Vegan Grandma

Friday, December 15, 2006


I love sour tasting foods, vinegar included, but I’ve been a bit confused about the different kinds, and about what kinds of vinegar to use. I did a little research, and here are some things I found out.

Vinegar is a sour liquid produced by the fermentation of natural sugars to produce alcohol and then a secondary fermentation to produce vinegar.

Homemade vinegar usually uses a starter called "mother of vinegar."

It is believed that vinegar was discovered by chance more than 10,000 years ago, when a cast of wine turned sour and became something new and good. The word "vinegar" comes from the French "vin aigre", meaning sour wine. Since its initial discovery, vinegar has been produced from many other materials, including molasses, dates, sorghum, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey.

Around 5,000 BC, the Babylonians began flavoring vinegar with herbs and spices. Roman legionnaires used vinegar as a beverage (as do some people do today with the very expensive vinegars). Hippocrates used vinegar for medicinal purposes.

Vinegar helped Hannibal cross the Alps with his elephant-riding army. Boulders, which blocked their path, were heated and doused with vinegar causing the boulders to crack and crumble.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that any product called "vinegar" contain at least 4% acidity.

Varieties of Vinegars

There are many different kinds of vinegars, and different regional cuisines favor different varieties. The favorite of the French is red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar, which are tangy and great for vinaigrettes and marinades. Italians prefer balsamic vinegar, and the Spaniards like sherry vinegar. Asians like the mild rice vinegar. Americans favor cider vinegar, which is tangy and fruity, and British and Canadian cooks prefer malt vinegar, which has a lemony flavor.

The different types of vinegars vary in their tartness. If you change the type of vinegar in a recipe, you will change the taste of the dish. The proportions of vinegar to oil or sugar will have to be changed if you change the type of vinegar in a recipe.

Vinegars range in price from inexpensive to very expensive. Some vinegars cost over a hundred dollars. In some cases, the more expensive vinegars are no better than the cheaper ones.

Here are some of the most widely used vinegars:

Apple cider vinegar, sometimes called cider vinegar, is made from cider or from concentrated apple juice (called "must"), and is often sold unfiltered, with a brownish-yellow color. This fruity vinegar is inexpensive and very tart. Cider vinegar is the most popular vinegar used for cooking in the United States. While it's not the best choice for vinaigrettes or delicate sauces, it works well in chutneys, hearty stews, and marinades. It's also used to make pickles, though it will darken light-colored fruits and vegetables. The organic, unfiltered, and unpasteurized cider vinegars have a more interesting flavor, but there may be some sediment.
Be careful, some cider vinegars are nothing more than white vinegar with flavoring.

Balsamic vinegar is an aromatic, aged type of vinegar traditionally manufactured in Modena, Italy, from the concentrated juice, or must, of sweet white grapes (typically of the Trebbiano variety), matured by a long and slow process through natural fermentation. It is aged in a series of casks made from different types of wood without the addition of any other spices or flavorings. This popular Italian vinegar has a sweet, fruity flavor and mild acidity.

The words "aceto balsamico tradizionale" on a bottle of balsamic vinegar inducates that it is the "real thing". A good traditional balsamic will probably cost about $30 for about a cup of vinegar. Cheaper balsamic vinegars can be sour and harsh.

Production of traditional Balsamic Vinegar is governed by the quasi-governmental Consortium of Producers of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Consorzio Tra Produttori Dell aceto Balsamico Tradizionale Di Modena). Products produced under their supervision come with a seal from the Consorzio ensuring they have met stringent standards.

The production of traditional Balsamic Vinegar is very labor intensive and time consuming, making it very expensive and available in limited quantities. Originally available only to the Italian upper classes, balsamic vinegar became widely known and available around the world in the late 20th century (which explains why I never heard of balsamic vinegar when I was a child).

True balsamic is aged between three to twelve years and even older. Some basalmic vinegars have been aged for 100 years. Expensive balsamic vinegars (labeled traditional or tradizionale) are aged in wood barrels for at least 12 years and can cost over $100 per bottle. They are syrupy and only slightly acidic. These expensive vinegars are often sipped as you would a vintage port, or used in desserts.

