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If you haven’t given much thought to the role vinegar plays in your cooking, let’s examine it for a moment. Few ingredients have the versatility, range, and potency of vinegar when it comes to cooking. Whether you’re looking for a sweet, savory, or tangy taste, you can boost flavor easily with the right vinegar.
Formed through a fermentation process, not only does vinegar have the ability to add big flavor without adding fat or salt, but there are other health benefits, as well. Consider apple cider vinegar, for example. According to modern lore (as well as science), apple cider vinegar can help with controlling blood sugar, weight management, and improved cholesterol. Vinegar, in general, is incredibly low in calories (just 25 for ½ cup). Not to mention, that by simply combining vinegar with olive oil and a few herbs, you can have a delicious salad dressing with no added chemicals, preservatives or unwanted sugars.
There are plenty of vinegars in the sea, and we would be remiss if we didn’t call your attention to some of the biggies, as well as others that don’t often get the attention they deserve. Experiment with different types to add layers of flavor to your food.
One of the most popular vinegars, balsamic can be used in dressings, dips, marinades, and sauces. Made with white grapes and aged for several years, traditional balsamic vinegar is both sweet and sour, so it works well with sweet foods and salty dishes — especially cheese.
Tan, tart, and slightly fruity, apple cider vinegar works best in salad dressings and poultry marinades.
These vinegars are made from different types of wine and vary in flavor accordingly. (Red is a bit more robust and full-bodied, while white is cleaner in flavor.) Choose white vinegar when a dish would benefit from a hint of acidity without changing up the flavor profile dramatically, like when seasoning a dish before serving, or in pickle brines.
Dark in color, sherry vinegar is a fragrant, flavorful pick that’s ideal for vinaigrettes, soups, and sauces.
Originally developed in Japan, rice vinegar is a lighter, milder option that enhances flavors in Asian dishes. Drizzle rice vinegar over salads, stir-fry, or cooked veggies for a fresh, slightly sweet taste.
With its darker color and intense, grainy flavor, malt vinegar is commonly used as a side to fish and chips.
Champagne vinegar is made with the grapes used for the sparkling wine with the same name. It is a great addition to fruity salads, poultry marinades, and sweet sauces.
Typically used in Thai and Indian dishes, coconut vinegar has an intense, yeasty taste that comes from the sap of a coconut palm.
To bring extra flavor to salads, sauces, and meats, you can create your own herb-infused vinegar. Commonly used picks include basil, dill, rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
Whichever vinegar you use, there are a few tricks to getting the best flavor out of it. Chef Rich Landau, of Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia, does a great job of breaking it down for us in this article from Cooking Light. In a nutshell, he suggests the following:
Vinegar is a common way to bring acid into a dish and is a key component of many of our classic kitchen staples. Enjoy these go to recipes:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. shallot, finely minced
1/4 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
Stir together all ingredients.
Let sit at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour before serving.
Serve with oysters.
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar (or sub balsamic, rice, sherry, or red wine vinegar)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
For variations, add in any or all of the following: 1-2 tbsp. fresh chopped herbs, finely minced garlic clove, finely chopped shallots, pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or 1 tsp. Dijon mustard.
Add all of the ingredients to a small mason jar, screw on the lid, and shake until blended.
Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
Add to salad, toss, and serve.
Keep leftover dressing in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for 2–3 days.
(3) 4-in. pickling cucumbers
1/4 oz. fresh dill
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Wash cucumbers and cut into spears or slices. Pack into a wide-mouth pint-sized canning jar or other clean glass jar.
Tuck sprigs of dill in between the cucumbers.
In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, garlic cloves, salt, sugar, mustard seeds, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Pour liquid over cucumbers in the jar. Make sure to include all the mustard seeds, peppercorns, and garlic. If you are using a slightly larger jar and the liquid doesn’t fully cover the pickles, fill the rest of the jar up with water.
Close the jar and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
Pickles will last in the refrigerator for about 2 months.
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