Home Articles The Ultimate Guide to Vinegars and their Uses

The Ultimate Guide to Vinegars and their Uses

by Helene
Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegar is one of the best pantry items you can ever have. Growing up, I encountered so many kinds of vinegar in our household because of my mother. She loved collecting different kinds of vinegar and I never really knew why until I started cooking and cleaning my own house.

As a kind, I know that some vinegar were good for certain kinds of food.

  • Balsamic vinegar is good with Fabada beans.
  • White wine vinegar is good for dressings.
  • Rice wine vinegar is good with Chinese food.

My knowledge of vinegar was limited to that until I went to cooking school.

In cooking school, they taught us several dishes that required vinegar and most of them didn’t really have the vinegar flavor stand out. Most of it was for technique.

Now that I’m past school and in my own house, I’m learning that vinegar is great for cleaning.

Again, vinegar is one of the best pantry items you can ever have.

How is vinegar made?

Technically, vinegar is an alcoholic liquid that got sour over time.  Vinegar is used to make food taste great, preserve food and clean home! In better terms, vinegar is a liquid that is produced through fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria.

Vinegar starts from alcohol. The alcohol could be from grains, fruits or other plants. The presence of yeast during alcohol fermentation changes the sugars present in the host and turns it into alcohol. This liquid alcohol is now ready for acid fermentation. Acid fermentation is aided with a specific kind of bacteria, Acetobacter, turns the liquid into acid.

Can you make vinegar out of anything?

By anything, we mean any kind of fruit, plant, grain or crop. It is possible to make vinegar out of these. Some fruits will naturally produce their own acidic liquid that will turn into vinegar. Some won’t.

When those fruits, plants or other grains or crops don’t, you can simply follow the steps of making white distilled vinegar and adding those ingredients for added flavor. That is the magic of vinegar. You can add anything you fancy into it.

How to tell if your vinegar is good?

There are several ways to test if your vinegar is good.

You can first check the pH level of your vinegar using a pH strip. The color that will come out will indicate how strong the vinegar is. White vinegar usually has higher pH value which is 5%. Keep in mind that the lower the pH level, the more acidic the vinegar is.

You can also check the strength of your vinegar but in order to do so, you’ll need a special kind of equipment.  Acid test kits are available in alcohol supply shops, specifically beer and wine supply shops. For your vinegar to make the “vinegar” cut, the acetic level of your vinegar must be 4%.

Health benefits of vinegar

Vinegar is an antimicrobial agent. Vinegar could be used for treating physical conditions like ear infections and warts. Its antimicrobial feature also makes it a good topical solution for burns and skin infections.

It’s good for blood sugar control. Ingesting vinegar can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels.

Some people also take in vinegar for weight loss. Ingesting vinegar is said to increase the feeling of being full and lessen your food intake. This also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which therefore helps with proper digestion.

Different types of vinegar

White Wine Vinegar

White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar is basically vinegar made from white wine. It’s great for pickling and marinating meats. It’s also the type of vinegar used for the classic French sauces, which are Hollandaise and Béarnaise.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is apple juice that was introduced to yeast and eventually turned into vinegar. Being that apples are generally healthy, they also promote very good healthy benefits. Apple cider is good to take alone for your health buffs or also perfectly amazing for stews. Yes, stews!

Modena Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is deep colored vinegar made from unfermented grape juice.  Balsamic vinegar originated in Modena. The vinegar is stored in wooden barrels and left to age until it develops that deep, bold and distinct taste of balsamic.

This kind of vinegar is so special that the more aged it is, the thicker the consistency, bolder the flavor and more expensive it is. Balsamic vinegar can cost up to 200 Euros a bottle. This kind of vinegar is great to eat with cheese, turn into vinaigrette or used as a condiment for anything.

Rice Vinegar

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar, also known as rice wine vinegar is vinegar from fermented rice. This is usually used in Asian cuisine to give the dishes that acidic kick. It’s a great neutralizer for the savory Asian flavors. Rice vinegar is also used to preserve fruits and vegetables. It is generally milder than most vinegar with a subtle sweet taste.

