I have written about this before what a bore she is repeating herself but I cannot really emphasise how important it is to prepare your vinegars for your pickles well in advance around about now actually.
Why you say so that you get a lovely spicy base vinegar for your pickled onions, pickled shallots, chutney. Raspberry vinegar for other special preserves Mint vinegar for home made mint sauce. Tarragon vinegar for use in sauces.
This is the link to the previous posts that I prepared covering this with links to recipes.
And still I haven't managed to make my own vinegar but it is very much on the list of to dos.
I buy my vinegar in canisters from the cash and carry. It is plain and unspiced though often just referred to as malt vinegar (brown) or white malt (or spirit vinegar for the clear). I also tend to buy white wine vinegar from M & S or Waitrose as I use a lot of that too and Cider vinegar. You can spice any of these vinegars.
Sarsons pickling vinegar in the jars is usually spiced. In the bottles it is plain.
If there is any vinegar left out of the pickled onion/shallots I decant it into a fresh bottle and use it on home made chips or in a sweet and sour. There is no point in wasting it. You have paid out good money for it so its best to use it. I do the same with any flavoured vinegars which are left over from making spiced oranges and use it as a salad dressing.
Many Asian shops sell a pickling mix and this is what I use as a base although I add in mace, home dried bay leaves. cloves and dried root ginger and home dried chillies and tie into a muslin bag. However you can use a clean cotton dish cloth if you have no muslin. I tend to keep muslin in as I use it a lot for straining things both on the jelly front and on the home made cheese front and wine making. You do not need much or you can start from scratch and make your own base up. Lets just say it lasts a few years and is quite pokey. But then again I quite like spicy shallots and pickled onions. I have already put in my order for both shallots and picklers at the shop. its best to be prepared.
Catch you soon.