The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

raspberry vinegar

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Two developments which arguably marked the start of modern human civilisation were food cultivation and food storage. It was at this stage that humankind progressed from a hunter-gatherer way of life to one which featured a less nomadic, more ordered regime of planting and growing, and of storing excess food in times of plenty.

Countries around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East began using the sun and the wind to dry food at least 14,000 years ago. Later, other food preservation methods were discovered and utilised by our ancestors, including fermenting, pickling and smoking. The invention of canning in the 18th century and refrigeration in the 20th meant food preservation took further huge steps forward.

All of these methods of preservation provided a means to prolong the life of food that we wished to store for use in leaner times, when the growing season was over.

More recently, however, the processed food industry has come to rely upon a range of preservatives in the form of chemical additives. In many cases, these chemicals are not so much used to keep food edible as to maintain its cosmetic appearance.

Here in the UK there are currently 55 chemical preservatives approved for use by food manufacturers. These are identifiable on food labelling by their individual “E” numbers. Whilst some of these approved preservatives are naturally derived, such as ascorbic acid (E300) a form of vitamin C, others have had a more artificial genesis.

Take hexamethylene tetramine, for example, which is used to preserve some foods against fungi. It is made, rather unappetisingly, by reacting ammonia with formaldehyde. It is also, incidentally banned from food use in a number of other countries, including the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Indonesia. E239 is the number to look out for if you would prefer to avoid this particular preservative.

Potassium Nitrite (E249) and Sodium Nitrite (E250) are also approved as preservatives for food use, mainly for meat products. However, they are primarily used to enhance the cosmetic appearance of those products, for example to give the meat in pork pies and sausages a pink colour. Potassium Nitrite is potentially carcinogenic, and for that reason it is banned from use in baby food, whereas Sodium Nitrite has been linked to headaches, dizziness, and in extreme cases vomiting and diaorrhea.

The UK food industry is also permitted to use eight different sulphites (E221 to E228 inclusive). These are often used to preserve colour in soft drinks, wine, beer, frozen seafood, fruit yoghurts, and dried fruits. Some of these sulphites have been shown to destroy vitamin B1 and vitamin E in the body, whilst several have been linked to asthma-related allergies.

Another preservative that should give cause for concern is borax (E285), used to increase the elasticity and crispness of foods and found in processed cereals, nuts and fruit. Linked to liver cancer, borax is another preservative allowed in the UK but banned in the USA.

Aspartame (E951), which has become widespread in processed food in a very short space of time, is an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar. Ironically, it is predominantly used in a variety of “sugar-free” and “low calorie” foods, including “diet” fizzy drinks, cereals, crisps, yoghurts, salad dressings, chewing gum and cooking sauces. Aspartame has been linked to headaches, migraines, dizziness as well as more serious disorders.

I won’t go on (although believe me, this is just a small sample of what I could have written about these E additives). The point I am making is how prevalent these chemicals have become in the food we eat, and how potentially damaging to our health some of them are.

Food preservation was once, and in many instances still is, a natural and sensible process for making best use of surpluses in times of abundance. But increasingly, artificial preservatives are being used not for the benefit of us consumers but for the benefit of the manufacturer and the supermarket, in effect fooling us into believing the food we buy is fresher and more wholesome than it really is.

Fundamentally, this overdependence on obscure, artificial and sometimes dangerous preservatives is also a symptoms of our dislocation from the fresh, locally produced, natural foods our forebears ate and which should always be our first choice in maintaining a healthy diet.

raspberries growingharvested raspberriescrushed raspberriesstraining raspberry vinegar

On the subject of surpluses, this time of year my allotment plot, the Circus Garden, produces raspberries faster than we can eat them. Although they freeze well, this simple recipe is another way of naturally preserving their fruity goodness. The resulting vinegar makes for a delicious addition to salad dressings.