Brown Rice Vinegar

Brown Rice Vinegar

Brown rice vinegar is made from unpolished brown rice. Just like brown rice, brown rice vinegar is more packed with nutrients compared to white rice vinegar. These could also be used in Asian cooking for preserving fruits and vegetables.

Malt Vinegar

Malt Vinegar

Malt Vinegar is vinegar made from malting barley. It is not as strong as distilled white vinegar and it is sweeter in flavor. The British like to use this vinegar for their fish and chips!

Red Wine Vinegar

Red Wine Vinegar

Red wine vinegar is basically made from red wine. Just like white wine, it could be used for pickling, marinating, adding to dressings and other sauces. Take note of the difference that red wine is naturally red in color and bolder in flavor.

Sherry Vinegar

Sherry Vinegar

Sherry vinegar is a wine vinegar from Spain. Unlike balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar, it is lighter in color, a little sweet and harder to find in the market. It’s good for cooking with meats.

Tarragon Vinegar

Tarragon Vinegar

Tarragon vinegar is basically tarragon in white vinegar. Herbs are often added to neutral vinegars for flavoring. Tarragon is an aromatic herb that’s great for teas and yes, vinegar. It’s good to add as a condiment in salads and even desserts.

Coconut Vinegar

Coconut vinegar is made from the coconut sap. It is a favorite vinegar condiment in Southeast Asia and India. It has a distinct strong flavor but not as overpowering as white vinegar. Spices are usually mixed with coconut vinegar to make a strong condiment called Sinamak. Gingers, chilies and garlic are steeped in the vinegar.

This is great with fried, savory food.

Champagne Vinegar

Champagne vinegar is made from white grapes like Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes. Like white vine vinegar, they’re subtler in flavor. If you’re feeling fancy, use the champagne vinegar to flavor risottos or as a mild dressing.

Tomato Vinegar

Is made just like any other vinegar. The tomato juice is introduced to yeast and then aged until you get the right flavor. Tomato is generally a sour fruit so you can expect what tomato vinegar would taste like. Tomato vinegar is such a delight to add to salads because its fresh notes. It is definitely good in salads, pizzas and pastas.

Chinese Black Vinegar

Chinese vinegar is made from fermented black glutinous rice or regular glutinous rice. Chinese black vinegar is found mostly in authentic Chinese recipes. It has a full body flavor and very malty. It is great for eating with dumpling, braised meet and noodles.

Chinese Red Vinegar

Chinese red vinegar is made from red rice, barley and sorghum. It is milder than Chinese black vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar and Balsamic. It has a sweet flavor and it mostly used in cooking meats and seafood in Chinese cuisine.

Pomegranate Vinegar

Pomegranate vinegar is an old vinegar that the Middle East has been using for centuries. It is packed with nutrients, which makes it a great kind of vinegar to aid health benefits. You can use it to cook soups, make a drinks, marinade meat, create a barbecue sauce, a dip and for pickling. Some countries use pomegranate vinegar in desserts as well.

Cranberry Vinegar

Cranberry vinegar is basically cranberry flavored vinegar. Cranberries are simmered with vinegar with some sugar and spices. Cranberry vinegar is a great gift during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Choosing the right vinegar for different types of dressings

There are plenty kinds of vinegars as you know by now but only some are great for dressings. Dressings are special. They are ready to eat and technically, not all kinds will go well in ready to eat food.

For dressings, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and other flavored vinegars would be ideal. If you were following the classic kind of cooking and taste palette, these vinegars would be your best bet. If not, leave it to your imagination. Any kind of vinegar could work if you mix things right.

Remember also that the vinegar isn’t only the factor to watch out for when making dressing. Each kind of vinegar goes well with a different kind of oil/fat.

Can I substitute vinegar for something else?

Vinegar although common, is a special kind of acid. However, there are other kind of acidic ingredients you can use to substitute vinegar for.

Citrus fruits are a good substitute for vinegar if you’re looking for the sour factor in cooking. Wine could also be a good substitute for vinegar given that balsamic vinegar did come from wine in the first place.

However, the best substitute for vinegar would be kombucha. It could do the work for both cooking, health reasons and cleaning.

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