Types of Vinegar and How to Use Them?
It can easily feel like there are a million and one different types of vinegar out there, but we’re here to help you figure out which one’s which, and what they’re all used for.
Out there in the culinary world, chefs have been using different types of vinegar for a long time! As well as the types you might know, such as balsamic vinegar or white, and there are more obscure versions, such as rice. In this article, we’re going to demystify the world of vinegar to make sure that you can use them in your home with no effort at all!
What Is Vinegar?
This is a very simple question with quite a long answer. At the most basic level, though, vinegar is a solution of water and acetic acid. The concentration varies but is generally between five and eight percent.
It can be made from a huge number of different types of base ingredients, all of which will affect its flavor in different ways. For example, red wine vinegar is made from red wine, and apple cider vinegar is made from apple cider - for this reason, the flavors in the end product are very different.
How Is Vinegar Made?
Well, that depends on what type of vinegar that you’re talking about. Generally speaking, vinegar is produced by allowing oxygen to interact with an alcoholic liquid, leading to fermentation and the production of acetic acid. That’s where vinegar gets its name from, actually, an old French term for ‘sour wine’, which is wine that had been left to turn into vinegar.
Vinegar is often made with grain alcohol in order to achieve the extreme acidity that it has. For example, white vinegar is made with vodka, and malt vinegar is made from malted barley - just like whisky and beer.
The process of making malt vinegar, for example, starts with the malted barley. The grain is produced and is then cracked and mashed in hot water to allow the sugars and other chemicals within the grains to be extracted.
Yeast is added to that mash, and it is cooled down to allow it to ferment for roughly six days. At this point, the process is identical to making beer, aside from the lack of hops.
Next, the beer-like liquid is added to an acetifier, along with a specifically cultivated bacteria called acetobacter. This bacteria converts the alcohol in the liquid into acetic acid and leads to the vinegar’s final sharp flavor.
At this point, the vinegar is brought to a specific level of acid concentration by diluting it, and then it is bottled and sold. Simple!
Types Of Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is, for want of a better term, particularly ‘trendy’ at the moment. The vinegar has a huge number of uses and is typically considered to be exceptionally healthy. It’s used to both flavor and preserve food, and is produced by fermenting the liquid of crushed and strained apples twice over.
Balsamic vinegar is not produced through fermentation! Instead, it is produced by aging pressed grapes in oak barrels, similarly to how wine is made. Balsamic vinegar has a very sweet and zesty flavor that can be used for both sweet and savory dishes.
This is by far the most common type of vinegar that’s used in the world. There’s probably a bottle in your kitchen! White vinegar has a very sharp taste and harsh smell, as it has been derived from grain, resulting in a crisp and clear end product.
White vinegar may be too strong for a number of recipes, but its chemical properties are often used when pickling or in zesty barbecue recipes. The flavor is typically considered to be tart but also subtly fruity - ideal for a number of recipes.
Rice vinegar is not derived directly from rice but, rather, from rice wine. It’s commonly found in Asian cuisine and offers a fairly sweet flavor compared to other types of vinegar. It is best used to add a particularly lovely Asian twist to barbecue sauces, marinades, or pickled vegetables.
White Wine Vinegar
The flavor of white wine vinegar is much milder than white vinegar, as it has been made from white wine instead of grain alcohol. It is considerably less acidic than both white and apple cider vinegar.
The flavor is very light and balanced overall, which makes it a refreshing addition to salad dressings and soups - it’s a very popular type of vinegar!
Red wine vinegar is very similar to white wine vinegar though, of course, it is made with red wine instead. The overall taste is quite sweet and less acidic than white wine vinegar.
This is often used in Mediterranean food and works best in vinaigrettes and reductions.
There are a huge number of different types of vinegar out there, and we could spend days and days talking about them all. Instead, we’ve chosen to outline the most popular ones here, make sure to try a few and experiment!
Nutrition And Benefits
A huge number of people out there in the world believe that vinegar has positive benefits for good overall health - most especially apple cider vinegar. That specific vinegar is recommended to promote weight loss, reduce cholesterol, and lower blood sugar levels.
Vinegar can also be used as a minor antibacterial agent for small bumps and scrapes. While it has less medical science to back it up, still more people believe that it can help to relieve skin irritations and blemishes.
The only thing that you might want to be wary of in vinegar is the gluten content. Malt vinegar is typically the only vinegar to be wary of for its gluten content, but other grain vinegar may pose a risk to extremely sensitive people.
What Is Vinegar Used For In Cooking?
Vinegar, by and large, is used to control the amount of acid in a dish. This can be taken in both the literal, chemical sense and also in a flavor sense.
Vinegar is often used in dishes as a condiment or a seasoning. This is seen as especially important in creamy or fatty foods, as a small amount of vinegar will help to brighten the overall meal in no time.
On a chemical level, vinegar can also be used for processes such as pickling and preserving - suspending food in an acidic liquid will preserve it for a very long time - making vinegar a very useful ingredient.
Vinegar can be kept forever. No, really! When it’s stored in a closed container at room temperature, the hugely acidic nature of vinegar means that it’s incredibly resistant to spoilage of any kind.
The only thing to bear in mind is that unpasteurized vinegar still has live bacteria in it. This means that sediment can develop, though it can be easily filtered out, and is food safe.
Here are delicious recipes you can make with vinegar
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