Vinegar is an acidic liquid produced through fermentation.
It is made through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol.
Any ingredient containing ethanol may be used to make vinegar, including distilled grain alcohol, wine, champagne, beer, cider and more.
Vinegar has long been used worldwide as a basic seasoning in the preparation and cooking of certain foods, because its sharp taste makes it so useful and versatile.
Also, because of its acetic acid content and low pH, vinegar is used as a preservative for both domestic use and in the food industry. It is in fact used for the preservation, or pickling, of a wide variety of foods such as vegetables, meat, fish products, and spiced fruits.
The word vinegar derives from the Old French vinaigre, meaning “sour wine.”
Vinegar was used as a condiment and for conservation by the Babylonians around 3000 BC. Traces of it also have been found in Egyptian urns from around 3000 BC.
The Romans used to drink “posca”, a mix of water and vinegar that was sold in the streets. Posca was believed to give strength, while wine would make you drunk.
By the Renaissance era, vinegar-making was a lucrative business in France. Flavored with pepper, clovers, roses, fennel, and raspberries, the country was producing close to 150 scented and flavored vinegars.
Production of vinegar was also burgeoning in Great Britain. It became so profitable that a 1673 Act of Parliament established a tax on so-called vinegar-beer.
In the early days of the United States, the production of cider vinegar was a cornerstone of farm and domestic economy, bringing three times the price of traditional hard cider.
In 1896, Henry J. Heinz founded a condiment company selling prepared horseradish, pickles and various sauces. The company also manufactured vinegar to preserve the pickles. Soon enough, Heinz was the first manufacturer to package vinegar in individual bottles for home use. In the early 1880s, the “paneled” bottle with the keystone label appeared.
By the end of the 20th century, grocery stores in the United States were posting $200 million in vinegar sales.
Over the centuries and around the world, a wide variety of vinegars has been created, with their own colors and flavors.
Fruit vinegars are made from fruit wines, usually without any additional flavoring. Common flavors of fruit vinegar include apple, blackcurrant, raspberry, quince, and tomato. Typically, the flavors of the original fruits remain in the final product.
Wine vinegar is usually made from red or white wine. There are also specialty variations like champagne and sherry vinegars. As with wine, red wine vinegar is aged longer (up to 2 years), while white wine can be aged for as briefly as a few weeks.
Balsamic vinegar is an aromatic aged vinegar produced in the Modena and Reggio Emilia provinces of Italy. The original product — traditional balsamic vinegar — is made from the concentrated juice, or must, of white Trebbiano grapes. It is dark brown, rich, sweet, and complex, with the finest grades being aged in successive casks made variously of oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, and ash wood.
Floral vinegars are an easy way to preserve the vibrant flavors and aromas of edible flowers. Vinegar is poured over the petals until they are completely immersed in the liquid.
Malt vinegar is made by malting barley, causing the starch in the grain to turn to maltose.
Vinegar made from sugarcane juice is most popular in the Philippines, although it also is produced in France and the United States.
In the United States, wine vinegar is the most common variety in use.
Coconut vinegar, made from fermented coconut water or sap, is used extensively in Southeast Asian cuisine, as well as in some cuisines of India and Sri Lanka, especially Goan cuisine.
Chinese black vinegar is an aged product made from rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, or a combination thereof. It has an inky black color and a complex, malty flavor.
White vinegar is often used as a household cleaning agent. For most uses, dilution with water is recommended for safety and to avoid damaging the surfaces being cleaned. Because it is acidic, it can dissolve mineral deposits from glass, coffee makers, and other smooth surfaces. Vinegar is known as an effective cleaner of stainless steel and glass. Malt vinegar sprinkled onto crumpled newspaper is a traditional, and still-popular, method of cleaning grease-smeared windows and mirrors.
Vinegar can be kept indefinitely in a closed container at room temperature. Because it is highly acidic, vinegar is naturally resistant to bacterial growth and spoilage.