THE HISTORY OF VINEGAR

photo by nativefoods.com

       *It is intriguing to think that in today’s computerized, sophisticated world, we’re still using one product that was discovered - quite by chance - more than 10,000 years ago. (The following adapted and/or reproduced from The Vinegar Institute, at www.versatilevinegar.org)

    VINEGAR. Simple, although its manufacture today is anything but. The French say: vin aigre - meaning sour wine. That is its origin, the discovery that wine gone past its time had turned to a wonderful new product. Through the centuries vinegar has been produced from many other materials, including molasses, dates, sorghum, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey. But the principle remains unchanged - fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol and then secondary fermentation to vinegar. You might say wine is to grapes what vinegar is to wine.
    The ancients were quick to discover the remarkable versatility of vinegar. Around 5,000 BC, the Babylonians used it as a preservative and as a condiment, and it was they who began flavoring it with herbs and spices. Roman legionnaires used it as a beverage. Cleopatra demonstrated its solvent property by dissolving precious pearls in it to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal. Hippocrates extolled its medicinal qualities and, indeed, it was probably one of our earliest remedies. The Greeks also reportedly made pickled vegetables or meats using vinegar. Biblical references show how it was much used for its soothing and healing properties. And when Hannibal, a great general, crossed the Alps with an army riding elephants, it was vinegar that helped pave the way. Obstructive boulders were heated and doused with vinegar, which cracked and crumbled the barriers. By about 3000 BC, the making of homemade vinegar was being phased out and, in 2000 BC, vinegar production was largely a commercial industry. During the American Civil War, vinegar was used to treat scurvy, and as recently as World War I, it was being used to treat wounds.

TODAY'S VINEGAR

     The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that any product called “vinegar” contain at least 4% acidity. This requirement ensures the minimum strength of the vinegar sold at the retail level. There are currently no standards of identity for vinegar, however FDA has established “Compliance Policy Guides” that the Agency follows regarding labeling of vinegars, such as cider, wine, malt, sugar, spirit and vinegar blends. Other countries, as in Europe, have regional standards for vinegar produced or sold in the area.      

     SPECIALTY VINEGARS make up a category of vinegar products that are created and/or flavored to provide a special or unusual taste when added to foods. Specialty vinegars are favorites in the gourmet market. Some popular specialty vinegars currently on the market include:
    • Herbal vinegars: Wine or white distilled vinegars are sometimes flavored with the addition of herbs, spices or other seasonings. Popular flavorings are garlic, basil and tarragon - but cinnamon, clove and nutmeg flavored vinegars can be a tasty and aromatic addition to dressings.
    • Fruit vinegars: Fruit or fruit juice can also be infused with wine or white vinegar. Raspberry flavored vinegars, for example, create a sweetened vinegar with a sweet-sour taste.
    * Balsamic Vinegar: Consumers have a variety of very high quality Balsamic Vinegars available for purchase and will be discussed in a category of their own.      

BALSALMIC VINEGAR

photo by aged-balsamic-vinegar.com

    Balsamic Vinegar: Consumers have a variety of high quality Balsamic Vinegars available for purchase and use including:  
    
