Vinegar: It’s Not Just for Pickles Anymore

Food For Thought By: Leanne Ely

Once upon a time, there was white distilled vinegar that our mothers and grandmothers would use to pickle vegetables and clean the floors. And that was pretty much it as far as the vinegar train went.

Today there are enough options in vinegars to make you nuts.

There’s cider vinegar, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar . . . There are flavored fruit vinegars in everything from peach to raspberry . . . There are herbed vinegars and flavored balsamics.

So much vinegar, so little time!

But which ones should you choose?

Well, the answer to that is simple: it depends on what you want in a vinegar!

Let’s look at our options.

White vinegar. The one we’re most familiar with. I would stick to this one for chemical-free cleaning (it does an awesome job of everything from windows to floors). It does have its place in the kitchen though. I always add vinegar to my boiling water before poaching eggs.

Balsamic vinegar. True balsamic vinegar is difficult to produce. That’s why it’s expensive. If you want the real thing, you want to look for the word “Modena” on the label. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy, is made from sugary white grapes found in a place called Modena. This balsamic vinegar is aged in wooden barrels for between 12 and 25 years. This vinegar is thick and sweet with a rich aroma and a nice light acidity. It is delicious on meats, salad greens, strawberries and in gravies. You can find less expensive balsamic vinegars that will also be a nice addition to your pantry, but if you’re cooking a dish such as a balsamic lamb or if you’re serving balsamic strawberries for a party, splurge on the good stuff.

Red wine vinegar. This vinegar is made from red wine that has fermented until it’s sour. The longer it’s aged, the more subtle it will taste. Red wine vinegar is nice in reductions or in salad dressings.

White wine vinegar. Made from (you guessed it) white wine, white wine vinegar is quite acidic and tangy and it smells quite a bit like . . . well . . . wine! It’s great in a salad and it brings out the sweetness in fruits like melons and strawberries.

Malt vinegar. This vinegar is made from fermented barley malt or other malted cereals. The starch has been converted to maltose. This is the type of vinegar you may find served with french fries in fish & chip joints.

Cider vinegar. Cider vinegar is made from fermented apples. This should be your go to vinegar because it actually has some nice health benefits (it may help acne, arthritis, gout and it can also aid in weight loss) on top of being a versatile type of vinegar that can be used just about anywhere vinegar is called for.

Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar. They’re both made from fermented rice, but with rice vinegar, the alcohol is turned into acid with the addition of bacteria. Use rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar in Asian dishes.

Fruit vinegar and herbed vinegars. Fruited vinegars are made from every fruit you could imagine and the same goes for herbs. From peach vinegars and garlic vinegars to combos like ginger pear and rosemary sage. The options are endless.

If you want to add some excitement to your salads, I suggest playing with the vinegars you use in your dressings.

What does your vinegar collection look like?

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