History of Vinegar

QCOM Partners also sells a wide variety of vinegars. Like many historical incidents, it is not surprising to learn that the first vinegar was the result of an ancient accident: a keg of wine, poorly sealed, therefore allowing oxygen in, had been kept in storage too long, and when the would-be drinkers opened it, they found a sour liquid instead of wine. Hence, the word “vinegar” comes from the French word for “sour wine. Now, in the 21st Century, and with the help of a wide range of food channels, vinegars are playing a greater role in entertaining our taste buds with its tart flavor, they add excitement to salads, marinades and sauces.

How is vinegar made?

In short, vinegar is a dilute solution of acetic acid that results from a two-step fermentation process.

The first step is the fermentation of sugar into alcohol, usually by yeast. Any natural source of sugar can be used. For example, the sugar may be derived from the juice, or cider, of fruit (such as grapes, apples, raisins, or even coconuts); from a grain (such as barley or rice); from honey, molasses, or sugar cane; or even, in the case of certain distilled vinegars, from the cellulose in wood (such as beech).

What you have at the end of this first phase, then, is an alcohol-containing liquid, such as wine (from grapes), beer (from barley), hard cider (from apples), or another fermented liquid. (The alcoholic liquid used to create a vinegar is generally reflected in the vinegar’s name — for example, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, malt vinegar, or cider vinegar.)

In the second phase of the vinegar-production process, certain naturally occurring bacteria known as acetobacters combine the alcohol-containing liquid with oxygen to form the acetic-acid solution we call vinegar. Acetic acid is what gives vinegar its sour taste. Although time-consuming, this second phase of the process will happen without human intervention if the alcoholic liquid is exposed to oxygen long enough.

What types of vinegars are used in cooking?

Some of the more popular ones are:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Burgundy Premium
  • Champagne vinegar
  • Cider vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Raspberry vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sherry vinegar
  • White vinegar
  • White wine vinegar

Popular uses for some of the vinegars?

Certain kinds of vinegar are used to deglaze pan juices for piquant sauces or gravies. The addition of a little vinegar can enliven many sauces, especially tomato based ones, but remember to use a light touch. Vinegar goes surprisingly well with soft fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries, and a dash of a mellow vinegar adds distinction to fresh fruit salad.

When deciding which vinegar to use in a dish, always choose the most appropriate flavor. Malt vinegar is made from grain and is strongly flavored, so it is best with straightforward food such as fish and chips, cold meats, or when preparing relishes and chutneys. Cider vinegar is the best choice for deglazing pork chops accompanied by sautéed apples.

Wine vinegars are ideal for mayonnaise and all kinds of salad dressings. They are also used in many classic butter sauces, such as béarnaise, often made with white wine vinegar and served with fish. A dash of fine wine vinegar adds distinction to rich meat or game stews.

Sherry vinegar is often used in Roquefort dressing. As for champagne vinegars, they are great for making mayonnaise.

Some say that all cooking vinegars taste the same.  Is this true?

Absolutely not.  Each vinegar has a taste and character that is derived from its original source material.  Choose your vinegar depending upon how it will be used.  For example:

Balsamic: boil some down to a syrupy glaze to accent fresh figs or sprinkle a few drops of better-quality balsamic on fresh strawberries

Champagne: for a vinaigrette that will include crumbled cheese or when making a warm French potato salad

Cider: to deglaze a pan after sautéing pork chops that will be served with a side of sliced, cooked apples or in a complex dish like sauerbraten

Malt: popular with fish and chips and also used in pickling

Red wine: perfect in barbeque sauces or in a mustard vinaigrette that will dress mixed winter greens

Rice: sprinkle a few drops over finely sliced scallions and toss with brown rice or add to a teriyaki glaze

White wine: good for salsas, marinades, and to add a tang to sauces

White: best for pickling and also household cleaning!

What kind of vinegar should I keep on hand in my kitchen?

It depends on what and how you cook.  If you often make vinaigrette dressings for salads, it’s nice to have a choice of red wine, Champagne, sherry and balsamic vinegars.

If you cook Asian cuisines, you may like having a selection of rice wine vinegars.  You should try different kinds of vinegars to see what you like.

What’s the difference between red and white wine vinegar besides the color?

The vinegar takes on the color of the wine from which it was made.  Beyond the color, the flavor will also vary depending upon the character of the wine.  Balsamic and sherry vinegars are also made from wines.

Can I use white vinegar in cooking?

White vinegar has more acetic acid because it’s made by fermenting pure alcohol.  It’s not aged and there’s nothing savory or flavorful about it so it shouldn’t be your first (or second, or third) choice to use in cooking or vinaigrettes.

But because of its higher level of acetic acid, it’s the best choice for pickling.  
In commercial food production, it’s also used to make salad dressings and mustard.

