Vinegar: Valuable, Versatile, and Varied!

From barrel-aged Italian balsamic to Asian rice wine vinegar, here’s a basic guide to some of the commonly found vinegar in the market. 

Every good chef knows the value of salt, fat, and acid when it comes to improving the flavour of a dish. And that’s why most of them have a handy selection of sharp, tangy vinegar to choose from. There are several types of vinegar from around the world, and all of them have their own appropriate culinary uses that are worth getting to know!

Apple Cider Vinegar

The second most common type of vinegar in the United States, apple cider vinegar is a light tan vinegar made from apple cider. The laid-back tartness and fruity notes of this vinegar makes it a versatile ingredient. It is great in salad dressings, marinades, and condiments. Other than being a great ingredient for cooking, raw, unpasteurized, apple cider vinegar is also said to have several health benefits like aiding weight loss, reducing heartburn, and clearing acne.

Balsamic Vinegar

Known as the king of vinegars, balsamic vinegar is the only vinegar that is not made from fermented alcohol. It is traditionally produced in Modena, Italy and is directly made from pressed grapes. The mixture is then aged in oak barrels. Balsamic has a complex, fruity, sweet and sour flavour that complements salty foods such as goat cheese and parmesan. It is also amazing in select desserts, especially when paired with summer fruits and berries. 

Beer Vinegar

A close cousin to malt vinegar, beer vinegar has a very appealing light-golden colour. It is popular in Germany, Austria, Bavaria and the Netherlands. This vinegar is made from beer and the taste of it depends on the type of brew used. 

Black Vinegar

Black vinegar known as Chinkiang vinegar is made from glutinous rice or sorghum. It has a woody, smoky flavour and is a component of a  number of dishes in Southern China. In the United States, it is widely used as a dipping sauce especially for dim-sums or dumplings or as a common meat marinade.

Cane Vinegar

Cane vinegar is mainly used in the Philippines and is produced from sugar cane. It has a light sweet and acidic flavour which tastes similar to rice vinegar. It is used in chutneys and also in pickling. It is also a must for several Indian households.

Champagne Vinegar

Champagne vinegar is quite a special and expensive ingredient owing to the fact that it is made (as the name suggests) from fermented champagne! Champagne vinegar is lighter and mellower than other vinegars, so it is not ideal for cooking with. Rather, it is added into fresh dressings or even a salsa for a flavourful punch. For a sophisticated touch, one may also use it to elevate the sweetness of berries, fruits, and melons. 

Coconut Vinegar

Coconut vinegar has a sharp, potent, acetic and slight yeasty taste. It is a staple of Southeast Asian cooking and is made from the sap of the coconut palm. The ‘toddy’ is allowed to ferment naturally, which makes it a flavoursome vinegar. 

Malt Vinegar

A favourite in Britain, this dark brown vinegar has a very assertive, pungent, and lemony flavour. It is good for chutneys, pickling, and is often used as a basic cooking vinegar in Britain. It is most famous, however, as the classic pairing with fish and chips. The slight acidic flavour of the vinegar is the perfect topping for the hot and salty crunch of Britain’s signature fried pairing.

Red Wine Vinegar

Made from fermented red wine, the robust, acidic and slightly sweet taste of this vinegar makes it great for vinaigrettes, dressings, vinegar-based slaws, and meat marinades. Red wine vinegar works perfectly with bold sauces like chimichurri and Greek dressing. A few splashes added to a well-chilled tomato gazpacho can really lift the fresh flavours of this cold soup. Cooks often flavour red wine vinegar with natural raspberry flavouring, if not with the berry itself.

Raisin Vinegar

This mild-tasting and cloudy brown vinegar is traditionally produced in the Middle East and Greece. The vinegar is made from raisins and is often infused with a little cinnamon to bolster the mild flavour of the vinegar. In salad dressings, raisin vinegar provides a unique, unconventional taste. 

Rice Vinegar

This staple of Southeast Asian cooking is made from fermented rice wine and is commonly used across China and Japan. It is sweeter and less acidic than other kinds of vinegar which make it perfect for marinades and dipping sauces. Of course, no good sushi rice is complete without a sprinkling of seasoned rice wine vinegar. 

Sherry Vinegar

Sherry vinegar is made from sherry, which is a fortified wine. It is preserved in oak barrels for at least 6 months before it is bottled. With its strong flavour, it is great in meat marinades and for deglazing pan sauces. 

White Vinegar

Found in almost every kitchen, the staple white or distilled vinegar is created from pure ethanol and has a very harsh flavour. A common ingredient in pickles, brines, and ketchup, but not recommended for homemade vinaigrettes. In Indian kitchens, it’s often used in meat and fish dishes as a marinade or as a seasoning. Many households dilute it with water to use as a natural, non-toxic, cleaner. 

White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar is common in Europe, especially Germany. It’s fruity flavour makes it ideal for light vinaigrettes, salads, rich sauces, and pickling. Use it to add a refreshing yet delicate tang to rich sauces like hollandaise and creamy potato salads. Chefs often infuse white wine vinegar with fresh or dried herbs and fresh berries to add another layer of flavour to their dishes.