Vinegar is a commonly manufactured mild acid. Throughout history, it’s been used in a wide range of applications from medical to industrial to domestic. Today however, it is used mostly as an ingredient in cooking. In fact, it is an important element in many dishes. Vinegar is also used for pickling.
I know that even today, people still use vinegar as a common household cleaning agent. I remember when I was growing up, white vinegar was sometimes ran through the coffee maker to clean it. It certainly gave the kitchen an aroma. Not a bad one, just a powerful one.
There are a variety of vinegars on the market to choose from. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that there are quite a lot of vinegars made for use in a variety of different applications.
Commercially produced vinegars are made using either a fast or a slow fermentation process. Fast methods will use something called mother of vinegar – which is a bacterial culture – in the source liquid, before adding air to oxygenate and help quicken the fermentation. This fast fermentation process can produce vinegar in as little as 20 hours but may last up to 3 days.
Slow methods are generally used in the production of traditional vinegars where the fermentation process can last from a few months all the way up to a year. This longer fermentation allows a nontoxic slime made of acetic acid bacteria to accumulate.
Some varieties of vinegar include:
White or distilled white vinegar: Most common vinegar found in the kitchen. Used for pickles and ketchup. Also used in some brines and for taking small swigs of from time to time.
Apple cider vinegar: This vinegar is said to have a number of health benefits associated with it, and is the most popular vinegar found among the natural health community. Apple cider vinegar is said to lower blood sugar levels, fight diabetes, lower cholesterol levels, and improve heart health. In addition, some claim it helps lose unwanted belly fat. Also very good for taking swigs of once in a awhile. Better flavor than white vinegar.
Red wine vinegar: Red wine vinegar is made from fermented red wine. It’s great in vinaigrettes and other dressings. Also very commonly found in many different meat marinades. This is one of the most popular vinegars sold in America. Also quite good for downing in small quantities, although I prefer the apple cider vinegar more. Red wine vinegar is milder in flavor than the previous two.
Balsamic vinegar: If we had to choose one vinegar that’s considered the ‘best’, balsamic vinegar would definitely be the one. This sweet vinegar was traditionally produced in Italy and it’s the only vinegar not made from fermented alcohol. It’s made from pressed grapes which have been aged in oak barrels, similar to wine. Balsamic vinegar can get quite expensive as the older a bottle is, the more expensive it will be. Balsamic vinegar goes well with many savory dishes, and is a popular choice to mix with olive oil to be used on a salad or for dipping bread in. Although good for swigging, it is rather sweet, and due to the cost of this vinegar I tend not to sip on it very often.
Sherry vinegar: This vinegar is made from sherry which is a fortified Spanish wine. It’s aged in oak barrels for a minimum of six months before being bottled. Sherry vinegar definitely has a more pronounced flavor than other vinegars and it might take a little time to acquire a taste for this vinegar. Sherry vinegar can be used in a variety of vinaigrettes and pan sauces. I would say I use this vinegar on occasion, and don’t usually drink this in any quantity.
Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar is commonly found throughout China and Japan, and is made from fermented rice wine. It has a sweeter flavor than most other wine vinegars. I would say it’s less acidic and doesn’t have the same bite that you’d get from distilled white vinegar. Rice vinegar can be used in many different recipes, but is typically used in Asian style dishes as an ingredient in marinades and sauces. Rice vinegar is something I use in a number of dishes, but I don’t prefer it by itself. I wouldn’t take sips of this vinegar in most cases.
Malt vinegar: Malt vinegar is without a doubt the vinegar that is most closely associated with one of the UK’s signature dishes – fish and chips. Malt vinegar is made by malting barley, causing the starch to turn to maltose. An ale is then brewed from the maltose and allowed to turn into vinegar and aged. This type of vinegar is usually light-brown and has a mellow acidic flavor that goes well with salty crunchy fried foods. I absolutely don’t eat fish and chips but I do really like malt vinegar. I would say I enjoy taking swigs of malt vinegar now and then.
There are even more types of vinegar than the ones mentioned above. I don’t think I need to go on though, because I’m sure you can begin to see just how much variety there is out there. As noted earlier, some vinegars have certain health benefits associated with their consumption. Most of these have been scientifically backed. Indeed, I try to remember to take my tablespoon of vinegar every evening. In addition, I always try to remember to ask my son if he’d enjoy a nice shot of vinegar as well, but he always just rolls his eyes and says ‘Daaaaaaaaaaaad!’.