My cousin Patti’s husband, Paul Crosby is a Renaissance Man and a culinary DIYer. He makes honey straight from the hive, taught himself the art of blacksmithing, and has recently been lagering his own beer at their home in western Vermont. What I’ve learned about Paul is when he sees something in the environment around him, eventually he finds an innovative way way to bring it into the kitchen or home. His latest creation, plucked from nature, is Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar.
“Elderberries grow wild where I live,” explains Paul. “But, I'm actually growing my own berries.”
Paul says it takes up to three years to get good berries on the bush and he starts new plants by rooting each year. The deep purple or blue elderberries are high in vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and have medicinal benefits, including cold and flu prevention. Paul describes the flavor as “sweet, fruity and tangy.” He uses the berries to make syrups, jelly and also dehydrates the berries.
The inspiration for Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar began with a bumper crop of berries.
“This year's crop was large so I was thinking of how I could use the extra berries,” says Paul. “I've always had a interest in vinegars and how they were made, so I decided to try it. I searched for recipes and found a British recipe on line and tweaked it to my liking.”
According to Paul, the recipe just takes a little patience. “I take three cups of ripe berries and seep them in a gallon of white vinegar for a week,” he explains. He then strains the vinegar, adds sugar, and brings it to a boil on the stove for 20 minutes.
“I add just enough sugar to get the right combination of flavors the berries provide.”
Paul thinks Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar hits that sweet spot of a healthful and uniquely culinary ingredient.
“Why not make a vinegar that benefits the cook and get all the health benefits of the elderberries,” says Paul. “I think cooks for restaurants can experiment with this vinegar and get some awesome recipes that people will enjoy.”
I have a great time experimenting with Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar in the kitchen and use it three ways to prepare a salad of chicken and local greens and vegetables from Restoration Farm. First, I marinate the chicken breast in a combination of one part vinegar and three parts olive oil. I use additional marinade for basting. The greens are dressed in vinaigrette using Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar. Finally, I drizzle the sliced chicken breasts with an elderberry vinegar reduction. I boil about a quarter cup on the stove until it is reduced to the consistency of honey. The jammy-purple color of the reduction provides a nice contrast to the chicken and the deep colors of the radishes and heirloom cherry tomatoes.
Paul is already tackling his next home grown culinary project – a specialty Vermont Acorn Vinegar with a nutty flavor he says goes well with wild game or makes a tasty dressing combined with Vermont Maple syrup.
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