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena* – Traditional and Commercial (PGI)
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy, is classified in two categories: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (“Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena") AND  Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (“Aceto Balsamico di Modena”). 
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena must be produced within the town of Modena in Italy.  It was granted a protected designation of origin (PDO) by the European Union in 2000 (Council Regulation (EC) No 813/2000, April 17, 2000).  “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” is made from white and sugary Trebbiano grapes grown on the hills around Modena. Custom demands that the grapes are harvested as late as possible to take advantage of the warmth that nature provides there. This traditional vinegar is made from the cooked grape "must" and is aged for a minimum of 12 years or 25 years (denoted by the label claim “extra aged”).  The aging process occurs inside barrels of successively smaller size of different kinds of wood, such as juniper, chesnut, mulberry and oak.  All of the product that is bottled must pass a sensory examination run by a panel of five tasting judges.  The Italian Ministry of Agriculture in 2009 designated Consorzio Tutela ABTM (Consortium for Protection of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) to run controls and to supervise manufacturing, as well as to promote the product at the institutional level. The Consortium has over 300 members. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is only bottled in the distinct bulb-shaped glass bottle of 100 ml (3.4 ounces).  Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is dark brown, but full of warm light.  It is exceptionally sweet and thick, with a rich, complex aroma with light acidity.  It is generally found in specialty stores.
     The production of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is very labor intensive and time consuming.  Therefore, it is very expensive and available in limited quantities. Thus, the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI constitutes a more economical alternative to the traditional product.  Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI is made from grape "must" that is partially fermented and/or boiled/ and/or concentrated by adding a quantity of vinegar aged for at least 10 years and with the addition of at least 10% of vinegar produced from the acidification of wine only. The grape "must" should be produced from the following grape varieties, Lambrusco, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana, and Montuni.
    Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI must follow the customary method of acidification, followed by refining.  Acidification (a slow vinegarization process through natural fermentation) is followed by refining (progressive concentration by aging) in high-quality casks made from different types of wood (e.g., sessil oak, chestnut, oak, mulberry or juniper) and without the addition of any other spices or flavorings. Only caramel may be added at small levels for color stability. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI must be aged for at least 60 days (2 months) up to three years.  Product aged more than 3 years can be labeled as “aged.” Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI can be packaged in a variety of sizes (ranging from 250 ml to 5 liters) and must be in bottles made of glass, wood, ceramic or terracotta and carries the PGI seal.  Some limited exceptions apply. The color of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI is deep brown, but clear and bright.  The fragrance is persistent, delicate and slightly acidic with woody overtones.  The flavor is bitter-sweet but balanced.  It can be found in specialty stores, supermarkets and supercenters. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI obtained a protected geographical indication (PGI) in 2009 (Council Regulation (EC) No 583/2009, July 9, 2009) and must be produced within the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy.
 
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia:
    Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia (“Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia”) is similar to Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Traditional Balsamic vinegar of Reggio Emilia was granted a protected designation of origin (PDO) by the European Union in 2000.   “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia” is made in the same way as the better known variety of Modena, the only differences being the manufacturing area (which is individuated in the province of Reggio Emilia, adjacent to Modena), and the bottle in which it must be compulsorily packaged: in the case of Reggio, it is a small, bell-shaped glass bottle of the same 100ml (3.4 ounces) size.
 
Domestic Balsamic Vinegar Produced in U.S. & North America:
    Balsamic vinegars produced domestically in the United States (U.S.) and North America are made from wine vinegar blended with grape juice or grape "must".  Caramel may be added in small levels for color stability. Some juice may be subjected to an alcoholic and subsequent acetous fermentation and some to concentration or heating.  These products typically have a clean balsamic vinegar flavor and aroma with a sweet and sour taste.  The color is typically dark brown, except for white balsamic vinegars.  In the United States, products are also allowed to be labeled as “Balsamic Vinegar” based on the U.S. labeling laws.  They cannot carry the term “of Modena” on the label nor carry the PGI seal.  Balsamic vinegars produced domestically in the United States and North America can be found in specialty stores, super markets and other retail stores.
  *Balsamic Vinegar not produced in Modena cannot use the term “of Modena” on its label. The protections afforded by the “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” appellation refer to geographical restrictions of grape growing and processing, and provide guidelines for ingredients and production techniques, based on historical practices.
Storage
Balsamic Vinegars have a very long shelf life and can be stored in a closed container indefinitely.  It is suggested to store the product at 4 - 30°C, but refrigeration is not required.  Exposure to air will not harm the product, but may cause “mothering,” which causes the solids to filter out.  Some sedimentation is normal for a product that contains a high level of soluble solids (as with the aged products), but the sedimentation will disappear when the bottle is agitated.
Uses
Uses: Salad dressings, sauces and gravies benefit from the addition of Balsamic Vinegar.  Sprinkle on cooked meats to add flavor and aroma; season salad greens, strawberries, peaches and melons; use as an ingredient in your favorite salad dressing.

