Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Types of Vinegars

posted in Pantry by Kathy Maister

Sometimes that first bite of a perfect-looking salad just makes your mouth pucker. Oops! Someone added a bit too much vinegar to the dressing! The word vinegar is derived from the French words “vin aigre” which means “sour wine”. There are tons to choose from, with all different flavors, at all different price points. So where to begin?

When I was growing up there were always three vinegars in the cupboard: red wine vinegar, white vinegar, and cider vinegar.

These three vinegars, along with two more – balsamic vinegar and rice wine vinegar – are pretty standard in this day and age.

The names of the vinegars give you an idea of what they are made of. There are no regulations saying that all brands are made the same. You may have to try a few different brands to find the one you like.

The red wine vinegar, literally made from red wine, is great for salad dressings.

The cider vinegar has a milder, fruitier flavor and works well with apples (of course!) and tomatoes. It is often used for chutneys, pickling, and in vinaigrettes

The white distilled vinegar (made from a grain-alcohol mixture) has a very harsh taste and is often used for cleaning. Click here for literally 175 different uses of white vinegar, none of which involve food! That’s why you often find white wine vinegar sold in half gallon jugs!

Balsamic vinegars are the Rolls Royce of vinegars. These Italian vinegars vary considerably in taste and price points. Authentic balsamic vinegars are aged in wooden barrels and develop a sweet flavor and thick consistency. They are used on salads, meats, fish, vegetables, and fruit. You can drizzle balsamic vinegar right on a salad without mixing it with oil. Again, not all balsamic vinegars taste the same so you may have to do some taste testing to find the one you like best.

Rice vinegar, made from fermented rice, is used a lot in Asian cooking. Within this category there are many choices including dark, light, sweet or pungent. Be sure to check your recipe to make sure you are using the right one!

Yet One More Kind

As many of you know, my husband is from London, so malt vinegar is standard in our home as well! Malt vinegar is the one that is drizzled over fish and chips in the UK. David loves it, I prefer tartar sauce/ketchup!

There are of course many more vinegars to choose from like: fruit (raspberry, blueberry, etc.) vinegars, champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, and herb infused vinegar. But that’s another day! Cheers!

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1 Comment

will said:

I’m a huge fan of the balsamic vinegar. It’s funny, I never knew it existed until maybe the beginning of the 1990s.

A chef once told me that to make cheap balsamic vinegar taste more expensive, you can pour it into a pot and boil it down about 1/2 or more to desired thickness. It gets stronger but also kindof caramelized.

Once in a while I’ll buy the expensive kind… for a treat.

My favorite salad for balsamic vinegar is boston or baby spinach.

for raspberry wine vinegar, I love endives ! a wonderful salad vegetable if you like ‘em bitter.