Thursday, April 8, 2010

For the Love of Vinegar

When stocking your pantry with vinegars, think well beyond the distilled white stuff. Mostly I use that to treat sunburns, never adding it to foods. For culinary uses, I prefer a few other vinegars. You know, something to add flavor, not just bite.

Wine Vinegars
Red and white wine vinegars are mild and fruity. Sherry vinegar is more nutty. Each has a distinctive taste and are great for regular use in salad dressings, sauces marinades.

I like using red and white wine vinegars in the same context as their parent wines. Red and sherry vinegars for more hearty pairing, and white for more delicate effects.

Balsamic Vinegar
While technically a wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar deserves it's own mention. It's sweet, strong and a little musky, being aged in oak barrels. There are many grades of balsamic vinegar, mostly based on age and source. The price can vary wildly from grade to grade, even into hundreds of dollars for a small bottle of the well aged “pure stuff.” Much of what is sold in American supermarkets is actually balsamic vinegar that has been diluted with other wine vinegars. Balsamic vinegar is lovely in many applications. It pairs well with fruit, as in the classic strawberries and balsamic vinegar.

Apple Cider Vinegar
Strong and acidic, this is a favorite of mine when preparing vinegar based barbeque sauces, and other exceptional pairings. Pork dishes (such as roasts or pulled pork) do well with marinades that include apple cider vinegar, but it's also interesting when used to make pickles and some dressings. Reported to have many health benefits, some people take a teaspoon or two of organic apple cider vinegar diluted in a cup of water every day.

Rice Vinegar
One of the most mild vinegars, I use rice vinegar as an alternative to white wine vinegar for some dressings. It's a must when making sushi and my first choice when making other Asian dishes requiring a vinegar marinade.

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