VARIOUS OTHER VINEGARS

photo by specialtyfoodsamerica.com

Malt Vinegar
Malt vinegar is an aged and filtered product obtained from the acetous fermentation of distilled infusion of malt and is a good example of vinegar originating from cereals.  Malt is the result of grain softened by steeping in water and allowed to germinate.  Germination causes the natural enzymes in the grain to become active and help digest the starch present in the grain.  The starch is converted into sugars prior to fermentation.  Malt has a distinctive flavor that contributes to the flavor of malt vinegar and brewed beverages such as beer. 
Uses: Malt vinegar is popular for pickling, especially walnut pickles.  It is most famous as the companion to fish and chips.  Any English recipe calling for vinegar typically uses malt vinegar unless otherwise noted.  There are recipes using malt vinegar on the Recipe page.
Raspberry Red Wine Vinegar
Natural raspberry flavor is added to red wine vinegar which is the aged and filtered product obtained from the acetous fermentation of select red wine.  Raspberry Red Wine Vinegar has a characteristic dark red color and a piquant, yet delicate raspberry flavor. 
Uses: Sprinkle raspberry vinegar on fruit salads; use as a marinade or basting sauce for meats; use as an ingredient in your favorite salad dressing, or use by itself on salads or cooked vegetables.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar is made from red wine. Producers allow the red wine to ferment until it turns sour. Once fermentation is complete, the vinegar can be strained or bottled, or is aged. The longer the vinegar ages, the more muted the flavor becomes. Red wine vinegar can be aged up to two years before bottling.  Even after purification and straining, a miniscule amount of sediment will remain at the bottom of the bottle. Red wine vinegar can be used in salad dressings and sauces, pickling, slow food and cooked in reductions to make sauces.
Rice Vinegar
Rice or Rice Wine Vinegar is the aged and filtered product obtained from the acetous fermentation of sugars derived from rice.  Rice vinegar is excellent for flavoring with herbs, spices and fruits due to its mild flavor.  It is light in color and has a clean, delicate flavor.  Widely used in Asian dishes, rice vinegar is popular because it does not significantly alter the appearance of the food.
Uses: Dash over salads, add to a quick stir-fry dish with ginger or liven up vegetables and fruits.
White Wine Vinegar
White Wine Vinegar is the aged and filtered product obtained through the acetous fermentation of a selected blend of white wines.  It is clear and pale gold, almost colorless.  The taste is distinctly acidic, and the aroma reminiscent of the wine from which it comes. 
Uses:  White Wine Vinegar can be used to bring out the sweetness in strawberries and melons, add a twist to spicy salsas and marinades and wake up the flavor of sauces and glazes.  This product is perfect for today’s lighter cooking style -- replace heavy cream or butter with a splash of white wine vinegar to balance flavors without adding fat.  The tart, tangy taste also reduces the need for salt.  See our Recipes page for ideas on how to use white wine vinegar.
Other Specialty Vinegars
Coconut and Cane Vinegars are common in India, the Phillipines and Indonesia with Date Vinegar popular in the Middle East.

