Vinegar (sour wine in French ) is one of nature’s great gifts to mankind, and vinegar history shows us why. It is a truly natural product. Any alcoholic beverage, whether it is made from apples, grapes, dates, rice or plain white sugar, once exposed to air, will turn naturally to vinegar. It is the ever-present bacteria in the air that converts the alcohol in cider, wine, and beer, into acetic acid, which gives vinegar its characteristic sharp sour taste.Traditionally, vinegar is made through a long, slow fermentation process, leaving it rich in bioactive components like acetic acid, gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, caffeic acid, and more, giving it potent antioxidant, antimicrobial, and many other beneficial properties.
In 1394, a group of French vintners developed a continuous method for making vinegar called the Orleans method. In this method, oak barrels were used as fermentation vessels and the vinegar was siphoned off through a spigot at the bottom of the barrel. About 15% of the vinegar was left behind which contained the “mother of vinegar” and its concentrated bacteria floating on top. A new batch of cider or wine was carefully added to the barrel and was quick started by the remaining vinegar.
The French vintners formed a guild of master vinegar makers, and using this Orleans method, they were better able to supply the lucrative vinegar market. The vinegar industry in Europe flourished during the renaissance and many flavored vinegars were made with various spices, herbs, fruits and even flowers. By the eighteenth century there were over one hundred varieties of infused vinegars available.
Types of Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar
An apple cider vinegar (ACV), which is unfiltered and not pasteurized and made from whole organically grown apples, is the best type to use for both health and cooking purposes. Once opened, an apple cider vinegar with at least 5% acidity does not need to be refrigerated and has a minimum shelf life of 5 years. Best to store the vinegar with the cap tightly closed and not in direct sunlight.
Apple cider vinegar goes well on vegetable salads, seafood and poultry and is an excellent base for making infused vinegars with various herbs, spices or fruits.
True balsamic vinegar, labeled aceto balsamico traditizionale, has been produced for a thousand years in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. This type of vinegar is made from the reduced juice of sweet white grapes such as the Trebbiano and Lambrusco varieties and is aged for 12 or more years in a progression of aromatic wooden casks.
Sweet and sour, smooth and mellow, and dark purple brown in color, balsamic vinegar is full of subtle complex flavors. It is used as an ingredient in salad dressings, sauces and marinades and even as a toping sprinkled on fresh strawberries or ice cream.
A much more readily available quick-processed industrialized version of balsamic vinegar is produced in Modena but even this, by Italian law, has to be aged for at least 3 years to be labeled aceto balsamico. It usually has a 6% acid content
These types of vinegar are made from fermented sugar cane extract and are used mostly in Philippine cooking.
Coconut vinegar is made from the sap of the coconut tree that is naturally fermented in about two months and then aged for about 8 months.
Coconut vinegar is often made with a low 4% acetic acid content and has a mild, yet unique, musty flavor and distinct aftertaste. This type of vinegar is widely used with Thai, Philippine, Indian and other Southeast Asian cooking.
The English have been using malt vinegar for hundreds of years. It’s especially popular sprinkled on chips in a traditional fish and chips restaurant.
Malt vinegar is made from grain, especially barley whose starch has been converted by malt to an alcoholic liquid that is subsequently fermented to a 5% malt vinegar. It has a strong hearty taste.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar, like apple cider vinegar, has been used for centuries for both medicinal and culinary purposes.
These types of vinegar can vary in color from light rose to deep red and acid content from 5 to 7%. They are used worldwide, especially in Mediterranean countries, in sauces, salads, marinades for red meat, and as a pickling agent for fruits and vegetables.
Rice vinegar has been made in China and Japan for thousand of years. It is made from rice wine, or sake and comes in three varieties, white, red and black. On the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, the black variety is produced from thick sake made only from brown rice using a lengthy natural outdoor process. This vinegar has a mild sweet flavor and is highly regarded for it’s medicinal properties.
Generally, these types of vinegar have a 4 to 5% acid content and are used in salad dressings, and as a condiment for soups, stews and noodle dishes. This type of vinegar is also added to sushi rice, not only for adding flavor but also for killing dangerous bacteria that could be present on raw fish
Made from sherry wine in Andalusia, southwestern Spain, sherry vinegar is smooth and mellow with a slight toasted almonds flavor and a balanced sweet and sour taste. This vinegar is aged in oak casks and often produced by the Solera system over a lengthy period of time. The Duque de Diano label of aged sherry vinegar made in Jerez de la Frontera is one of the best examples.
These types of vinegar normally contain 7 to 8% acetic acid content and are widely used in Spanish cooking, especially with sweet poultry dishes, salads and sauces
White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegars can vary in color from white to pale gold and acid content from 5 to 7%. These types of vinegar are light flavored and like apple cider vinegar they go well on vegetable salads, seafood and poultry and they are a good base for making infused vinegars with various herbs, spices or fruits.
White Vinegar (White Distilled Vinegar)
Large amounts of white distilled vinegar are made annually and widely used in the food industry for pickling and as an ingredient in many condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise.
Sold at a 5% acidity level, this vinegar is harsh and coarse-flavoured with little nutrient value. White distilled vinegar cost less than other types of vinegar, can be readily found in most grocery stores and is well suited for house cleaning and weed killing chores.
This has turned out to be a fact filled post. All you need to know about apple cider vinegar and its benefits coming up as V.I.N.E.G.A.R part 2.