The acid love continues! The second major family of acidic variables to add to your kitchen cabinets and that special place in your heart that’s just for ingredients, is VINEGAR. Vinegar is actually a fermented product, caused by acetic acid bacteria that feeds on ethanol (naturally produced alcohol from yeast fermentation) and makes acetic acid.
Essentially, it’s double fermented alcohol.
What it can be used for, well, there are a lot of options. There are a lot of types of vinegar. Their flavor profiles are pungent, but have different components, not dissimilar from alcoholic spirits because it’s pretty much alcohol without the alcohol.
- White Vinegar- No. This is a cleaning product. Buy a gallon sized bottle that will go everywhere but past your lips. It can be used in kitchens as a base for infused vinegar, and pickling, but no restaurant kitchen has white vinegar to cook with. You mix it with baking soda and pour it down a clogged drain. See next vinegar for a better cooking option
- Apple Cider Vinegar- Ahh, the slightly sweet, fruity, not too complex, but just enough flavor and tartness of apple cider vinegar makes it one of the most widely used acids in the kitchen. Used in dressings, baking, pickling, and generally brightening up sauces and soups, as well as making a quick buttermilk when you don’t want to buy a quart of buttermilk to bake with.
- Red Wine Vinegar-Made from red wine that has undergone a second fermentation, this vinegar usually ends up in salad dressing, pickled onions, and marinades. Easily transfers into a more Mediterranean flavor profile and I love the color that it can make the dressing, even if it doesn’t show up at any other point than when I make it.
- White Wine Vinegar- Also made from wine, hence the name, white wine vinegar can be used in the same ways as listed above, usually when you want less of the wine flavor and apple cider tastes too sweet. This vinegar is the main reason you don’t use white vinegar.
- Champagne Vinegar- In most cases, I would just reach for the White Wine Vinegar instead, but champagne offers a sweeter, milder, and not fruity alternative. Really, the two are fairly interchangeable. Champagne just sounds fancier.
- Balsamic Vinegar-Oh, my love! My one true love! To the moon and back, I love you Balsamic! Originally from the Italian region of Emilia-Romangia, in the town of Modena, thick, luscious, syrupy, and sweet balsamic has become the most widely used finishing vinegar in Western culture. Combined with a little olive oil, it’s a two ingredient dressing when it’s a thinner consistency. At its thickest, you can pour it on a plate with chocolate cake and strawberries for a dessert to die for. I use it constantly, in dressings, as a final zing in a grain salad, to marinate tofu, on top of roasted veggies- the list goes on and on! I added some to a roasted veggie and bean soup the other day and I rocked my socks!
- White Balsamic Vinegar- The version made from white wine, white balsamic has a much more mild flavor, but can still be used in a similar manner. It’s definitely a solid finishing and dressing vinegar. Don’t cook with it, just add it at the very end.
- Sherry Vinegar- Heralding from Spain, in the town of Jerez, sherry vinegar is most commonly used on the Iberian peninsula. I adore it as a more astringent alternative to balsamic, without the depth of sweetness, and a saltier finish. I’ve seen it more commonly used in marmalade, jams, and sauces in restaurants. Occasionally, it takes a starring role in a salad or finishing a meat-centric dish.
- Malt Vinegar- Mostly used as a finishing vinegar, such as traditionally on fish and chips in the UK. I haven’t seen it used in great quantities in any restaurant I’ve worked in and I don’t stock it in my house.
- Rice Vinegar- The vinegar of Asian cuisine, as represented in Western kitchens. Light in color and without a super sharp acidity, this is the best vinegar for pickling, making slaw, dressings with spicy and salty components, marinades that focus on flavor profiles from across Asia, and dipping sauces. You can use it as a finishing vinegar for soup as well, but I tend to use citrus in that case.
- Fruit vinegar- Any time you see a Raspberry, Pomegranate, Orange, blackberry, whatever type of fruit vinegar, it’s usually one of the above vinegars that has been allowed to sit with the fruit macerating in it for a period of time.
There’s your VINEGAR folks! Any questions?
I can think of more items that add acid to your foods but don’t actually fall into the two major families. What do you think folks? Do you want EVEN MORE acid?