Nontraditional or commercial balsamic vinegar, sold in supermarkets in the United States, is typically made with red wine vinegar or concentrated grape juice mixed with a strong vinegar, and laced with caramel and sugar. This includes some balsamic vinegars imported from Modena. Commercial Balsamic Vinegar is not subjected to the restrictions of the traditional vinegars.The commercial balsamic vinegars, however, are quite suitable for use in marinades, vinaigrette dressings , sauces, and gravies, or to season strawberries, peaches and melons.
Balsamic vinegar is excellent with fruits.

To truly savor the taste of the expensive finer balsamic vinegars, do not heat them.

Because of its sweetness, balsamic vinegar should not be the sole vinegar in a dressing, but should be used as an accent to enhance wine vinegars.

There is now a white balsamic vinegar (a pale gold), which has a less intense flavor. White balsamic vinegar is good in recipes in which the appearance would be marred by the darker color of the traditional balsamic.

Cane vinegar, made from sugar cane syrup, varies in quality. It is most popular in the Philippines (where it is called sukang iloko), although it is also produced in France and the United States. It ranges from dark yellow to golden brown in color and has a mellow flavor. It contains no residual sugar, and is not sweeter than other vinegars .

Rice vinegar, though it's sometimes called rice wine vinegar, is made from fermented sugars derived from rice, not rice wine. Rice vinegars are sweet and mild . They are good flavored with herbs, spices and fruits. Rice vinegars are popular in Asian dishes. The Japanese use rice vinegar in sushi, in dipping sauces, and to create many pickled dishes. It is also good for marinating tofu (with soy sauce and ginger), and in grain and bean salads. Rice vinegars go well with toasted peanut and sesame oils to dress fruit salads, Japanese noodles, and cucumber salads.

Rice vinegar is popular because it does not significantly change the appearance of the food.
There are three major kinds of rice wine vinegar: red (used as a dip for foods and as a condiment in soups), white (used mostly in sweet and sour dishes), and black (common in stir-fries and dressings). Most recipes that call for rice vinegar intend for you to use white rice vinegar.

White rice vinegar is used in Japan to make sushi rice and salads, and in China to flavor stir-fries and soups. Western cooks often use it to to dress salads or vegetables. The Japanese white rice vinegar, one of the mildest vinegars, is sweeter and milder than the Chinese white rice vinegar, which is more acidic and sharper.

Red rice vinegar, also called red vinegar, Chinese red vinegar , or Chinese red rice vinegar is slightly salty. It's sometimes used in sweet and sour dishes, or as a dipping sauce. Red rice vinegar is traditionally colored with red yeast rice, although some Chinese brands use artificial food coloring instead.

Chinese black vinegar, also called black vinegar, black rice vinegar, Chinese brown rice vinegar, brown rice vinegar, Chinkiang vinegar, Chekiang vinegar, Chenkong vinegar, or Zhejiang vinegar, is an aged vinegar made from rice, wheat, millet, or sorghum, or a combination. It has an inky black color and a malty, smoky flavor. Some Chinese black vinegars may contain added sugar, spices, or caramel color. Black rice vinegar is used in stir-fries and dipping sauces. Notes: The best Chinese black vinegars are produced in the province of Chinkiang (or Chekiang or Zhejiang--there are many spellings). Black vinegar is stronger than white rice vinegar, and it's often used in stir-fries, and as a dipping sauce.

A somewhat lighter form of black vinegar, made from rice, is produced in Japan, where it is called kurozu. It is claimed to be a healthful drink with high concentrations of amino acids.

There is also Brown rice vinegar , a mild vinegar made from fermented brown rice. The smaller batch organic brown rice vinegars have a more developed flavor.

Seasoned rice vinegar, also called seasoned rice wine vinegar or sushi vinegar is sweetened or otherwise seasoned with spices or other added flavorings. Although many Asian cooks would prefer to add their own seasonings to a dish, using seasoned rice vinegar saves time when making sushi. You can also use it to dress salads, vegetables, and other dishes. To make your own seasoned rice vinegar, use 3/4 cup white rice vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt.

Wine vinegars, which are made from red, white, or rose wines, are the most commonly used vinegars in Mediterranean countries and Central Europe. They have the taste and aroma of the wines they are made from. These vinegars may be used interchangeably. Red wine vinegar has a more intense, hardy flavor, and white wine vinegar is less assertive, with a clean, light, fruity taste.

As with wine, there is a considerable range in quality of wine vinegars. Better quality wine vinegars are matured in wood for up to two years and have a complex, mellow flavor. There are more expensive wine vinegars made from individual varieties of wine, such as Champagne, sherry, or pinot grigio.

