Food for Thought

The Importance of Vinegar

October 7, 2014

Photo Credit: BBC

The creation of vinegar is simple enough. First, yeast feeds on the sugar of grapes or rice and ferments it into alcohol; second, innocuous bacteria feed on the alcohol and ferment it into acid. This simple acid, aka Vinegar (or “sour-wine” as it was once referred), took no time in becoming a staple ingredient to the culinary world and a truly remarkable component to cooking.

When it comes to cooking, vinegar can improve flavor, preserve food, replace or substitute ingredients, and so on…  It can chemically alter not only the taste of food, but the color and physicality of it as well.  This allows for a lot of “culinary experimentation.”

Photo Credit: MySciQuest

Some interesting examples of the powerful and ingenious uses of vinegar are:

-No heat cooking. Its strong acidity helps to “cook” raw foods, turning fish meat, for example, from clear to opaque, cooking the fish with no heat!  Most often seen in dishes like ceviche.

-The acid content can tenderize tough cuts of meat by breaking the chemical bonds that hold protein strings in a twist, causing the proteins to unravel and “tenderize.”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

-When mixed with milk, vinegar will cause the milk to curdle resulting in products such as sour cream and cottage cheese.

-Vinegar maintains red and white produce colors by slowing down the enzyme activity, which prevents vegetables from browning as quickly.  For example, when making mashed potatoes, adding vinegar keeps the potatoes white.

-It can keep gelatins from melting in hot environments by adding a teaspoon per a box of gelatin.

-It can freshen wilted vegetables by soaking them in cold water containing a spoonful or two of white distilled vinegar. Great for keeping leafy greens from sagging.

-Vinegar can act as a salt neutralizer. For example, if you’ve added too much salt to a recipe, you can add a spoonful of white distilled vinegar and sugar to neutralize the taste.

-You can use to vinegar to replace an ingredient altogether. If you’re short an egg for a recipe, replace it with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Although, this will only work if there is another rising agent present such as baking powder.

-To keep eggs from cracking, add two tablespoons of white vinegar per quart of water before you boil. Your cooked eggs will stay intact and be easy to peel.

-AND lastly, Vinegar is infamous for neutralizing odor. By placing a small bowl of vinegar next to the stove, it will absorb pungent odors from cooking items such as fish.

These are just a few ingenious ways vinegar can be used outside the norm of putting together a tangy and delicious salad dressing.  Be sure to experiment on your own and have always fun!

Hope you enjoyed this post.

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