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 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.
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