Vinegar 101

VinegarVinegar is one of the most versatile ingredients in the grocery aisle. Chances are you have at least one bottle at home at all times. It's a pantry basic for a reason; it's useful in salads, sauces, marinades and so much more. Vinegar can provided needed contrast to sweet, salty and other flavors in a dish. Its brightness can be balancing and uplifting in all manner of recipes and when left out, a dish may taste somewhat "flat." Vinegars may be mildly, moderately or strongly acidic. It's great to have at least one type of each on hand for use in their ideal kitchen applications:

Mild Vinegars

  • Rice vinegar (sometimes called rice wine vinegar) – Has a mild, clean, sweet and delicate flavor.
  • Champagne vinegar – Markedly milder and a bit sweeter than white wine vinegar.
  • White balsamic vinegar – May be higher in acidity than Champagne or even white wine vinegar but has a more delicate taste than traditional balsamic.

Moderate Vinegars

  • White or red wine vinegar – Both are sharp and tart and the strength and flavor are greatly impacted by the quality (and often price) of the brand.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Has a tart, subtle and fruity flavor; it's a good "all-around" vinegar.
  • Sherry vinegar – The quality of the wine used to make a vinegar influences the quality of the final product; it should taste warm and brown-sugary. It may be on the stronger side depending on the base wine used.

Strong Vinegars

  • Plain distilled white vinegar – Not suitable for cooking most anything other than pickles; if you can clean with it, don’t cook with it.
  • Malt vinegar – Has an intense, distinct malt flavor.

NOTE: Balsamic can be mild, moderate or very strong depending on the quality and age of the vinegar. Flavored/infused vinegars can also be mild, moderate or strong, depending on the vinegar used in the infusion and the specific flavor profile (i.e. chocolate and fig vinegar will be darker, more complex and stronger than fruitier flavored vinegars). Fruit vinegars may be made from fermented fruit juice that's been made into wine, but they are often made by infusing another vinegar with fruit or fruit purées.

Great Uses for Vinegar

  • Salad Dressings: Fruit vinegars taste great in salads that have a fruit component, whether dried or fresh. The same principle applies for vinegars and salads that have citrus or herbal elements.
  • Glazes: Balsamic is the most versatile for use in glazes. White balsamic imparts a slightly brighter, sweeter, more floral note, with the mildness and versatility of traditional balsamic.
  • Marinades: For marinating poultry and pork, use a flavored vinegar in place of the vinegar your recipe calls for, or add up to 1 tbsp. per cup of prepared marinade.
  • Dips: Try dipping apple, pear or cucumber slices or chunks of melon or pineapple in aged vinegar.
  • Other: Great in recipes for stirfry, coleslaw and potato salad, etc. Look for flavors that complement each other.

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