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Vinegar 101

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Vinegar 101

A liquid is obtained from the action of bacteria that transforms an alcoholic liquid into a solution containing 4%-12% acetic acid. All foods that can produce an alcoholic fermentation can be used to make vinegar (wine, ethyl alcohol, cider, sugar cane, malt, dates, oranges, bananas, rice, coconut milk, for example). Wine and cider are the best base ingredients for making vinegar.

 

Traditional Method or “Orleans method”:

Vinegar is produced in oak barrels. The wine can ferment for several weeks, after which vinegar is obtained. It is unpasteurized and keeps all of its flavor and color.

Industrial Method:

The liquid is stirred with beech shavings in vast metal vats. The resulting vinegar has no bouquet. Another procedure consists of stirring the wine or alcohol continuously while air is pumped into the liquid at the same time. This produces a clarified vinegar that has lost much of its bouquet.

Balsamic Vinegar:

This is highly renowned vinegar; the variety from Modena has the best reputation. A sweet white grape (Trebbiano) is used in its fabrication. Usually sold when it has been aged for 4-5 years, it is possible to find some that have been aged 10-40 years, resulting in indescribable fineness and flavor.  Balsamic vinegar is a dark brown color, with a fluid, slightly syrupy consistency, low acidity and a characteristic flavor.

 

STORING VINEGAR

At Room Temperature: indefinitely.

In The Fridge: homemade vinegar. It is still edible even if it becomes cloudy and a slime (“mother of vinegar”) forms; it can be filtered out or left in.

 

PREPARING VINEGAR

Homemade Vinegar: To make one’s own vinegar, pour the chosen liquid into a wooden, glass, or stoneware container and leave at room temperature. One can begin with a mixture of unpasteurized vinegar and alcohol (white or red wine, cider, etc.), (3 cups of wine and ¾ cup vinegar), but this method takes a long time (3-4 months). It can be shortened 1-2 months if one uses a mother of vinegar mixture. In this case, over the container with a double thickness of a straining cloth (like muslin) to allow air to pass through and let it rest is a warm place; it is important to avoid moving the container. When the wine has become vinegar, filter and bottle.

If you wish to keep the mother of vinegar for later use, keep it in a small amount of vinegar. When the mother of vinegar becomes too large, remove a portion that can be used to make another vinegar.

Herbs can be added to taste to a sterilized container in which previously heated vinegar can be poured. Let rest for 2 weeks, shaking occasionally; filter by pouring into a new sterilized bottle and keep it in a cool place, away from light.

 

FLAVORED VINEGARS (Easy way):

  1. Place herb sprigs in a pot containing white wine vinegar, heat gently then let infuse off the heat for 30 minutes.
  2. Pour the flavored vinegar into a jug, taking care not too mix the herbs.
  3. Fill a sterilized bottle with flavored vinegar, then add a fresh herb sprig.
  4. In this way, one can make vinegars flavored with thyme, tarragon, etc.

 

SERVING IDEAS FOR VINEGAR

Vinegar is used as a condiment, seasoning vinaigrettes, mayonnaises, and mustards. Its acidifying action prevents the oxidation of fruits and vegetables, slows  down the action of enzymes that destroy vitamin C, extends the storage of foods by maceration,  pickling and preserving, and gives food a sweet-and-sour flavor,

It is used for meat, chicken, and game marinades and for dried beans (add vinegar at the end of cooking for legumes). It is useful for deglazing. Added to the poaching water of eggs, it helps coagulate the white.

Most vinegars can be used in place of each other.

White vinegar, which is less perfumed, is ideal in pickles and other preserves.

Cider and malt vinegars are used in dark and spicy pickles and chutneys. Cider vinegar gives a slight apple taste to foods. Cider and white wine vinegars are excellent with fish, crustaceans and shellfish, fruits and fine sauces (hollandaise and béarnaise).

Red wine vinegar adds piquancy and enhances the taste of slightly bland foods (calf liver and red meat dishes).

Chinese or Japanese rice vinegar is generally mild and is used to flavor crudités, soups and sweet-and-sour sauces.

High-quality balsamic vinegar shouldn’t be boiled, although less expensive balsamic can be boiled and reduced to a thicker consistency such as a syrup; the flavor mellows. For cooked dishes, high-quality balsamic is added a little before the end of cooking. It can be added to grilled meats and sauces before serving. It is used on salads (in place of or combined with red wine vinegar), or to flavor beef fillet, foie gras, fish, lobster and mussels. Cut strawberries can be sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and left to macerate for a few minutes.

 

**Macerate: this is similar to marinating; but you are using fruit. Depending on the fruit; it could take minutes up to hours for this procedure to complete itself.  It adds delicious layers of flavors to fresh fruits, as the liquid not only melds into the fruits; getting into every pore, but it envelopes it as well. When you have a piece of fruit; such as strawberries and there is a part that is riper than the other; this process is amazing! It adds different levels of flavor to that strawberry, in some cases; you may get sweet, tangy, zesty all in the same bite!

 

  

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