THE MANY USES OF VINEGAR OTHER THAN COOKING OR SEASONING

photo by blogs.babycenter.com

10 Alternative Uses for Vinegar
    Vinegar’s uses go well beyond dressing your salad. From a screen-cleaner to a hair conditioner, we’ve selected ten of this versatile ingredient’s thousands of uses. In general, white distilled vinegar is a fantastic all-round household cleanser, effective for killing most mold, bacteria, and germs due to its level of acidity. More tips on this cheap and smart way to avoid using harsh chemicals here. http://www.versatilevinegar.org/usesandtips.html
    1. As a hair conditioner. Mix one part apple cider vinegar with three parts water and use it as the final rinse after you wash and condition your hair for extra shine. You can also replace conditioner with this step. The vinegar smell will go away once your hair is dry.
    2. To clean touch screens and flat screen computer or TV monitors, dampen a microfiber cloth with a 50-50 mix of distilled water and white vinegar and wipe gently. (Thanks to Tiziana Cumbo from the Catanzaro Università Convivium, Italy, for this tip.)
    3. To get rid of lime scale in your kettle, pour in a half-cup of vinegar with water, swish around and leave for an hour or overnight and watch it come right off with a sponge. Rinse kettle well before using again.
    4. Dump half a cup of bicarbonate of soda down a clogged drain followed by a cup of white vinegar. Leave to sit a few minutes then pour hot water down drain.
    5. For streak-less windows, white vinegar in a spray bottle works like a charm. For best results wipe off with crumpled up newspaper.
    6. Make your own facial skin toner by mixing one part apple cider vinegar with three parts filtered water. Keep in a glass bottle, shake, and apply to your face with a cotton pad after cleansing.
    7. Apple-cider vinegar can be happily substituted for aftershave; simply splash full-strength vinegar on face. *
    8. Mix a teaspoon of vinegar with a teaspoon of honey in a glass of water for a sore throat.*
    9. Use white vinegar to get rid of household smells. For example, place a glass of apple cider vinegar in fridge for two days to deodorize.
    10. Remove the glue left by sticky labels by rubbing with vinegar.*
*reproduced from an article on www.slowfood.com, Italy - 13 Jun 13 - Simone Gie

RECIPES USING VINEGAR OF DIFFERENT VARIETIES...

Harvard Beets, Yield: 6 to 8 servings

3/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tsp. Cornstarch
1/3 Cup White distilled vinegar
4 Cups Cooked beets
3 Tbsp. Butter
1/4 Tbsp. Salt
1/8 Tsp. Pepper

Combine sugar and cornstarch. Add vinegar and water and boil for 5 minutes. Add beets and simmer 1/2 hour. Add butter and season with salt and pepper. 

German Cole Slaw,  Yield: 4 cups

1-1/2 Lb. Green cabbage, finely shredded (5 cups)
1 Medium Onion, chopped fine
1 Medium Green pepper, chopped fine
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Cider or white distilled vinegar
1/2 Cup Salad oil
1 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Tsp. Ground black pepper
1/2 Tsp. Celery seed.

In a large bowl, place cabbage, onion and green pepper. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar and oil; bring to boil. Immediately pour over vegetables. Add salt, black pepper and celery seed; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or longer.

Copper Dollars,  Yield: 8 cups

2 Lb. Carrots
1 Large Onion
1 Large Green pepper
1 Cup Sugar
1 Can Condensed tomato soup
3/4 Cup Cider or white distilled vinegar
1/2 Cup Salad oil
1 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tsp. Prepared mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice carrots 1/4-inch thick. Cook carrots in 1-inch boiling water, covered, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and cool. Slice and separate onion into rings. Slice green pepper into 1/4-inch wide strips. In a large bowl, place carrots, onion and green pepper along with remaining ingredients; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or longer. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator.

Sour Cream Italian Dressing, Yield: 1 cup

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Commercial sour cream
2 Tbsp. Milk
1 Tbsp. White distilled vinegar
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 Tsp. Dried whole oregano
1/2 Tsp. Dried whole basil
1/2 Tsp. Honey
1/4 Tsp. Salt
1/8 Tsp. Pepper

Combine all ingredients, stirring well with a wire whisk. Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Bruschetta

1 Crusty loaf of bread
2/3 Cup Olive oil
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. Chopped parsley
8 Oz. Mozzarella cheese, grated
4 Firm tomatoes

Slice bread thickly. Mix garlic with olive oil, keeping 1 oz. aside to brush tomatoes. Grate cheese. Slice tomatoes, brush with the remaining olive oil and grill lightly. Grill bread on both sides and brush with oil/garlic mixture. Roughly chop tomatoes and place on toast. Drizzle with vinegar, sprinkle chopped parsley, then cheese and return to upper racks of grill until cheese melts.