  • Condiment for beetroot — it is a common preference to consume beetroot with vinegar.
  • Condiment for fish and chips — People commonly use malt vinegar (or non-brewed condiment) on chips.
  • Flavoring for potato chips — many American, Canadian and British manufacturers of packaged potato chips and crisps feature a variety flavored with vinegar and salt.
  • Vinegar pie — a North American dessert made with a vinegar to one’s taste and similar to chess pie.
  • Pickling — any vinegar can be used to pickle foods.
  • Cider vinegar and sauces — cider vinegar usually is not suitable for use in delicate sauces.
  • Substitute for fresh lemon juice — cider vinegar can usually be substituted for fresh lemon juice in recipes and obtain a pleasing effect although it lacks the vitamin C.
  • Saucing roast lamb — pouring cider vinegar over the meat when roasting lamb, especially when combined with honey or when sliced onions have been added to the roasting pan, produces a sauce.
  • Sweetened vinegar is used in the dish of pork knuckles and ginger stew which is made among Chinese people of Cantonese backgrounds to celebrate the arrival of a new child.
  • Sushi rice — Japanese use rice vinegar as an essential ingredient for sushi rice.
  • Red vinegar — Sometimes used in Chinese soups
  • Flavoring — used in the Southern U.S. to flavor collard greens, green beans, or cabbage to taste.
  • Commonly put into mint sauce, for general palette preference.
  • Vinegar — preferably the coconut, cane, or palm variety—is one of the principal ingredients of Philippine Adobo.

Does a higher price mean the vinegar is a better choice?

It depends what you are buying the vinegar for.  When vinegar costs more, the higher price is due to the quality of the source material, the age of the vinegar, or both.

This is most evident with balsamic vinegars, some of which are aged for more than 
20 years.

What is balsamic vinegar and why do some cost so much?

Balsamic vinegar is made from the must (concentrated juice) of white, sugary Trebbiano grapes.  The best balsamic comes from Modena, a city in central Italy.

The process for making it is not unlike that used in making Cognac and Armagnac:  the vinegar is aged for several years (most 3 to 12 years, some up to 100 years) in a successive series of wood barrels.

The result is a dark, slightly sweet, and complex liquid that is costly due to the refined and lengthy process needed to produce it.  Inexpensive “balsamic” is sold in our markets but this is often wine vinegar to which caramelized sugar has been added to mimic the taste of true, aged balsamic.

What are the differences between Italian Balsamic Vinegars and Traditional Balsamic Vinegars?

It is most often served in drops on top of chunks of Parmigianino Reggiano and Mortadella as an antipasto. It is also used sparingly to enhance steaks, eggs or grilled fish as well as on fresh fruit such as strawberries and strawberries and pears and on plain Crema (custard) gelato.

Contemporary chefs use both tradizionale and condimento vinegars sparingly in simple dishes where the balsamic vinegar’s complex tastes are highlighted, using it to enhance dishes like scallops or shrimp, or on simple pastas and risottos.

Perfect for marinades and a balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing. The rich, slightly sweet flavor of balsamic vinegar readily lends itself to vinaigrette dressings, gourmet sauces, and brings out the sweetness of fresh fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, and peaches. 

Its flavor and complex fragrance is exalted over its lowly cousin, red wine vinegar, just as red wine vinegar leaps ahead of white vinegar. Before delving into a myriad of balsamic vinegar recipes, learn a little bit more about it and how to use it.

Does vinegar have to be refrigerated?

No.  The fermentation process used to make vinegar (first to make the alcohol and then to produce the acetic acid) makes it resistant to spoilage.  Because of its acid, vinegar is self-preserving and has an almost unlimited shelf life.

What are flavored vinegars?

Many cuisines use flavored vinegars.  For example, in Cantonese cuisine, rice wine vinegar is flavored with ginger.  In the Philippines, vinegar can be spicy from the addition of chili peppers.  Mediterranean cooking can use vinegars flavored with herbs or garlic.  And recently, as mentioned before, fruit-flavored vinegars, infused with fruits like figs or raspberries, have become popular to use in salad dressings.

Does vinegar have any nutrition or calories?

It contains no fat or calories but it does have riboflavin and vitamin B-1 plus trace amounts of mineral salts.  If flavorings are added to vinegar, such as sugar to inexpensive balsamic or fruit to wine vinegars, these may have calories so check the labels.

What is the role of the “GRAIN” in vinegars?

Grain levels are simply used to indicate the acid content percentage in that particular vinegar. For example:
Chardonnay Wine Vinegar – 100 grain = 10% Acidity
Sherry Wine Vinegar – 65 grain = 6.5% AcidityCider Vinegar – 50 grain = 5.0% Acidity