So What Exactly is Vinegar, Anyways?

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Have you ever wondered where vinegar comes from? Or, having seen 'white wine vinegar,' have you wondered what exactly is vinegar's relationship to alcohol? Here's our quick primer on how vinegar is made and some of its most important uses in the kitchen.

About Vinegar

Vinegar is something so essential that we usually don't think much about where it comes from. Like wine, beer, and cheese, vinegar is a product of fermentation, a process where microbes consume and transform foods.

Like those other products, vinegar is also one of the most versatile condiments used to season dishes in kitchens around the world. 

Vinegars are found in a wide variety of cultures and cuisines. Even though it smells somewhat funky, there's something about vinegar that people agree is flavorful & worth keeping around. But what exactly is vinegar, and how is it manufactured?

How Vinegar is Made

Vinegar production involves a two-step fermentation process. First, the chosen base ingredient, such as apples, grapes, or grains, goes through alcoholic fermentation, where yeasts digest sugars, producing alcohol.

Next, acetic acid bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid through a process called acetous fermentation. Contact with oxygen makes this process possible, which can happen naturally or by introducing air on purpose. This happens over a process of several weeks to months.

Once complete, the vinegar is filtered, pasteurized, and sometimes aged to enhance flavor.

Because it is so acidic, vinegar can also act as a natural preservative. It is used for pickles, dressings, marinades, and sauces. It can also add a vibrant touch to rich dishes, balancing flavors, and can even tenderize meat. Additionally, vinegar is valued for its cleaning properties, acting as a natural disinfectant and deodorizer in households.

Vinegars exist in a cornucopia of flavors, and they can be used wherever dishes need a kick of sourness and funk. They're for more than just salad dressings, and we recommend you experiment with them somewhere new. Where, exactly? Well, there are simply too many good choices. You could even try making it yourself!