Ingredient Spotlight on Vinegar

Hello! Welcome to Djalali Cooks. Today I am sharing my love for vinegar. You don’t need all the fancy flavored vinegars to enjoy what vinegar brings to a recipe. But there are at least a few types you should keep on hand for anything from salad dressings and marinades, to brightening up a recipe like tomato sauce, or chili. Please enjoy this Ingredient Spotlight on Vinegar.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar is made from pressed grapes. The juice is cooked to create caramelization and then the reduction is aged in wooden barrels. The length of aging determines the quality and complex flavor profiles of balsamic. Generally, the longer a balsamic is aged, the more expensive it is. I usually have a lower-priced balsamic (such as Colavita) on hand for giving body to a tomato sauce, or to make a salad dressing. While I reserve a higher-priced balsamic (such as Giuseppe Giusti) for drizzling on cheese, fruit or ice cream. It’s also nice to have a more robust balsamic for dipping good crusty bread.

There is a such thing as white balsamic (such as O Olive Oil California White Balsamic) and its flavor is more floral and fruity. This is because white balsamic is not caramelized and it is aged in stainless steel barrels, instead of wooden barrels. I like to add a little white balsamic vinegar to cooked greens, like collards or kale. It freshens up the flavors and cuts the bitterness of the greens with its light sweetness.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a great all-purpose vinegar. It has a very mild flavor and works perfectly for a variety or recipes. It’s great in marinades and salad dressings. I use it a lot for quick-pickling vegetables. And we use it diluted with water in a spray bottle for spritzing meats while they’re on the smoker. Apple cider vinegar is made by processing and fermenting apple pulp. It is known to have a variety of health benefits too; including weight-loss, lowering blood sugar and reducing cholesterol. Bragg is my favorite brand of apple cider vinegar. Small Size; Large Size.

Wine Vinegars

Red Wine and White Wine vinegars fall into this category. There is also Champagne vinegar (such as O California), which is a lighter version of a white wine vinegar. Red wine vinegar (such as Pompeian) is often called for in Italian dressing recipes. All of the wine vinegars are versatile and fit in well for dressings and marinades. When I want to punch up a recipe without adding the sweetness of balsamic, I will reach for a wine vinegar. This includes adding a splash to soup or a hearty chili, just for a little bit of brightness. White wine vinegar (such as Pompeian) is great for when you want a lighter touch.

You can find wine vinegars flavored with other fruits to make interesting flavor combinations that are fun to experiment with. I do this all the time; when a recipe calls for a wine vinegar, I will often substitute with a flavored one, just so see what happens. I haven’t been disappointed yet! A couple of my favorites are O California: Citrus Champagne Vinegar and Orange Blossom.

I would put Rice Vinegar (such as Marukan) in this category too because it is fermented rice wine. It’s often called for in all kinds of Asian recipes. It has a very mild, less acidic, sweet flavor. In addition to using it in Asian recipes, I like to add a splash of rice vinegar to steamed or sautéd bok choy. It’s also the base for a dumpling dipping sauce I always have on hand in the fridge.

Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled White Vinegar is my least favorite, but I always have a bottle on hand because it has a variety of uses, both in recipes and it’s a great natural cleaning product. It’s made from grain alcohol, and as you’d expect from its provenance, the flavor is very strong and harsh. White vinegar (such as Spectrum Organics) is often called for in baking recipes. When it interacts with baking soda, carbon dioxide is formed, giving baked goods natural lift. It also helps stabilize meringues and you can use it to make buttermilk, in a pinch.

I Heart Vinegar!

I hope this Ingredient Spotlight on Vinegar sheds some light on the variety of common vinegars. There are so many out there to choose from that it can feel overwhelming. Just remember that in addition to salad dressings, marinades and quick pickles, vinegar is a great way to brighten up a dish, much like adding lemon, a little acid helps balance a dish. If you have accidentally over-salted a dish, add a splash of vinegar – the acid will help to tone down the salt. If you’re interested in Ingredient Spotlights, there’s more to come! But until then, you can check out some of my helpful kitchen organization tips and tricks under the Kitchen Tab on the blog. Take care and be well everyone! xo Kelly

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  • Mari
    July 28, 2021 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for this post. It was very helpful. I’ve been cooking forever, and I find out something new every day. My favorite vinegar is apple cider, and then balsamic. Those are the ones I find the most useful. The wine vinegars always look sad, becauseI buy them for a particular recipe and then almost never use them again. You should write a cookbook. You know so much and have such great recipes. I would also love to see you with your own cooking show. Your video with the pizza oven would be a great audition tape to shop around. I want your autograph when this happens!

    • Kelly Djalali
      July 28, 2021 at 10:11 am

      Lol! Mari, you are too kind! Apple Cider Vinegar is definitely the one I use the most. So much so, I buy the big jug of it! It’s just so versatile. I also like to put a couple teaspoons in my water bottle when I am feeling like I need a pick me up. …I am really excited to put some more videos together. More to come on that front. Thanks so much Mari, I really appreciate all your wonderful support! xo Kelly

  • Terry
    July 28, 2021 at 10:26 am

    I totally agree with Mari, I really liked this spotlight as well. My favorite is red / white wine then balsamic, I do like apple cider in my water. This was great ❤️Mom

    • Kelly Djalali
      July 28, 2021 at 10:27 am

      Thanks Mom! I find that I am using Red Wine Vinegar more often lately. Especially for dressings for salad and sandwiches. Glad you liked this Ingredient Spotlight! xo Kelly

  • Sylvia Espinoza
    July 28, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Wonderful post! Aren’t they all? Learned lots today. My favorite balsamic vinegar brand is Alessi. Like you, Braggs is my favorite apple cider vinegar brand. Thanks for the reminder of its particular health benefits! I use copious amounts of white vinegar, one cup at a time, in the final rinse of our laundry. Thanks to a tip from Beth, my dark clothing shades remain as beautiful as ever! White vinegar really does remove detergent residue, so colors and whites benefit, too. Great subject today. Also…Ditto Mari’s comment! 🙂 Hugs! ~

    • Kelly Djalali
      July 28, 2021 at 11:58 am

      Hi Sylvia! Yes, white vinegar has so many amazing uses. It is really good at removing residues and coatings from supermarket veggies and fruits too. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a note today; I love when y’all offer up your advice, tips and tricks related to a given topic – it’s such a fun discussion! Have a great week, xo Kelly

  • Mary
    July 28, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    Great information. I don’t usually cook much with vinegar so this is helpful. May try adding a dash to chili and soups next time. Thanks!

    • Kelly Djalali
      July 28, 2021 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Mary, Thanks for dropping a line today. Definitely give vinegar a try in your next soup or chili. A little dash of balsamic to chili is really good! Have a great day! xo Kelly