White wine vinegar is made from the fermentation of a blend of white wines. It is clear and pale gold, almost colorless. The taste is distinctly acidic, and the aroma is like that of the wine from which it comes. White wine vinegars are milder than red wine vinegars.

White wine vinegar, like white wine, can be very good, or not so good. Your safest bet is not to buy the cheapest or the most expensive. Because of the mildness of white wine vinegar, French cooks use it to make sauces, vinaigrettes, soups, and stews. It's also an excellent base for homemade fruit or herb vinegars.

White Wine Vinegar brings out the sweetness in strawberries and melons. A little white wine vinegar added to spicy salsas and marinades will make the flavor of sauces and glazes more exciting.
You can replace heavy cream or butter with a splash of White Wine Vinegar to balance flavors without adding fat.
The tart, tangy taste of white wine vinegar reduces the need for salt.

White wine vinegars do not overwhelm the flavors of shallots or citrus zest. Use white wine vinegars with lighter oils such as lighter olive oils or neutral oils such as sunflower seed oil or canola oil.

Red wine vinegar
is an assertive, strong vinegar. It is a staple in French households and is used in vinaigrettes and for making marinades, stews, and sauces. It's a good choice if you're trying to balance strong flavors in a hearty dish. Robust red wine vinegars make good salad dressings and marinades because the taste can stand on its own without the addition of other strong flavorings.

Rred wine vinegars are more acidic, and go well with heavier oils such as nut oils and extra virgin olive oil, and with dense greens such as spinach.

Champagne vinegar is made from a dry white wine which is made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes (both of which are used to make Champagne). This light and mild vinegar is good for dressing delicately flavored salads or vegetables. Mix it with nut or truffle oil to make a vinaigrette. Champaign vinegar goes well with extra-virgin olive oil.

Sherry vinegar, also called sherry wine vinegar, vinagre de Jerez , Jerez vinegar, vinagre de Xeres , or Xeres vinegar, is an upscale vinegar with a wonderful nutty, sweet flavor. Sherry vinegar is aged under the full heat of the sun in wooden barrels. The most expensive sherry vinegars are aged for a long time.
Sherry vinegar is assertive and smooth. It’s d great for deglazing pans and perking up sauces.
Sherry vinegar combines well with walnut oil which accentuates the nutty flavor of the vinegar.

Sherry vinegar is very acidic and dressings made from it require much more oil than the standard 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar in order to balance its strength. Sherry vinegar may need six parts oil to one part vinegar. Add a little oil at a time and taste. Use sherry vinegar with heavier nut oils and bitter greens.
You can modify the tartness of sherry vinegar by mixing in a little balsamic vinegar.

Flavored vinegar , also called infused vinegar has been flavored, usually with herbs, fruit, garlic, or peppercorns. Flavored vinegars are handy when you want to make a flavorful salad dressing or sauce in a hurry.

Fruit vinegars are made by blending soft fruits or fruit concentrates with a mild vinegar. Fruit vinegars go well with avocados, citrus, fruits and grains. Sometimes sugar or fruit liqueurs are added. Popular fruit-flavored vinegars include those infused with whole raspberries, blueberries, mangos, or figs (or from flavorings derived from these fruits). Some of the more exotic fruit-flavored vinegars include blood orange and pear.

Persimmon vinegar is popular in South Korea, and jujube vinegar is produced in China.
Raspberry flavored vinegars, have a sweet-sour taste that is good on fruit salads, used as a marinade or basting sauce, added to your favorite salad dressing, or used by itself on salads or cooked vegetables.

Fruit vinegars are also made from fruit wines without any additional flavouring. Common flavors of fruit vinegar include black currant, raspberry, quince, and tomato. Typically, the flavors of the original fruits can be tasted in the vinegar.

Popular commercial fruit vinegars include raspberry vinegar, blueberry vinegar, and mango vinegar.

Fruit flavored vinegars are easy to make at home, but be sure to use a trustworthy recipe. If too much fruit is added to the vinegar, it may not be sufficiently acidic to ward off harmful microbes.
Herbal vinegars are created by flavoring wine vinegar or white distilled vinegars with spices or other seasonings. Popular flavorings are garlic, basil and tarragon . Cinnamon, clove and nutmeg flavored vinegars are an aromatic addition to dressings. Mediterranean herbs such as thyme or oregano also make good herb vinegars. Tarragon vinegar is one of the most popular. It goes well with greens or potato salad. Herb vinegars are especially useful in salads and savory dishes.

