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Versatile Vinegar

27 February, 2010

Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on February 27, 2010.

Used for over thousands of years as a food preservative, as a condiment and for its therapeutic properties, vinegar is basically a wine that turns sour on coming into contact with air (the word derives from the French vin-aigre, meaning sour wine). In the olden days, every family that had access to leftover alcohol (wine in most cases), could make its own vinegar at home in a container reserved for this purpose.

It is only in 1864 that Louis Pasteur solved the mystery of vinegar when he discovered that a bacterium carried by dust in the air was responsible for its creation: when alcohol is exposed to oxygen-rich air, it gets transformed or fermented into acid. As the process continues, bacteria develop on the surface to form a thin whitish scum, called “mother of vinegar”, till the entire alcohol is transformed into vinegar.

From a nutritional point of view, vinegar is a good source of antioxidants. Recent studies have shown that consumption of vinegar at mealtimes regulates blood sugar, among other things.

When choosing vinegar, simply let your taste buds guide you, depending on the type of usage you have in mind: Wine vinegars, red or white, natural or flavoured, are ideal for vinaigrettes and sauces. Cider and rice vinegar are sweeter and they go very well with Asian dishes. Pure white vinegar, which is sold by the gallon, is reserved for pickling and… cleaning purposes.

As for balsamic vinegar, I’ll tell you about it next time.

Try our Classic Vinaigrette recipe

classic vinaigrette

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Cinzia Cuneo

Cinzia Cuneo, founder of SOSCuisine.com, never wanted to neglect the quality of her food. She shares her special expertise to make good food quickly and without complications!

Cinzia Cuneo

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2 Responses to “Versatile Vinegar”

February 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm, Gillian said:

There was an excellent newspaper article probably in The Ottawa Citizen, a few years ago on making your own vinegar. Unfortunately I didn’t keep it. Have you ever made it?

Cinzia Cuneo

March 07, 2010 at 12:29 pm, Cinzia said:

Hi Gillian.

I never made my own vinegar, but I have very clear memories of my Grandma making her own. She used to put a slab of “mother” in a glass jug, then she would pour wine into the jug. She kept the jug in a dark room, covered most of the time, but she opened it for about a half hour every day. In a couple of weeks the “mother” settled to the bottom of the jug, while the vinegar above it was ready for use. I believe you could do something similar adding a cup of vinegar to the wine (if you do not have the “mother”).

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