Vinegar – Your Guide to Understanding Various Types
How is Vinegar Made?
Usually, it consists of two distinct biological processes. They are both the result of harmless microorganisms (yeast and acetobacter) that turn sugars (carbohydrates) into acetic acid.
The first process occurs when yeasts change natural sugars into alcohol under controlled conditions. This is called alcoholic fermentation.
The second process occurs when a group of bacteria convert the alcohol portion to acid. This is the acetic, or acid fermentation, that forms vinegar. It is important to have proper bacteria cultures and correct timing. The fermentation process needs to be carefully controlled.
Originating from Modena, Italy, it comes from sweet, white Trebbiano grapes grown in the region of Reggio Emilia. These grapes get cooked down to create grape “must” which has a naturally high sugar content. This results in a sweet and tart, well balanced product. A vinegarization process called natural fermentation is what matures the “must”. Placing the balsamic vinegar in wooden crates begins the aging process. This process allows evaporation by about 10% each year. It creates a thicker, sweeter substance as the years pass.
This variety results from the acetous fermentation of a selected blend of wines. It is made from wine, whereas a balsamic is made directly from fermenting the grapes. The taste of a wine vinegar is distinctly acidic, and the aroma is reminiscent of the wine from which it comes. They tend to taste more tart and sour than a sweeter balsamic. Great examples to use in the kitchen include those made from sherry, meritage, or prosecco champagne.
What is “Mother?”
“Mother” is a naturally occurring cellulose, which is the fiber in foods like celery and lettuce. Harmless bacteria are responsible for creating it. Today, most manufacturers pasteurize their product before bottling. Doing so prevents these bacteria from forming mother while sitting on the retail shelf. If balsamic vinegars are all natural they will form mother over time. Due to its health benefits, the presence of mother is considered a sign of quality.
Mother can appear in different forms including: a slimy, gummy, jelly-like substance; a thin layer of film that forms on the surface; an overall cloudiness; or a wispy, spider-like web throughout the bottle. Vinegar is not harmful or spoiled if it contains the mother. You may either leave it alone, use it as normal, or remove it by straining or filtering.
Balsamic Vinegar is surprisingly versatile. It can add depth to everything from salad dressings, sauces, gravies, dips, marinades, desserts, soups, vegetables, or be drizzled over cheeses and fruits.
Wine Vinegar can be used to bring out the sweetness in strawberries and melons, add a twist to spicy salsas and marinades and also wake up the flavor of sauces and glazes. This product is perfect for today’s lighter cooking style — replace heavy cream or butter with a splash of white wine vinegar to balance flavors without adding fat. The tart, tangy taste also reduces the need for salt.
How Long Does Vinegar Last?
Generally speaking, it is self preserving due to its acidic nature and does not need refrigeration. You will be able to observe aesthetic changes, such as color or the development of a haze or sediment. However, you can still use and enjoy your vinegar with confidence!