Vinegar Types, Methods of Making Vinegar And Recipes





History of Vinegar


Wine , beer or any liquid containing less than 18% alcohol becomes vinegar when airborne bacteria called acetobacter aceti converts the alcohol into acetic acid. Vinegar is a natural by- product of making alcoholic beverages and its discovery was almost certainly accidental. This discovery was made in different parts of the world independently, and for as long as there have been undistilled alcoholic drinks there has been vinegar.


Ancient civilisations as far back as the Sumerians used vinegar as a condiment , a preservative, a medicine, an anti-biotic and a detergent. Just as we do today.


The earliest method for making vinegar was to leave wine , or beer, in an open container and wait for it to turn sour.The French word vinaigre means sour wine, the word ale-gar was used at one time to denote vinegar made from beer or ale. As with so many things to do with food and drink, the French developed a more sophisticated way for producing quality vinegar. They left wine in wooden casks for two to six months and it slowly turned into vinegar.It was then filtered into other casks and left to mature for a period of months or years. This became known as the Orleans method after the place where this technique was perfected. Good quality wines were used to make good quality vinegar and the practice continues to this day. Red wine vinegar is left to mature for a longer time than white wine vinegar. Vinegars made by the slow Orleans method are as complex and flavourful as fine wines and just as expensive.


In the mid 19th. Century Louis Pasteur published the most modern scientific research on vinegar , still used as a reference today , and it was this research that brought about the process for commercial production of vinegar.


In the commercial process , wine is slowly poured over wood chips in giant vats. As the wine trickles down it takes on some of the flavour of the wood and the airborne acetobacter uses oxygen in the air around the loosely packed wood-chips to oxydise the alcohol in the wine and turn it into acetic acid.The result is the sour liquid we call vinegar. The quality of vinegars produced this way varies according to the quality of the wine used , and is never as good as vinegar made in the traditional way. In the commercial process the more subtle flavours and nuances of the wine are lost and no amount of cask maturation can compensate. It is these 'lost' elements of the wine that develop in the cask using the Orleans method. They give fine vinegars the character and subtlety that make them distinct.


The acetic acid content , the 'sourness' of vinegars varies according to what they are made from. Rice vinegars are the mildest and Distilled vinegar is the strongest. Beer and wine vinegars generally fall in the mid-range, with wine vinegars slightly more acetic than those made from beer or cider.


Vinegars made from other alcoholic liquids are made in much the same way as wine vinegar. The better quality ones are also stored and matured in wood. These other types can be made from fruit juices , syrups, like honey and molasses and cane sugar.


There are also cheap (and nasty) vinegars made from ethyl alcohol, a by-product of the pulp and paper industry, and from diluted artificial acetic acid. These are definitely not for the discerning.... !


If you can learn to read vinegar labels the same way you read wine labels, you open up a large world of curiosity and adventure and maybe make some wonderful discoveries.


Balsamic Vinegar


The first literary references to balsamic vinegar date back to the year 1046. In that year Emperor Henry III went from Northern Europe to Rome. On the way, while stopping in Piacenza, he asked Marquis Bonifacio, father of Countess Matilde di Canossa, for a small cask of the famous laudatum acentum.


Further documentary proof confirms Modena as the birthplace of balsamic vinegar, whose method of preparation did not undergo any significant changes for many centuries. The traditional raw material for balsamic vinegar had always been wine vinegar, which was then aged for even hundreds of years. This is the hallmark of a tradition which was handed down from generation to generation.


Even the Estense family, which ruled the Duchy of Modena from 1598 to the middle of the 19th century, possessed large stores of balsamic vinegar which became famous throughout Europe. Menus from this period show that it was never lacking at meals


The culinary requirements of such a renowned court made it necessary for the west tower of the Ducal Palace in Modena (residence of the Estense family) to be dedicated exclusively to the production of balsamic vinegar.


In 1861 Mr. Aggazzotti, a lawyer, introduced a revolutionary production technique that used concentrated grape must as the raw material instead of wine vinegar. This is the method that has been used ever since to produce traditional balsamic vinegars.





Next Making Cider Vinegar at Home