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Perk Up Your Palate

Vinegar adds zing to anything

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Perk Up Your Palate

The most popular vinegar types are made from grapes, apples, malted barley, maize, and rice. Here are few to stock up on and an easy balsamic vinaigrette recipe.

A splash of vinegar perks up soups, stews, and salads, reduces the oiliness of fish and French fries, and is the central ingredient in salad dressings. Vinegar comes in many varieties, each with its own distinct characteristics.

The word “vinegar” comes from the French vin aigre, meaning “sour wine.” The name points to the process of preparing vinegar, which involves fermentation to cause grape or grain sugars to break down into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. During a second fermentation, bacteria assist the alcohol to react with oxygen in the air to form acetic acid.

Commercial vinegars range from 4 to 9 percent acetic acid. This level of acidity makes vinegar useful in preserving food, as bacteria cannot grow in such strong acid. The acidity also enhances the flavour of food–so use it often.

A Rainbow of Vinegars

The most popular vinegars are made from grapes, apples, malted barley, maize, and rice. Here are a few to stock in your pantry.

Wine Vinegar

made from: red or white wines
taste: ranges from mild to strong, depending on the type of grape used and the length of fermentation; the deeper the colour, the stronger the flavour

Rice Vinegar

made from: rice grains whose starches are reduced to sugar using a mold culture
taste: delicate and light; sometimes flavoured with garlic and spices

Malt Vinegar

made from: sprouted barley, cereal grains, and unhopped beer
taste: soft acidity balances the heaviness of deep-fried foods

Cider Vinegar

made from: fermented apple juice
taste: acidic andvery tart

White Vinegar

made from: distilled alcohol and water fermented to form acetic acid
taste: stronger and sharper than other vinegars

Balsamic Vinegar

made from: extremely sweet Trebbiano grapes (skins and juice) that are crushed and fermented in wooden casks in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, near the town of Modena, Italy
taste: black, syrupy, and complex in taste.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

The sweetness of mirin and the tang of tamari balance the soft acidity of balsamic vinegar in this classic salad dressing.

1/3 cup (75 mL) balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 mL) fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp (15 mL) tamari
1 tsp (5 mL) mirin
1 tsp (5 mL) rice vinegar
¼ tsp (1 mL) black pepper, freshly ground

Whisk together balsamic vinegar, lime juice, tamari, mirin, rice vinegar, and pepper in a small bowl. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes ½ cup (125 mL).

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