’s best used where flavor isn’t critical like to clean silverware or as a ph modulator. There is a huge difference in taste between vinegar made with traditional methods (love) and the crap you buy en masse from the store that comes in plastic bottles.
Enter, Balsamic Vinegar.
The traditional “Orleans Method” is an old process that dates back to the very beginning of great vinegar. Aside from the barreling process, the converting of alcohol to vinegar uses the same method that my grandparents used on the island of, Guam (to convert coconut wine into coconut vinegar). The process is what fellow Florida forager, Green Dean would call: all natural.
Get your very own hyper-local vinegar starter by following this simple tutorial. At the jump, I’ll explain how to make a simple trap. Every culture will be different (i.e., flavor, activity level) based on location.