Or so the obit on this miraculous substance might read.
Growing up Italian, vinegar was a common staple, white for various sauces, cleaning, etc, as well as good balsamic and red wine vinegars for dressings, reductions, dipping. I loved the stuff, and I loved the process of emulsifying with vinegar, even as a small boy. I would make all sorts of sauces, dips, and other assorted condiments to serve to my grandparents’ dinner guests. At my graduation from college, they told me that not all of them, err, rather, most of these concoctions, were not spectacular. That being said, I still love vinegar, as it can do so much, helping to add acidity to preserves, and mellowing out heat, adding richness, generally being fantastic. We would never have that wonderful pickle adorning our plate of bbq, were it not for our fond kitchen friend.
To celebrate this wonderful creation, here at This & That, we felt we might shed a bit of light on the background of this substance…
These Jam Facts
Vinegar derived from the French vin aigre, “sour wine”, vinegar is made by bacterial activity that converts fermented liquids suh as wine, beer or cider into a weak solution of Acetic Acid (the constituent that makes it sour). For thousands of years vinegar has had innumerable uses from beverages, odor-diminishment for strong foods such as cabbage and onions, to a hair rinse and softener!
Mother of Vinegar ia a slimy collection of bacteria (including acetobacter) that converts wine to vinegar. Even though this is bad for the wine, the vinegar formed can be used to preserve other foods. Essentially, vinegar is useful in canning because it helps to kill microbes that might present themselves in the preserves otherwise.
If interested in further scientific analysis of vinegar (and olive oil’s) antimicrobial activities, read here.
There are dozens of vinegars on the market today, including; apple cider vinegar (made from fermented apple cider), cane vinegar (based on the juice of sugarcane), distilled white vinegar (high in acetic acid, sour), and the famous balsamic vinegar (also white balsamic, which is very different, going under pressurized cooking, only aged one year), banyuls vingar (from the seaside town Banyuls-sur-Mer in France, known for unusual fortified wine – aromas of allspice, anise, nuts, and vanilla – yum!), and then aged sherry vinegars from Jerez de la Frontera in Spain (culinary anthropologists dream), which can be aged for 30, 50, or even 75 years, but are lesser known.
Vinegar is essential in making pickles, mustards, and of course, vinaigrettes. It should be stored airtight in a cool, dark place (just like jam!). Unopened, it will keep indefinitely; once opened it can be stored for about 6 months (most likely longer). There’s plenty more to read about vinegar in The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, and I suggest everyone pick up a copy if possible.
I utilize balsamic, sherry, rice, and red wine vinegars quite often, as they can provide preserves with wildly contrasting flavors. Our onion jam has two kinds of vinegar, and we use apple cider vinegar in a number of our jams. Beyond flavor, it can also play an important role in getting preserves to the proper acidity levels for canning.
A few years back, I decided to stop by the tiny town of Modena, in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, to get some balsamic vinegar from its source…it was not so easy. I asked a man at a hotel, who spoke some English, where I could get “balsamico”, simple enough, right? Wrong, I ran the maze-like streets of this quaint Italian village, store to store, “balsamico?”, no, no one understood my cries! Finally, after about 20 minutes of running around, I arrive at a tiny shop where an older woman works. Luckily, a semi-English-speaking Italian is there to sort of-translate, up to the purchase point. Then, without my knowing it, this 17Euro bottle of high-acidity, barrel-aged balsamic vinegar, crafted here in this tiny town, cork top and all, is clearly, a gift. So, I must wait, for nearly 15minutes, while the kindly shopkeeper nods at me, and ever-so carefully, wraps and ties my box of fine vinegar. At last, I am out the store. But wait, where am I now? I have no idea. I spin, I ask, I run, I pant. At last, a crowd forms around me, and I am pointed in the direction of the “autotreno”, arriving, short of breath, just in time for our trip back to Bologna, where I am staying with a friend….I will never forget you, Modena, and your precious vinegar.
The wonderful "gift" of vinegar.
Oh, and I recently tried to adapt a Kimchi recipe from Canning For A New Generation we will see how it turns out…