Vinegar, also known as acetic acid, is a sour, usually clear and odorless fermented liquid made from alcohol (ethanol), which is widely used as a condiment in cookery. It is also an essential ingredient in the canning and pickling process, an effective remedy for some ailments and a useful solution for cleaning purposes. The term vinegar is coined from the French word ‘vinaigre’ which literally means ‘sour wine’. Vinegar is popular around the globe and almost all cuisines have their special vinegar recipes. Some popular vinegar dishes are pickles, salad dressings, marinades, etc. A very popular French vinegar recipe is Vinaigrette, which is a dressing for salads made using oil and vinegar.
The Origin & Historical Background of Vinegar
Vinegar was accidentally created when a cask of wine was left open and it soured. The benefits of this sour wine were soon discovered and since then vinegar is being used for a large number of purposes. It was and still is commonly used as a condiment and for preservation of foodstuffs. However, it was seldom used in cooking but had many other uses. There are many references in holy books about vinegar being consumed by saints and prophets. It is said that Jesus was offered vinegar minutes before he was crucified, while some say Cleopatra bathed in it and Hippocrates used it for medicinal purposes.
Culinary Uses Of Vinegar
Vinegar has many uses in cooking. It is used as a condiment, an acid in marinades, and an ingredient to make pickles and to preserve vegetables. It is however, very popular as a condiment because of its sourness. Most vinegar recipes will have vinegar to add sourness to the dish. Vinegar helps in reducing the intensity of hotness of a dish or in heightening its flavor. These days vinegar is available in many types and flavors. Depending upon ones taste or recipe requirement vinegars can be chosen.
Types of Vinegar
Depending upon the base ingredient which has been fermented to make vinegar, the vinegar gets its name. Different ingredients produce vinegar with unique flavor, color and smell. Some popular types of vinegar available in the market are:
- Balsamic Vinegar – Vinegar made from white grapes, which is aged for a decade or more before being sold. It is a specialty of Italy and priced high.
- Cider Vinegar – Made from apple must, it is sweet and used diluted due to its sharpness.
- Malt Vinegar – Malt vinegar is made from barley grain, it has a brown color and aged for a few years before being sold.
- Rice Vinegar – As the name suggests, rice vinegar is made from rice and popularly used in Asian cooking. Rice vinegar is available in varieties like dark, light, white, etc.
Popularity of Vinegar in World Cuisine
Vinegar is used in all cuisines, where it plays a different role as an ingredient. The Chinese use vinegar as a condiment for their soups, sauces and gravies. The French use it to dress their salads, and most European and American recipes use vinegar in their meat marinades. Correct Usage of Vinegar in Cooking Vinegar can be added directly to recipes. Too much cooking of a dish after adding the vinegar tends to make it acquire a bitter taste, thus it is advised to added vinegar when the dish is almost cooked. Also, due to its acid content vinegar tends to thin down liquids so one must use vinegar depending upon the required consistency of a dish.
Vinegar Buying & Storing Tips
Vinegar remains intact for a long time. You can store it in a glass bottle, in a cool dry place in your kitchen, for almost a year. Many varieties of vinegar taste better the longer they are aged, so one can be rest assured that vinegar will not go bad for a long time.
Ingredients Similar To Vinegar
In cooking, Vinegar is mostly valued for its acidic properties. Vinegar is a synthetic acidic product; however, certain natural acidic products like lemon juice, tomatoes, orange juice, etc. are at times used in place of vinegar.
Other Uses Of Vinegar
Vinegar is used for cleaning purposes and at times to cure some minor ailments. Vinegar is used by many people as a sanitizer and disinfectant for kitchen counters and utensils. In laundry vinegar is used to remove perspirations stains, keep color intact and prevent lint from sticking to the clothes.