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Everything You Need to Know About Vinegar

Here's the lowdown on this tangy pantry staple, from the different types to how to use it.

The Martha Stewart Show, Episode 3048

Vinegar is derived from the French word "vin egre," meaning "sour wine," and is made by bacterial activity that converts fermented liquids, such as wine and cider into a weak solution of acetic acid. The acetic acid is responsible for giving vinegar its pungent smell. Vinegar should be stored in a cool place in its original bottle. It will usually maintain its flavor for six months to a year, and should be discarded at the first sign of mold.

Types of Vinegar

Fermented Wine Vinegars

White-Wine Vinegar
White-wine vinegar is the aged and filtered product obtained through the acetous formation of white wine. With a highly acidic taste and an aroma reminiscent of wine, it is often used in light-colored foods, such as creamy dressings, vinaigrettes, and potato salads.

Red-Wine Vinegar
Made from fermented red wine, this vinegar is used in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and stews.

Sherry Vinegar
A fine vinegar made from a blend of wine left to mature for many years, sherry vinegar has a deep, complex flavor that makes it great for flavoring sauces and stews.

Champagne Vinegar
Pale gold in color, champagne vinegar is often mixed with fruit vinegars to create a variety of vinaigrettes. It is great for marinades, salad dressings, and sauces.


Fruit Vinegars

Apple-Cider Vinegar
Mild tasting and slightly sweet, apple-cider vinegar is derived from fermented apple cider and known for its tang in sauerkraut and coleslaw.

Balsamic Vinegar
Made from aged white sweet grapes, balsamic vinegar is often aged for several years in wooden barrels and works wonderfully for vinaigrettes.


Grain Vinegars

Malt Vinegar
Malt vinegar makes an excellent companion to fish and chips.

White (Distilled) Vinegar
Traditionally used for pickling and preserving fruits and vegetables, white vinegar has a high acid level that, when mixed with water, makes it great for cleaning.

White- and Brown-Rice Vinegar
White- and brown-rice vinegar is used extensively in Asian cooking. Obtained through the fermentation of sugars derived from rice, this vinegar has a subtle, sweet flavor, making it great for salad dressings, marinades, or stir-fry dishes.


Uses for Vinegar

Vinegar is most often used in cooking, as the acidic solution adds a kick to just about any tye of recipe, from soups and stews to meats and vegetables. It's also a go-to ingredient for dressing salads. Vinegar is also used by many for cleaning purposes, as it's natural and doesn't contain the toxins that many store-bought cleaners contain. Vinegar is effective at treating mold and is a natural antiseptic and fungicide. Just put it in a spray bottle and go -- the smell will dissipate within a few hours.

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