Thursday, 19 April 2012

Vinegar - so much more than sour wine

I've always been a bit ambivalent about vinegar. I usually have red and white wine vinegar, and balsamic and sherry vinegar on hand, but I'm never convinced about the difference between vinegars, chardonnay and champagne for example. Vinegar is vinegar right? No wrong, there is a world of difference between vinegars and between good and ordinary vinegar.

After Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipeswas published I met Allison, a dietician who appreciated fat! We have kept in contact and often exchange information and research on quality animal fats that we both champion. I idly mentioned my vinegar ignorance and thanks to her connections 3 bottles of vinegar from Kimberley in California arrived earlier this year.

This started me thinking seriously about vinegar. Vinegar is very old process and occurs naturally. When wine, or any alcohol, is exposed to the air it turns sour. In French vin aigre is simply sour wine. Good vinegar however is much more, it take time and careful handling. The best are made using the Orléans process, which is the method Kimberley employs. It begins with quality wines, naturally oxidized, and then aged in wood.  The vinegar is not pasteurized, so not only does it retain all the flavours of the wine, it continues to mature and develop flavour over time. I looked at the vinegars in my cupboard, all of them contained preservatives.

The Oxford Companion to Foodsays "Mass-produced wine vinegar is made from inferior wine, using techniques, which save time but sacrifice quality." They also say "Vinegars vary in both flavour and strength, and are rarely interchangeable in recipes." Hmmmm.......

Well there has been a clearing out of my vinegar cupboard and I am paying much more attention to vinegar. I began by tasting the Kimberley vinegars, which are also organic, straight from a spoon. They are complex and flavourful. It was surprising how light the champagne vinegar was with its 5.5% acidity. I am a convert to real vinegar.

I will be making salad dressings and deglazing pans, with these vinegars, but first I want to make my beurre blanc to serve with seafood and beurre rouge for poached bone marrow of course. 

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