Here’s an interesting fact: There are dozens of different types of vinegar. That’s because vinegar can be produced from any food that has natural sugars, which means you could make vinegar from fruits ranging from apples (apple cider vinegar) to blueberries, figs, mango, watermelon, and more. Each vinegar has its own unique taste, and a variety of spices, herbs, or other fruits may be added to enhance the flavor.
Once yeast ferments the sugars into alcohol (the first fermentation), bacteria transform the alcohol into vinegar (second fermentation), and the acetic acid that is present after the second fermentation harbors flavors from the original food and provides the vinegar with its unique taste.
Vinegar has various uses both in the kitchen and out. For example, it can be a key ingredient in salad dressings, allow you to reduce the salt or fat in a recipe, disinfect your countertops, and help manage acid reflux. The number of uses for vinegar may equal or exceed the number of different varieties available!
Types of Vinegars
Here are 7 vinegars, many of which may be familiar to you and a few that may not.
White vinegar (aka distilled vinegar)
This is the most common type of vinegar in North America and one that is not often used in foods except when pickling. This is the type of vinegar you turn to when cleaning and disinfecting floors, counters, appliances, and windows around the house. White vinegar is made from manufactured acetic acid or grain-based ethanol and diluted with water. It is often an ingredient in commercial condiments, such as ketchup and salad dressings, and at home you can add a small amount to milk to create a buttermilk substitute. Otherwise, the sharp, unpleasant taste of plain distilled vinegar doesn’t lend itself to many culinary possibilities.
Apple cider vinegar
This vinegar is made from apple cider and is the second most common type of vinegar in the United States. The recommended culinary uses for apple cider vinegar include salad dressings, condiments, marinades, beverages, and in recipes that call for vinegar in general. But the benefits of apple cider vinegar don’t stop there. It’s easy to find dozens of uses for apple cider vinegar, ranging from relieving acid reflux to whitening teeth, soothing sunburn, toning the skin, cleaning your home, balancing your pH, and many more.
Japan is the birthplace of this typically clear or pale yellow vinegar, which is popular in making sushi. In China, it is common to see both black and red varieties of rice vinegar, which are strong and smoky and sweet and tart, respectively. The mild, delicate version clear vinegar most often seen in the United States is popular in Asian cuisine (e.g., noodle dishes, stir-fry, ginger) and other dishes because of its gentle flavor and it does not alter the color of food. Red rice vinegar is popular in soups while black rice vinegar is a staple ingredient in dipping sauces.
Either red or white wine, or a blend of both, are used to make this vinegar. It is common for wine vinegars to be infused with herbs or fruit to enhance the flavor. The more costly wine vinegars are aged for several years in wooden barrels. Two other varieties of wine vinegar are sherry and champagne vinegars. All of these vinegars are especially popular in dishes that involve berries, melons, and other fruits, as well as in salsas and chutney.
This vinegar was born in Modena, Italy, where experienced craftspeople still make it today using traditional methods. True balsamic vinegars are made from trebbiano grapes, which are grown in northern Italy, and aged for 3 to as many as 150 years in a succession of stainless steel and wooden casks. Because of this long process, true balsamic vinegars are expensive, so what we often see on market shelves are pale imitations of this ancient recipe, often referred to as commercial balsamic.
Balsamic vinegar is said to enhance the flavors of salty, astringent, and sweet foods, which makes it a highly versatile ingredient. Varieties that have been aged for the shortest time (about 3 to 5 years) are good for marinades, dressings, sauces, and in dipping sauces for bread and vegetables. Those that have been aged for 6 to 11 years are good for sauces (add at the end of cooking), pasta dishes, marinades, and condiments. Well-aged balsamic vinegars should be added to dishes after the cooking has ceased and are best in mild dishes (those with little seasoning), including meats, vegetables, fish, fruit and cheese combinations, and cheeses.
Chinese black vinegar
This smoky, sour flavored vinegar is made from sorghum or glutinous rice and is popular in China. However, it has gained some favor in the United States for use in meat marinades and as a dipping sauce for dumplings.
If the name of this vinegar stirs up visions of brown ale, then you’re on the right track. Malt vinegar begins with barley kernels, which are germinated, fermented, and brewed into an ale that is converted to vinegar. You can use malt vinegar for pickling and as a condiment for fish and chips. In Britain, malt vinegar is considered a basic cooking ingredient.
As I already mentioned, vinegars can be made from a wide range of fruits, so you may want to seek out and try varieties such as coconut, quince, raisin, blackberry, and yes, even banana vinegar!
Written by Andrea Donsky. Post originally appeared on Naturally Savvy.