Chaparral Gardens Artisan Vinegars
“There’s the Mother,” says Cari Clark as she gently plucks a strand of diaphanous material that clings to the raised lid of the tank I’m peering inside. Cari and her husband Craig own and operate Chaparral Gardens Artisan Vinegars and produce hand-crafted, flavorful vinegars that have won them enthusiastic foodie friends throughout the Central Coast and beyond.
The Mother of Vinegar that develops in every batch of Chaparral Gardens vinegars “has a lot of health benefits,” explains Craig. “It is an antibacterial and anti-fungal. It will fight common germs, help a body to control and lose weight, and improve digestion. Some use it on dry skin and to soothe a sore throat, or even to relieve a sunburn.” This cellulosic acetobacter material, a healthy by-product of small-batch vinegar production, generally doesn’t survive the industrial vinegar production process and pasteurization.
This particular 250-gallon tank contains the ingredients for what will become their popular Pacific Spice vinegar made with chilis, kiwis, citrus, ginger, and spices. They also give me a quick glimpse and nose of another favorite brew, Winter Ambrosia vinegar, where apples and pears steep with cardamom, clove, and cinnamon. One of nine vinegar options, Winter Ambrosia remains a favorite for the holidays both for incorporating into dishes on the feast table and serving as an ideal gift for foodies. From start to finish, it takes a minimum of three months to develop one of their artisan vinegars. Winter Ambrosia will be available for sale from November 1 to February 1. Get a bottle while they’re available.
Super Local and Organic
Craig and Cari live, farm, and produce their artisan vinegars at their quiet property off the busy Highway 41 between Morro Bay and Atascadero. Inhabiting one of the many unique microclimates in the Central Coast, they source the peppers, fruits, and other produce they use to create their specialty vinegars from their own property or from nearby neighbors. “From the garden to the tank in five minutes,” declares Craig, who prides himself on the bounty from their organic garden supplying most of the ingredient requirements for their vinegar line. A visit to the Chaparral Gardens website discovers a beautiful image of fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, and spices surrounding their logo. Rolling over the image reveals how these ingredients are used in the vinegars. “Almost everything in that picture came from our garden,” smiles Cari. Brewing vinegar is a lively, colorful process where spices, vegetables, and fruits steep for weeks and infuse their fermenting liquid with flavor and aroma while retaining much of their harvested color. The organic development of the Mother of Vinegar in the artisan vinegars produced by this interesting pair lends a vital quality to these products that carries over when you cook. Professional and home chefs have come to appreciate the complex flavors brewed into these hand-crafted vinegars that provide a unique culinary tool in the kitchen. Visit Chaparral Gardens Artisan Vinegars for a range of recipes featuring vinegar including a vinegar-wine sauce for ice cream, roasted squash marinated in vinegar, pan seared scallops with peach vinegar reduction, and an easy ceviche preparation.
- Blackberry Balsamic 2011 SOFI Gold for best salad dressing
- Pacific Spice 2011 SOFI Silver for best flavor enhancer
- Champagne Mimosa 2012 SOFI Silver finalist for best shelf stable foodservice product
You can purchase Chaparral Gardens Artisan Vinegars online at ChaparralGardens.com, at more than a dozen local wine tasting rooms, and at a number of specialty food outlets including Nature’s Touch Harvest and Nursery and J & R Meats in Templeton, Lazy Acres Market in Santa Barbara, A Matter of Taste in Cambria, and all three Central Coast We Olive stores. View a list of outlets offering these wonderful products If you would like to have a private tasting in their Highway 41 tasting room, contact Craig to set up a time: 805/703-0829