To prepare herb vinegars at home, add sprigs of fresh or dried herbs to store-bought vinegar. Just put one or two sprigs of clean, fresh herbs in a bottle of warm vinegar, tightly seal the bottle, and let it stand for at least a few days. The sprigs will eventually become bitter, so remove or replace them after a few weeks. Make sure that the vinegar you use has an acidity level of at least 5% (find this on the label). Wine, rice, or cider vinegars are good bases for most herb vinegars. Don't add too many herbs to the bottle, just a sprig or two, or you may reduce the acidity of the vinegar too much causing the vinegar to lose its preserving ability.

Herb vinegars are a good way to preserve fresh herbs and to incorporate their flavor into salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.

Sweetened vinegar is of Cantonese origin and is made from rice wine, sugar and herbs including ginger, cloves and other spices.

Malt vinegar, also called alegar, is very popular in England. It's made from fermented barley and grain mash, and flavored with woods such as beech or birch. It has a pungent, lemony flavor and is often served with fish and chips. Malt vinegar is too strongly flavored for salad dressings. However, when it is distilled to a clear white, instead of amber brown, it is excellent for pickling, especially walnut pickles. The darker malt vinegar will darken lighter colored pickles. Any English recipe calling for vinegar typically uses malt vinegar.
Malt vinegar is also good for making chutneys. Since it's so assertive, it's not a good choice for vinaigrettes or delicate sauces.

Varieties include brown malt vinegar and distilled malt vinegar, which is clear.

Though it may cost a little more, it’s best to get the "real" malt vinegar instead of a "non-brewed condiment", which is water, acetic acid, and coloring.

Coconut and Cane Vinegars are common in India, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Cane vinegar is made from fermented sugarcane and has a very mild, rich-sweet flavor. It is most commonly used in Philippine cooking.

Coconut vinegar, made from the sap of the coconut palm, is low in acidity, with a musty flavor and a unique aftertaste. Coconut vinegar is used extensively in Southeast Asian cuisine , particularly in the Philippines, as well as in some cuisines of India. It is used in many Thai dishes. A cloudy white liquid, it has a particularly sharp, acidic taste with a slightly yeasty note.

Palm vinegar, also called toddy vinegar, is a cloudy white vinegar. It is popular in the Philippines. It's milder than wine or cider vinegars.

Vinegar made from beer is produced in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Although its flavor depends on the type of beer from which it is made, it is often described as having a malty taste. Beer vinegar that is produced in Bavaria is a light golden color, with a very sharp and not very complex flavor.

Vinegar made from raisins is used in cuisines of the Middle East, and is produced in Turkey. It is cloudy and medium brown in color, with a mild flavor.

Vinegar made from dates is a traditional product of the Middle East.

White vinegar, also called distilled vinegar, distilled white vinegar , or white distilled vinegar ( it is transparent in appearance) is made from grain (often corn) and water. This is a cheap vinegar used for making pickles, cleaning out coffee pots, and washing windows. White vinegar is a bit too harsh for most recipes, but it does a great job with pickles. Use it sparingly, or substitute lemon, tomato, or grapefruit in recipes where white vinegar is called for. Be careful if you're substituting another vinegar in a pickle recipe--to adequately preserve, vinegar should have an acidity level of at least 5%.

Umeboshi vinegar, also called umeboshi plum vinegar , ume vinegar, ume plum vinegar, pickled plum vinegar, or plum vinegar is a Japanese vinegar that is very salty. It is a pink brine that has a distinctive, cherry aroma and a fruity, sour flavor. It is good used in dips and salad dressings. Umeboshi vinegar is a by-product of the making of umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums). Technically, Umeboshi vinegar is not classified as a vinegar because it contains salt, but it is a good substitute for vinegar and salt in any recipe. I like to sprinkle a few drops on salad greens.
Storing vinegar

Unopened bottles of vinegar will last indefinitely. Because of its acidic nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. Once opened, vinegar should be used within 8 months. White vinegar will almost unchanged over an extended period of time. In other vinegars, color changes or the development of a haze or sediment may occur, but this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used.

