V As In Vinegar -- and Variety
In almost every cuisine, vinegar is used to flavor, marinate, disinfect, or pickle food. The root of the word is from French for “sour wine,” and vinegar’s sharp acidity proves this connection. Vinegar can be made from any number of fermented fruits and grains, creating a huge variety of different flavors. Among the most popular in the United States are cider, red and white wine, balsamic, and rice vinegars.
Cider vinegar is made from fermented apples. Natural medicine has long advocated cider vinegar as a disinfectant and tonic. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends using cider vinegar too, as it may help lower blood sugar, is low in sodium, and contains 2% of the daily-recommended value of manganese.
Wine vinegars, although generally less acidic than cider vinegar, can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Balsamic vinegar’s name comes from the Latin word “balsamum,” meaning “curative.” It is different from other vinegars, being a reduction of cooked wine rather than fermented, and brings a natural sweetness and smoothness to dressings and salads.
Vinegar keeps indefinitely. When it is old, a cloudy- looking mass often forms at the bottom of the bottle. This is completely natural, and is called the ‘mother’. Add it to table wine, wait a few weeks, et voilà, you will have made your own delicious vinegar.
Wine vinegars: Whether you’re buying red, white or sherry, try to get the best quality you can afford. As with table wine, you tend to get what you pay for.
Cider vinegar: You will find this in the organic section of most supermarkets. Some cider vinegars are clear, others naturally cloudy. Try both to see which you prefer.
Balsamic vinegar: As with wine vinegar, it’s often worth paying a little more to get the best. Not all the vinegars labeled ‘balsamic’ are the real thing. Traditional balsamic vinegar is aged in wood for at least 12 years, while those that are younger products are often flavored and thickened to simulate the taste and consistency that comes from this aging process. It is worth mentioning “mosto cotto” here, the cooked wine reduction that balsamic vinegar comes from. It is an amazing condiment to cook with if you can find it.
Rice vinegar: Japanese brown rice vinegar is the lightest and healthiest of this variety. Beware of “sushi vinegar,” which is rice vinegar sweetened with sugar. Unless you‘re making sushi, you shouldn’t bother with it.
All vinegars can be whisked together with oil to make simple salad dressings. Wine vinegar and olive oil, whisked with a few toasted almonds, makes our classic Almond Vinaigrette Dressing. Wine vinegar can also be used to lift the taste of a dish, as in the easy fish recipe James’s Quick Fish Dish. Use balsamic for Cook for Your Life’s delicious Lemon Soy marinade, or as a dressing for our Baked Beet Salad with Sunflower Seeds and Arugula. To experiment with ‘mosto cotto,’ try our fantastic Balsamic Sautéed Mushrooms.