The word vinegar is derived from the French word "Vin" which means wine and the word "aigre" which means sour. Vinegar was originally made of wine, just as it is indicated by its name long time ago. It is known that the vinegar was used in Babylon 5,000 BC, the Holy Bible mentions it and Hypocrites used it as a health remedy. In France, during the XVI century, vinegar was made of grapes for household use and for exports. In England, vinegar was made primarily of malt, using sour beer. For this reason, vinegar was known as "alegar". Although the name vinegar has been since then widely accepted, the malt vinegar is very common in the British Islands. It is not known with certainty when Americans started making vinegar, it most definitely appeared early as a household product. In the United States, apple juice is widely used for this purpose, although the vinegar could be obtained from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables..
HOW IS VINEGAR PRODUCED?
Essentially, the vinegar is a diluted solution of acetic acid made through fermentation. The nature and the precise amount used mainly depends on the type of ingredients used, which gives the product a particular flavor. Sugars are essential in the production of vinegar. Any diluted solution made of fermented sugar could be transformed into vinegar as long as the appropriate environment is present. A lot of fruit juices could be used to do this if they contain an adequate proportion of sugar and other necessary ingredients.
Vinegar can be made of two bio-chemical procedures that result in the creation of micro-organisms. The first one is made through the fermentation process that transforms the sugar into alcohol and the gas into carbon dioxide. This is the alcoholic fermentation process. The second process results when a wide variety of acetic bacterias are used. These so called acetobacters are capable of combining oxygen and alcohol. This is more commonly known as the acetic fermentation or acetification.
The vinegar could be used in various ways. There are more than 300 usage applications. People tend to think that they can only use the vinegar in the kitchen, mainly as a salad dressing. However, there are more vinegar uses, anywhere from being a food enhancer or condiment, to meat tenderiser, natural food preservative, as a home remedy, and also a household and industrial cleaner. In conclusion, vinegar could be used whenever a natural acidic product is needed.
NOT ONLY AS A SALAD DRESSING
Just like the citrics, vinegar is an excellent ingredient for marinades because it is a natural tenderiser (it breaks up the fibres and proteins in the meats). For example, vinegar is widely used as a flank steak tenderiser. Only a note of caution – it is recommended to combine vinegar with vegetable or olive oil when used as a tenderiser because it will cook the meat if used to marinade by itself.
VINEGAR ALSO ENHANCES FLAVOR
It could be added to the sauce that will be used to cook. When food is made, the water evaporates leaving the delicious aroma and flavor of the vinegar. For seafood, it is better to add a touch of vinegar when seafood is already cooked to enhance its flavor.
VINEGAR AS A NATURAL FOOD PRESERVATIVE
Mayonnaise, hot sauce, mustard, ketchup, tomato sauce and spreads are most commonly preserved with vinegar. Vinegar is widely used by the food industry because of its capability to reduce the pH of the foods to avoid the growth of bacterias. Its flavor also helps improve the taste of what is being preserved.
VINEGARS AS AN ANTI-BACTERIAL PRODUCT
In both households and industries, the vinegar is used to eliminate bacterias that could be harmful to people´s health. It avoids the growth of fungus, it disinfects food processing equipment, and neutralizes the unpleasant smell of certain foods.
VINEGAR & TEXTILES
In the textile industry, the vinegar is used to fix colors in fabrics. It is also used as a stain remover in certain articles.
VINEGAR IN PERSONAL HYGIENE
In the United States, pharmaceutical companies use a large percentage of the distilled vinegar produced to make feminine hygiene products.
Because Vinegar cuts grease, it is also used to clean a vast variety of materials. The chemical industry uses it as a component for window cleaners.
POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES ASSOCIATED WITH VINEGARS
• Sodium free
• Fat free
• Avoids the bacterial contamination of food
• No calories
• Healthy and natural preservative of foods
• Enhances the taste of foods, sauces and spreads
• Useful cleaning ingredient of many materials
• Household remedy
• Neutralises bad smells
TYPES OF VINEGARS
Depending on the intended use, there are several types of vinegars. The most common one is the distilled white vinegar. Many types of vinegars can also be made of fruit juices, wine, rice alcohol, grains, corn, sugar cane, bananas, etc.