Vinegar is best stored airtight in a cool, dark place.
Using Vinegar
(see also the various varieties above)

Vinegar acts as a natural preservative, and will retard the growth of bacteria. To adequately preserve, vinegar should have an acidity level of at least 5%.

Vinegar's principal uses are the flavoring of foods and the preservation, or pickling, For use as a condiment, vinegar is often flavored with garlic, onions, tarragon, or other herbs and spices.
Mixed with oil and seasonings it becomes a "vinaigrette" used as a dressing on vegetable salads and cooked vegetables. Vinegar is also a common ingredient in marinades.

You can substitute the following for vinegar: lemon juice (as a flavoring or for acidulating water) , lime juice (as a flavoring or for acidulating water), brandy (for deglazing pans) ,fortified wine (for deglazing pans and perking up sauces) , wine (for deglazing pans and perking up sauces) , ascorbic acid (mixed with water), or tamarind paste.

You can dress a salad with a little salt and vinegar alone. Use a mild low-acid vinegar such as balsamic, rice. Champagne, or low acid fruit vinegars. Lightly salt the greens and sprinkle a few drops of oil over them.

You can save an overly sweetened dish by adding a little vinegar.

Cake icing can be prevented from becoming sugary if a little vinegar is added to the ingredients before cooking. The same is true when making homemade candy.

To keep potatoes white, add a teaspoon of white distilled or cider vinegar added to the water in which you boil potatoes. You can keep peeled potatoes from turning dark by covering them with water and adding 2 teaspoons of vinegar.

Freshen up slightly wilted vegetables by soaking them in cold water and vinegar.

Perk up a can of soup, gravy or sauce with a teaspoon of your favorite specialty vinegar. It adds flavor and taster fresher.

Remove fruit or berry stains from your hands by cleaning them with vinegar.

Try making small batches of pickles with any unique tasting vinegar with over 5% acidity. You are bound to discover some new culinary territory if you head in this direction.

To perk up bean soups, add a little vinegar during the last five minutes of cooking.

When cooking cabbage, a little vinegar in the water will help to decrease the cabbage odor.

To keep the color in red cabbage, add a little vinegar to the water at the start of cooking.

To cut calories, make vinaigrettes from milder vinegars like balsamic, champagne, fruit, or rice wine vinegar. Since they're less pungent, you can use a higher ratio of vinegar to oil.

Vinegar will dissolve reactive metals like aluminum, iron, and copper. When cooking with vinegar, use pots and utensils made of stainless steel, glass, enamel, plastic, or wood.

Vinegar can reduce bitterness and balance flavors in a dish.

Adding vinegar to a pot of water improves the color of any vegetables you're cooking.
For salads, the ideal proportion of oil to vinegar is three parts oil to one part vinegar; however, given the range of tastes and strengths of the many oils and vinegars, feel free to adjust these measures as needed.

When using vinegar in salads, you can use more than one variety. Vinegars can easily be combined. You may want to use one as a base and another for its particular sharpness, sweetness, or flavor.

Fresh lemon, orange, tangerine, grapefruit, and lime juices add a sparkly, clean, and fresh quality that combines well with vinegars.


Vinegar contains some minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.
Apple cider vinegar contains more than thirty important nutrients, a dozen minerals, over half a dozen vitamins and essential acids, and several enzymes. When vinegar is made from fresh apples, it contains pectin, a soluble fiber. Pectin binds to cholesterol and pulls the cholesterol out of the body.


Nutritional Highlights
Vinegar, cider, 1 cup (240g) (236.6ml)
Calories: 33.6
Protein: 0.0g
Carbohydrate: 14g
Total Fat: 0.0g
Fiber: 0.0g

Grandmother's Food Secrets, by Dr. Myles H. Bader, published by Mylette Enterprises, LLC, Las Vegas NV 89102

Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tips, by David Joachim, published by Rodale

The Best Recipes in the World, by Mark Bittman, published by Broadway Books, New York

The Essential Vegetarian Cook Book, by Diana Shaw, published by Clarkson Potter Publishers

World Vegetarian, by Madhur Jeffrey, published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York
Professional Vegetarian Cooking, by Ken Bergeron, published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

The Saucy Vegetarian, Quick and Healthful No-Cook Sauces and Dressings, by Joanne Stephaniak, published by Book Publishing Company

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison, published by Broadway Books, New York

1,000 Vegetarian Recipes, by Carol Gelles, published by Macmillan, USA


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