Of the hundred or so recipes I have published on this blog, this one has the dual distinction of both being the easiest to make and taking the longest to prepare.

raspberry vinegar

  • Servings: approx 350 ml
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200 g fresh raspberries
300 ml organic cider vinegar


1. Wash the raspberries and place in a non metallic bowl. Break them down by lightly mashing with a wooden spoon. Pour over the cider vinegar. Stir, then cover the bowl with clingfilm and set to one side. Leave the mixture to infuse for several days (I left mine for a week to intensify the flavour), uncovering to stir the mixture once a day and then covering again.

2. Strain the vinegar through a muslin cloth set over a fine sieve. Pour the strained liquid into one or more sterilised glass containers and seal. The vinegar will keep for up to a year if stored out of direct sunlight.

Categories: gluten free, raw, vegan

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28 replies

  1. I work in a home brew shop and amongst other things we sell about twenty different grains and flours for making bread. The other day a lady came in and started to look through the bread mixes. But she had a book with a list of all the additives in it listed by number. She was a bit apprehensive when she pulled it out. But she was thrilled when I said how great it was to see people using such a resource. The best thing about home brewing of beer is that we promote the absence of artificial additives.

  2. I have just been picking raspberries as it happens ~ I will be adding your recipe to my ‘Raspberries’ list πŸ™‚

  3. The sweet version of this (boil the rasp vinegar infusion with sugar then bottle) was a topping for ice cream in my Yorkshire childhood… Makes a summery long drink too with soda…

  4. I’ll definitely be making this when my raspberries arrive in the garden next NZ spring, thanks it looks amazing.

  5. Bravo. No one can anticipate the affect that the long term ingestion of chemicals can have on the human physiology. Read labels, or better still avoid processed food altogether. Love the sound of your raspberry vinegar, a wonderful way to preserve the flavour of summer

  6. Super post – so good to see someone else flying the flag for DIY preserving (it is so easy after all!) – and beautiful images to go with it πŸ™‚

  7. Beautiful, airy image of this vinegar made me a little bit sad, as my raspberries are already eaten (and cooked into jam)… I just hope I’ll remember this recipe for the next season… πŸ˜‰

  8. I knew someone who always insisted that anything with E numbers in it was completely safe “because they’d all been tested and approved”… but then she did work for Nestle. Your raspberry vinegar sounds very good – definitely worth finding the time to make. I love the idea of being able to add some summer raspberry flavour to winter salads.

  9. It is frightening to discover some of the things that are allowed in food. Raspberry vinegar sounds delicious.

  10. I am going to make this no later than to-day while I still have raspberries in the garden. It reminds me of a gift of raspberry vinegar I was given years ago – it was so good I asked the woman if she would tell me how she made it. She insisted it was too good a recipe to share. Really! I suspect this is pretty much her recipe, so I am glad to have it at last.

    • In deciding the respective quantities of the two ingredients it’s simply a matter of how intense you want the raspberry flavour. These proportions work well for me, and I hope they work for you too!


  11. Really interesting post, thanks. I’ve always been dubious about some of the preservatives used in our food, now even more so! I’ve been meaning to make raspberry vinegar for years, I might finally get around to it this year. My autumn fruiting variety has just started to fruit.

  12. I was having a chat with a friend about the delights of raspberry vinegar last week and now I have a recipe! Serendipity!

  13. Lovely flavoured vinegar. I usually make mine with white balsamic, but must try a good cider vinegar. I’ve had oodles of raspberries so far with the autumn crop yet to come.

  14. Wonderful recipe! We’ll definitely be trying this. A welcome break from all the pickled beetroot we’re currently doing.

  15. This looks really good, my question is what types of recipes can I use this in?

    • Hi Andrea, and thank you for your kind comments. This vinegar would be great used in a salad dressing (for example instead of passion fruit vinegar in my recipe for cucumber, shallot and strawberry salad), and can be added to egg whites when making meringue to provide stability (see the recipe for hazelnut meringue gateau).


  16. Thank you so much for response. I will definitely try this recipe out!

  17. I started making this and then forgot about it! How long can you leave the raspberries in the vinegar for…?

    • The longer you steep the raspberries in the vinegar the fruitier the resulting vinegar will be. I don’t know how long you’ve left them and I have never tried leaving them beyond a week, but I am sure it would still be fine with longer than that. I would suggest straining it off and cautiously seeing how it tastes!



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