By Joan MacIssac

Making fruit vinegars at home is a time-honored and easy process. The key is to have clean sterile jars, a nonreactive saucepan and cheesecloth (or paper coffee filters). Then with your supply of local berries, stone summer fruit and optional flavorings–citrus peel, whole spices, herbs–you’re ready to stock your pantry.

The general rule of thumb is 1 pound of fruit for 1½ cups of vinegar.

4–4½ cups white wine or rice wine vinegar

3 pounds ripe summer blackberries

2–4 tablespoons sugar

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1. Start by cleaning a large glass or ceramic jar (running it through the dishwasher works well) with a tight-fitting lid. Completely dry the container with paper towels.

2. Rinse the berries and dry them completely on a towel. Crush or chop the berries and transfer them to the clean, dry glass jar. Add the vinegar and stir to combine with a clean, stainless steel spoon and cover. Place the container in a cool, dark spot and stir once a week…or so. Let the vinegar sit for 3–4 weeks.

3. To strain the vinegar line a sieve with a few layers of dampened cheesecloth set over a bowl. Empty the vinegar into the sieve, gently pressing the berries, squeezing the vinegar into the bowl. Be careful not to press the pulp into the strained vinegar.

4. Transfer the berry vinegar to a nonreactive saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of sugar (add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter vinegar). Bring to a simmer on medium-low and continue simmering for 3 minutes. Skim off any foam that settles on the surface. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

5. Funnel the vinegar into clean, dry glass jars with lids or new corks. Add a fresh dry berry to the container for garnish and store in a cool, dark spot. Over time, as sediment settles on the bottom, strain the vinegar through dampened paper coffee filters, extending the vinegar’s shelf life.