Generally, vinegar is produced in regions where other raw materials are made. Grain and apple cider vinegars are most commonly used in the United States, while in Latin America, the vinegar distilled from the sugar cane alcohol is predominant. In Japan and other Asiatic countries, the rice vinegar tops the list, while the Europeans are most likely to use wine vinegar.
Different types of vinegars are produced depending on the materials and manufacturing practices used:
White Distilled Vinegar
The distilled white vinegar is most commonly used in households, food industries, and pharmaceutical companies. It is produced through the acetic fermentation of diluted distilled alcohol. The distilled alcohol is derived from different sources like sugar cane, corn grains, molasses, etc.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This vinegar is produced through the alcoholic fermentation and subsequent apple juice acetification. This is probably the second most commonly used vinegar, mainly because its delicate and exquisite taste.
This is made of several fruits through alcoholic fermentation and subsequent acetification. Although the apple juice is the most commonly used to make vinegar in the United States and other countries, there are several other fruit juices that also produce vinegar like the banana, oranges, pineapples, blueberries, etc. Any fruit or vegetable that contains a lot of sugar could be used for this purpose.
This vinegar is produced through the alcoholic fermentation and subsequent grape juice acetification. This type of vinegar is most commonly used in Europe, specifically France and Italy. Its name and characteristics vary depending on the region where it is produced (Spain: Sherry Vinegar; Italy: Balsamic Vinegar; France: Red Wine Vinegar).
The malt vinegar is produced through the alcoholic fermentation and subsequent acetification without distillation. It is basically made of a barley malt infusion or other cereals where the starches become maltose.
OTHER TYPES OF VINEGARS
Sugar, Cane or Sugar Cane Vinegars
The sugar vinegars are made through the alcoholic and acetic fermentation of sugary solutions, syrups or molasses.
Grain Sugar Vinegars
These are made through the alcoholic and acetic fermentation of sugar and a corn starch solution or a glucose prepared of corn grains.
Is made through the alcoholic and acetic fermentation of sugars derived from rice or concentrated rice without being distilled. The Rice Vinegar is most commonly used in Asia where rice crops are abundant.
THE COLOR OF VINEGARS
You can find a wide variety of vinegars in different colors, from the transparent distilled white vinegar to red wine vinegars to the yellowish apple cider vinegars and brownish malt vinegars. The color of the vinegars is basically derived from the ingredients used to produce it. It is also expected that the vinegar´s color will vary within the same type of vinegar, for example, the natural coloring of the apple will differ from one harvest to the next, as well as the types of apples used.
WHAT IS THE VINEGAR´S SHELF-LIFE?
The American Vinegar Institute has conducted research studies that demonstrate that vinegar is a non-perishable product. Because it is acidic in nature, the vinegar preserves itself and does not need refrigeration. The white vinegar suffers virtually no changes during many years. Red wine vinegars may somewhat change its color and present some sediment, but these changes are only considered aesthetic and for no reason affects its consumption.
In some cases, after opening, a gelatin mass known as the "mother of the vinegar" is formed. The "mother of the vinegar" does not imply that the product has gotten damaged and that it cannot be consumed. This mass could be removed and the vinegar can continue to be used without problems. The "mother of the vinegar" only appears in those vinegars that are naturally processed.
In certain instances, the production of vinegar has been affected by the abuse in the use of synthetic acetic acid derived from petroleum. This is forbidden by the food administration agencies of almost all countries. It is still very common to find the synthetic acetic acid for sale in several countries because of its low cost of production. In the long run, it´s been proven that this contains residues that are harmful to humans health.
Thanks to the consumer information agencies and other regulatory agencies like the FDA in the United States, the practice of adulterating the naturally processed vinegar with synthetic acetic acid has almost been eliminated.
Panama leads all Central American countries in terms of eliminating the illegal adulteration of the vinegar thanks to the regulations that forbid the use of synthetic acetic acid in the food industry. Panama´s largest vinegar production plant, Productos Lux, S.A., supplies almost the whole entire country with natural vinegar distilled with sugar cane alcohol, which is widely known for its excellent quality and also recognized by the major international food companies.
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