Spices are added to vinegar to give it a good flavour and they also help as a preservative. The vinegar can be used at once but if you keep it for several months the flavours will mature.
Preparing your own vinegar means you can add a wider variety of flavours. Whole spices are best for spicing vinegar as ground ones will make the vinegar cloudy. The spices can be varied according to choice but the following is a typical combination for 1.2litres (2pints) vinegar: 3 × 5cm (2in) cinnamon sticks, 2 rounded teaspoonswhole cloves, 10 blades mace, 2 heaped teaspoonswhole allspice and 2 heaped teaspoonsblack peppercorns.
Place the whole spices in a saucepan and add 1.2litres (2pints) white distilled or white wine vinegar. Bring just to the boil (do not allow to bubble), then pour into a heatproof bowl and leave to cool and infuse for 2 hours. Store the vinegar with the spices in it in clean, dry bottles and seal well. Strain before use. If you keep it for 2—3 months before use the flavours will intensify and improve.