Roast Salmon with Balsamic Glaze, Serves 8 to 10

5 Lb. Whole salmon, center bone removed
1 Tbsp. Lemon rind, grated
2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh thyme, chopped
3 Tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 Cup Balsamic vinegar
1 Tsp. Granulated sugar
1/4 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Red wine

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place salmon in baking dish. Chop together lemon rind, garlic and thyme. Brush oil over salmon and inside cavity. Rub herb mixture over salmon. (Prepare up to 24 hours ahead of time.) Roast 40 minutes or until white juices appear on top. Meanwhile, combine balsamic vinegar, wine and sugar in a skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce until syrupy. Turn heat to low and whisk in butter. Remove skin and slice salmon. Serve with sauce.

Stawberries Balsamico

Place whole or sectioned large, washed strawberries in a bowl. Season with 2 or 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Allow to stand for 15 minutes. Add sugar to taste. Mix well and serve.

Dutch Spinach Salad, Yield: 4 to 6 portions

6 Cups Fresh spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 Cup Chopped onion
4 Slices Bacon, diced
1/4 Cup Wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tsp. Salt
1/4 Tsp. Ground black pepper

Place spinach and onion in a large serving bowl; set aside. In a skillet, sauté bacon until crisp; remove from heat. Stir in vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Slowly pour hot dressing over spinach and onion; toss and serve at once.

Ginger-Wine Baste,  Yield: 1-2/3 cups

1 Cup California Rosé
1/4 Cup Honey
3 Tbsp. Wine vinegar
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Oil
1/2 Tsp. Powdered ginger
1/2 Tsp. Garlic salt
1/8 Tsp. Pepper

Measure all ingredients into a pint jar. Cover tightly and shake until thoroughly blended. Use to baste lamb, chicken or other meat or poultry during grilling or roasting.

The Ultimate Asparagus, Serves 4 to 6

Trim 2 Lb. asparagus by bending tough ends until they snap off. Rinse well to remove any dirt. Cook asparagus in a large wide saucepan in gently boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender, but not limp. Or tie bundles of about 8 spears together and stand, tips up, in a tall pot with an inch or so of boiling water; steam, covered, for about 10 minutes. Serve hot with Light White Butter Sauce or rinse under cold water and serve cold with a vinaigrette.

Light White Butter Sauce,  Yield: 1/2 cup

1 Tsp. Shallots, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. White wine vinegar
1/3 Cup Light sour cream
2 Tbsp. Butter

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook shallots and wine vinegar until vinegar has evaporated. Reduce heat to low; stir in sour cream until blended. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in small pieces of butter. Serve warm. Can be refrigerated up to 1 day. Reheat gently. 

Dutch Spinach Salad,  Yield: 4 to 6 portions

6 Cups Fresh spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 Cup Chopped onion
4 Slices Bacon, diced
1/4 Cup Wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tsp. Salt
1/4 Tsp. Ground black pepper

Place spinach and onion in a large serving bowl; set aside. In a skillet, sauté bacon until crisp; remove from heat. Stir in vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Slowly pour hot dressing over spinach and onion; toss and serve at once.

Recipe: Balsamic Vinegar Chicken Thighs

(from the cookbook in the photo on the top right)

2 lbs. skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
cooking spray

Spray large frying pan, preheat. Rinse and pat dry thighs. Season with salt and pepper. Brown well on all sides. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for approximately 25 minutes, or until thighs are done depending on size.

Add shallots, cook for 2-3 minutes,until they soften. Stir in balsamic vinegar, cook for about 1 more minute, turn chicken to coat thoroughly.

Spoon sauce over thighs to serve. --Balsamic Vinegar recipe by mickie49