NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
September 24, 1998
Prairie Fare: The Power of Vinegar
Suppose I were the newly elected president. Know what I'd focus on first? Forget about keeping the trains running on time. Nope. I'd make darn sure the vinegar kept flowing, in the interest of preservation. Mine.
Don't ever discount the power of vinegar. My theory is that vinegar was a key ingredient in the mix that precipitated the dramatic political and social changes in Eastern Europe during the past decade. Many of you evening-news watchers may recall scenes where people from that region were routinely forced to stand in lines for bread. Well, many folks from over there also had to queue-up for vinegar. What kind of an ogre would delight in depriving people of a pleasure so basic as vinegar?
Certainly not anyone in Canada, where malt vinegar is a condiment. Canadians love dousing their "chips" (translation: French fries) with this acidic concoctionthat is, when they're not swabbing their chips with gravy. Maybe this odd behavior has something to do with the current value of the Canadian dollar. But that's fodder for another column.
The point I want to make here is that vinegar can be quite special. Ever try blueberry vinegar? Neither have I but it sounds interesting, doesn't it? I remember seeing one recipe for oven-baked chicken that called for blueberry vinegar to be used in the sauce, along with chicken stock and sour cream.
I have used quite a bit of raspberry vinegar and have found it to add a pleasing contrast to the flavor of mozzarella cheese or a smoky provolone in a tossed salad. I'd advise against adding raspberry vinegar to a salad containing radishes, though.
Another current trend is to shake a bit of gourmet vinegar onto fresh fruit. Most recipes I've seen in this vein call for balsamic vinegar, but I think a touch of raspberry vinegar on top of some juicy-sweet strawberries or navel orange segments would provide a taste that's more than a just little out of the ordinary.
The recipe that follows is a simple way to jazz up some store-bought vinegar. I'd recommend using the garlic vinegar with olive or canola oil and some Dijon mustard. Combine one part vinegar and two parts oil and then add enough mustard, a tablespoon at a time, to form an emulsion, whereby the mustard serves to thicken the dressing. Add this mixture, seasoned only with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to a salad containing the pasta of your choice, along with cubed cooked chicken, sliced black olives, chopped tomatoes, diced red onions, garbanzo beans and artichoke hearts.
From SOARthe Searchable Online Archive of Recipes, University of California, Berkeley (http://soar.Berkeley.EDU/recipes/)
Yield: 4 8-ounce bottles
6 cloves garlic
1 quart red wine or cider vinegar
Peel, then crush the garlic cloves and place into a quart canning jar. Heat vinegar to boiling, then pour into the jar. Cover and store in a cool placeout of the sunlightfor 24 hours. Shake occasionally. Strain into decorative bottles and stop with a cork.
What's Your Take on This, Julie?
Bacteria are often portrayed as bad, but we wouldn't have some foods without certain bacteria. Historians believe vinegar was discovered accidentally, as was wine. Airborne yeast fell into fruit juice and fermented it to form wine. Wine became vinegar when airborne bacteria caused the conversion to acetic acid. In fact, the term vinegar is derived from the French word "vin" meaning wine and "aigre" meaning sour.
Modern-day vinegar is produced in a highly controlled environment. The sour taste is due to the acetic acid content. Most commercial vinegar products are 5 to 6 percent acetic acid (also called 50 or 60 grain), and home pickling recipes generally require at least 5 percent acid. Commercial vinegar is rarely pasteurized, but processors take precautions not to expose the vinegar to air. Such exposure could result in the cloudiness referred to as the "Mother." Usually the cloudiness can be removed by filtering, and the bacteria that causes it can be killed by boiling.
For home canners, vinegar is an indispensable ingredient. Vinegar preserves as well as flavors foods. Besides being a key ingredient in most pickle recipes, vinegar is used as a tenderizer in marinades and basting sauces and as a flavor enhancer in some stews and soups. It also has been used for medicinal purposes and as a household cleaning agent.
The nutrition and flavor of vinegar depends on the original fermented liquid. Apple cider vinegar, the most popular, would differ in taste from rice, wine or distilled vinegar. Gourmets usually prefer wine vinegar. All types of vinegar are very low in calories (about 2 calories per tablespoon), but they do contain minerals and other trace elements depending on the original source.
Specialty vinegars are often sold in gourmet shops for a fancy price. At home, always start with clean equipment to avoid off-flavors from stray bacteria. Fruits, spices and herbs can all be used to flavor vinegar. Some of the more popular types are basil, tarragon and thyme, and the usual rate is one tablespoon of dried herbs per two cups of vinegar. It usually takes a month to develop full flavor in herbal vinegar.
While you can safely make your own garlic-flavored vinegar at home, don't make and store flavored garlic-in-oil mixtures. Those homemade mixtures have been linked to cases of botulism, which can be deadly. The oil provides a perfect air-free environment for the spores that can germinate to produce the deadly botulism toxin. Commercial flavored oils, on the other hand, are safe due to the added preservatives.
Add some pizzazz to your marinades and homemade dressings with gourmet vinegar.
Remember to store salad dressings made with gourmet vinegar in the refrigerator. For flavored vinegar (without added oil), store in a dark cool area and seal with non-metallic closures such as corks.
Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136 and Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
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