Vinegar is a condiment made from the fermentation of ethanol sugars by acetic acid bacteria. Vinegar is made in two steps. The first step is to ferment the base liquid (usually a juice or anything that contains sugars) to produce alcohol in carbon dioxide. The second step is where oxygen is introduced so that bacteria can produce acids, water, and other compounds. All of the technical talk aside, vinegar is a tasty condiment by itself and is essential in many food preparations like sauce making, pickling, salad dressings, and marinades. Truly one of the most versatile condiments ever invented.
- Vinegar can be poured over jellyfish stings to deactivate the nematocysts that cause the burning pain associated with jellyfish stings. Applicable to all jellyfish except for the Portuguese man-o’-war.
- Vinegar was said to have been used as a condiment and a preservative by the ancient Babylonians more than 7,000 years ago.
- White vinegar is one of the best things to use to clean cutting boards or butcher blocks.
- National Vinegar Day is celebrated on November 1st.
- The term ‘vinegar’ comes from the French term ‘vin aigre’ which literally means sour wine.
Vinegar Buying Guide
Vinegar has a lot of varieties and it can get confusing picking the right one if you don’t know what each variety is. Luckily, we’ve had our fair share of vinegar and we’ll explain the different kinds and how they taste like.
- Distilled White Vinegar – This is also labeled and known as white vinegar. This has an acidity level of around 5%-10%. This is the most versatile type of vinegar out there and can be used in a lot of applications from cooking, sauce making, and even as an all-purpose cleaner. Distilled white vinegar is not known for any subtle flavor notes aside from its acidity. While this may sound like something negative, it is actually a desired trait so that tartness/acidity can be added to a sauce or dish without fundamentally altering the flavor profile of the other ingredients.
- White wine vinegar – as the name states, this is vinegar made from fermenting white wine until the desired acidity level is reached. It is quite mild when compared to distilled white vinegar and is usually used in marinades and salad dressings in which a high level of acidity isn’t really required.
- Champagne vinegar – This vinegar is made from champagne or French sparkling wine. Due to the sweetness of champagne, the resulting vinegar is lightly tart and sweet. Great in salad dressings and on chicken dishes. This is the lightest flavor of all the vinegar.
- Red wine vinegar – This is basically red wine that has been allowed to ferment until it becomes vinegar. This is the preferred vinegar for salad dressings, reductions, pickling, and in many other sauces.
- Malt Vinegar – This is made from malting barley and is well known as the vinegar of choice for fish and chips. In the UK, it is no longer common for malt vinegar to be used as a condiment for fish and chips but something called “non-brewed condiment” which is a malt vinegar substitute. This was done apparently to cut down on costs.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – This is one of the most popular vinegar types due to its purported health benefits. This is made from pure apple juice that has been fermented into a cider and then further fermented until it has become a vinegar. You can use apple cider vinegar on any recipe that calls for vinegar. It can also be used in itself as a dipping condiment for barbecues and other meats.
- Sherry Vinegar – This is an uncommon vinegar as it is made from sherry wine from Spain. This is naturally fermented for up to 10 years. Sherry vinegar is often used as a substitute for balsamic vinegar due to the complexity of its flavor. While it is a substitute, their flavors are totally different.
- Balsamic Vinegar – One of the most popular vinegar. We have a whole article dedicated to balsamic vinegar here in our Texas Real Food Promptuary so if you’re interested in learning more about balsamic vinegar, you can go ahead and check it out.
Vinegar Production & Farming in Texas
There are two vinegar types that are mainly produced by small-batch artisan producers in Texas. Those varieties are apple cider vinegar, which is more common with smaller farmsteads and home producers, and the other one is balsamic vinegar, which is more commonly produced by olive ranches and local wineries. For apple cider vinegar, all you have to do is visit a farmers’ market in your area and you can probably find a few vendors selling their own small-batch apple cider vinegar. Aside from that, there are also other fermentors who create vinegar for probiotic purposes and you can see a lot of sipping vinegar made from local fruits and products.
Balsamic vinegar production in Texas is pretty robust as well. There are a number of producers that adhere to the strict European standards in creating traditional-style balsamic vinegar that’s on par with many international brands but due to location and grape sourcing, aren’t certified. These balsamic vinegar are very good though, much, much better than balsamic vinegar that you can find in supermarket shelves.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Vinegar doesn’t need any preservatives because, well, it’s vinegar, and vinegar is a preservative in itself. The thing you have to worry about vinegar is the process that is used and the raw materials. Vinegar like apple cider vinegar takes a long time to ferment, some commercial manufacturers take shortcuts by blending other vinegar with apple flavorings and adding colorings and cloudifiers to make it look like apple cider vinegar. It’s all about the labeling when it comes to different types of vinegar.
The best way to avoid deceptive practices like this is to go with vinegar producers that handmake them or make their vinegar in small batches to ensure quality without the need of adding other ingredients or taking short cuts in production.
Vinegar, due to its acidic nature is usually packed in glass bottles, there are some producers that pack their vinegar in special plastic bottles as well.
The use of this condiment depends on the type of vinegar we’re talking about. We went through what uses each type has earlier, but as a condiment, any vinegar can be used as a dipping condiment aside from sherry vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
Store vinegar at room temperature and away from sunlight and it should last a good long time. The flavors and acidity may get a bit stronger, but that’s fine. If improperly stored, vinegar can actually lose its flavor and acidity, so make sure to keep your vinegar bottle tightly closed and away from direct sunlight.
Make your own Thai Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce:
As a twist, let’s take some vinegar and turn it into another condiment. This is a quick and simple recipe that can be made in just a few minutes and can last in the fridge for a good long time.
¼ cup garlic, chopped
½ tablespoon salt
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
¼ cup dried chili flakes
In a medium pan, add vinegar and sugar then bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Once all of the sugar has dissolved (no more visible particles) turn off the heat and then dump in the rest of the ingredients and stir for a minute or two.
Allow to cool, transfer to a clean container.
Serve with your favorite fried food!