Vinegar is a common ingredient in many recipes. But have you ever wondered what vinegar is and what all the different types of vinegar are made out of?
The dictionary definition of “vinegar” is “sour liquid consisting of dilute and impure acetic acid, obtained by acetous fermentation from wine, cider, beer, ale, or the like: used as a condiment, preservative, etc..”
Vinegar can be made from a variety of ingredients including rice, fruit, wine, champagne, or any material containing sugar. Here’s a look at some of the more popular vinegars available today.
Depending on the type of wine that’s used, that will determine the color of wine vinegar. Red makes red, white makes white. Fine vinegars come from fine wine, and are made in the slow traditional sense in oak barrels. They are matured in the barrels for as short as a few weeks to as long as two years. The best wine vinegars are made in relatively small batches. Wine vinegars are used in salad dressings, marinades and sauces.
White Vinegar (White Distilled Vinegar)
This type of vinegar is probably the most popular and what many immediately think of when the word “vinegar” is mentioned. This type of vinegar is the least expensive and is used for pickling and as an ingredient in many common condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise. It is also used for a variety of household chores.
This type of vinegar is very tasty. The very finest types of balsamic vinegars are made not from wine but from the juice of Trebbiano grapes. Many balsamics ferment in wood barrels for years.
Traditionally, balsamic vinegar originated in Modena, a town in northern Italy. Today it is still grown in Modena but to keep up with demand, it of course is made in other regions where traditional vinegars are produced. Balsamic vinegars are most often used in marinades and salad dressings.
Rice Wine Vinegar
As the name suggest, rice vinegar is created from fermented rice or rice wine. With roots in China and Japan, rice wine vinegar is usually a main ingredient in those types of dishes. Chinese rice vinegars are stronger than those of Japan. Rice wine can range in color from clear through various shades or red or brown. Japanese rice vinegar has a much sweeter taste than its Chinese counterpart.
This type of vinegar is not made from wine but actually from a beer-like brew using malted barley. Good malt vinegar is left to mature for some time before bottling. Used only as a condiment or for pickling, malt vinegar isn’t as popular as the previous four.
Apple cider or apple mash is the main ingredient for this type of cider. Cider vinegar has a very strong flavor and a soft honey color. Most often cider vinegar is used as an ingredient in condiments and for pickling (especially fruits) but may be used in salad dressings.
Cider vinegar is also touted as having some health benefits. Many believe if you drink a teaspoon or two of unfiltered organic cider vinegar, you’ll have overall better health.