Adding bacteria to diluted wine, ale, or fermented fruits or grains creates vinegar. Vinegar is made from nearly any food that contains natural sugars. The acetic acid is what gives vinegar its unique tangy flavor.
Generally unopened vinegars will keep for 1 to 2 years in a cool, dark place. Vinegar will keep for about 6 months once opened. Because of vinegar’s complex flavor and ability to accentuate a food’s other flavors, less salt or fat often is needed in recipes that contain vinegar.
Some varieties of vinegar
Apple cider vinegar: This vinegar is made from fermented apples. It is inexpensive and quite tangy. It is best in complex-tasting dishes, such as stews or marinades, but it is not as good for more delicately flavored foods.
Balsamic vinegar: This vinegar has a sweet and fruity flavor and mild acidity. It is used in a wide variety of dishes, ranging from grilled meat and cheese plates to fruit salads. Balsamic vinegar is available in many different qualities and price ranges. Traditional balsamic vinegar is made in Modena, Italy, and must meet the standards set forth by the Consortium of Producers of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. These vinegars will carry a seal advertising that they adhere to these guidelines.
Balsamic vinegar aged for 3 to 5 years is good for salad dressings, dipping sauces, sauces, and marinades. Balsamic vinegar aged for 6 to 11 years is great for a number of dishes, including for sauces, risotto, and pasta dishes, in marinades, and mixed with mayonnaise or sour cream on sandwiches. Balsamic vinegar aged from 12 to 150+ years is best when used to finish dishes that are already cooked and in mild foods, so that the flavor of the vinegar is prominent.
Champagne vinegar: This vinegar is so mild and sweet that it is most often used on salads or vegetables.
Distilled white vinegar: Distilled white vinegar is most often used for pickling. It also is frequently used for cleaning and other household chores.
Fruit vinegar: The most popular fruit vinegar is probably raspberry. These vinegars are good for making salad dressings and also add a nice flavor to meats, poultry, and fish.
Malt vinegar: This is made from malted barley. It is used in the preparation of chutneys and is not a good choice for delicately flavored recipes.
Red wine vinegar: This vinegar is frequently used in French cuisine, including in marinades, stews, and sauces. It is also good in fresh salsa.
Rice vinegar: Popular in Asian cuisine, rice vinegars are sweet and mild. They sometimes are referred to as “rice wine vinegars” in recipes. White rice vinegar is used in both Chinese and Japanese dishes. It is a key ingredient in sushi.
Vinegar has been receiving some attention lately for its possible role in lowering blood glucose levels after eating. While not much research has been done on this topic and the research that has been done is conflicting, a few studies have found that if people with diabetes or those at risk regularly drink a small amount of vinegar at the beginning of meals it may help lower blood glucose levels after eating.
The active ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid, and it is present in all types of vinegar. It is thought that acetic acid may influence blood glucose levels in several ways.
- Delay how quickly the stomach empties after eating. Slowing digestion could cause the food to be digested more slowly and raise glucose less quickly.
- Prevent the complete breakdown of starches, causing less to be digested and absorbed into your blood stream.
- Help muscles use glucose more effectively.
- Whether vinegar works the same on all types of carbohydrate-containing foods is unclear from the research.
How much do you need?
The research studies cited used between 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of vinegar, mixed with at least 8 ounces of water.
- Vinegar is high in acid, which can burn your mouth or esophagus, and damage tooth enamel if it is not properly diluted. Also, for some people with diabetes who have a complication called gastroparesis (slow stomach emptying), taking vinegar can worsen the condition and be dangerous.
- Use caution if you take one or more glucose-lowering medications that can cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), especially insulin. If the vinegar lowers blood glucose, this can put you at risk for hypoglycemia.
- Do not use vinegar as a substitute for your glucose-lowering medications. If you would like to use vinegar, discuss it first with your dietitian and healthcare provider to make sure you use it safely and minimize side effects.