Cooks use vinegar to make pickles, de-glaze pans, marinate meats, add tang to vinaigrettes, bring zip to sauces and even to liven up desserts. I always have at least 5 different vinegars on hand so I can pick the perfect gluten free vinegar for the occasion.
Most vinegar is made by adding a bacteria to diluted wine, ale, fermented fruits or fermented grains. Really, any juice or liquid with sugars available for the bacteria to consume can be turned into a vinegar. Since vinegar can be made from anything with sugar, there are too many different types to count made in numerous countries around the world. With that in mind, this is a general overview of vinegar varities most commonly found in groceries and specialty markets.
1. Malt Vinegar**
It is important to note, malt vinegar is not gluten free according to most reports. However, some people are rethinking this position. This is indeed a separate post so read more here and decide what is right for you. In simple terms, it is made from malted barley, and has a pungent, lemony flavor. Although this was once one of my favorites, I have personally chosen to fore sake it and the delicious malt vinegar chips I so love.
2. Balsamic vinegar
My first experience with balsamic vinegar came when I was 17 and I remember that salad so clearly. Since that time, balsamic has charged into my kitchen as well as other American kitchens and replaced red wine vinegar as the pantry staple. Despite all the types of balsamic that seem to be available, I break them into 2 main categories.
First, there is the variety you find in the supermarket which is economical, slightly sweet, sharply acidic and an everyday workhorse. Often times it is a blend of balsamic and wine vinegar. This is a mere shadow of what balsamic vinegar can be, but useful nonetheless.
Then there is the the real stuff, aceto balsamico tradizionale. These are slowly aged and come from either Modena or Reggio-Emilia. They are more viscous, certainly more costly, mildly acidic and oh so sweet and lovely. This style of balsamic is liquid love and should be used judiciously. It is definitely worth having in your pantry for special occasions.
3. Sherry Vinegar
I really love this stuff. Sherry vinegar is a delicious Spanish wine vinegar made from, you guessed it, Sherry. Like balsamic, sherry vinegar comes in a variety of quality levels. The best sherry vinegar has a deep, complex, almost nutty flavor and for my money, there's no better type of vinegar out there.
4. Rice Wine Vinegar
This Japanese vinegar is made from fermented rice and is sweeter, milder, and less acidic than most Western vinegars. You can also find Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar which has sugar and a little salt added.
5. Wine Vinegars
There are several varieties of wine vinegar, ranging from mild champagne vinegar to tangy white white wine vinegar and assertive red wine vinegar. Truthfully, both sherry and balsamic vinegar can fall under this umbrella, but I preferred to keep them separate.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
This vinegar is from fermented apples and is fruity, inexpensive and tangy.
7. Distilled Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar provides acidity but lacks any distinguishing flavor notes. In the US, it is distilled from ethyl alcohol made from corn and it is cheap but somewhat harsh tasting. So, while it is great for making pickles, acidulating water and cleaning out coffee pots, it is not a good choice for most recipes.
The is just the tip of the iceberg folks so if you have a question about a particular vinegar please contact us.