Vinegar has been used in household management since it was accidentally discovered thousands of years ago. Since then it has been used in home medicine, cleaning, laundry and cooking. As anyone who drinks wine knows bacteria entering an uncorked bottle will turn the wine into acetic acid, better known as vinegar.
There are many types of vinegar with as many different flavours but the acidic taste can vary depending on what the vinegar is made from.
Germinating malted barley grains, by steeping in water, allows the natural enzymes they contain to become active and digest the grains starch which is then converted to sugar by fermentation. Malt gives a distinct taste to vinegar and beer. The acid content of malt vinegar is about 4%.
Malt vinegar is generally used to pickle fruits and vegetable and is added to chutney and of course, fish and chips.
Any kind of vinegar can be distilled to form a clear liquid. It is particularly useful for cleaning glass but it is too harsh on the palette for most cooking recipes. It is used to pickle eggs.
The acidity of wine vinegar is around 6% and is the strongest natural vinegar. They are made from fermented red and white wine and have a subtle yet complex flavour. Flavours such as raspberry are often added to wine vinegar which can also be flavoured with herbs and spices. Champagne is also left to ferment to produce light, mild vinegar.
Wine vinegars can be used in making vinaigrette dressings, sauces such as Hollandaise and they add an interesting flavour to soups and meat dishes.
Cider Apple Vinegar
Pure apple juice is fermented into cider and then exposed to the air so that it sours and converts into vinegar. Cider vinegar has many health claims and is drunk with hot water and honey for an invigorating drink that is said to help joint inflammation. Organic cider vinegar is best for medicinal purposes.
Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice wine. Chinese rice wine tends to be clear with a sharp, sour taste. Japanese rice wine tends to be softer and sweeter and straw coloured. There are two types of Japanese rice wine, one made from fermented rice and the other is made from sake to which rice vinegar has been added. Rice wine is one of the key ingredients in oriental recipes because of its saltiness, sweetness and glutamate like taste known as umami. Vinegar is made from white, black or red rice.
Made only in Modena, Northern Italy, the very finest balsamic vinegar is made from the sweet, white Trebbiano grapes. The vinegar is concentrated down over a low flame until it is almost syrup. The grapes are harvested late and the vinegar is stored in wooden casks where it is left to mature for up to thirty years.
It is said the ladies of Modena would traditionally drink it by the glass as a digestif, as some would vintage port, while the menfolk considered it an aphrodisiac. Some of the vintage balsamic vinegars can be expensive and rare. Balsamic vinegar is delicious with salad and strawberries. It also brings out the flavour of melon.
Uses For Vinegar
Fabric softener and static cling reducer
Steam iron cleaner
Increasing soil acidity
Dissolves chewing gum
Removing lime from windscreen wash jets
Sterilizing chopping boards
Shower head cleaner
Removes the smell of vomit and urine
Makes fluffier meringue
Alternative to lemon juice
As the best wine doth make the sharpest vinegar, so the deepest love turneth to the deadliest hate. ~ John Lyly