Vinegar has been around since the beginning of time, almost literally.
How to properly buy and store vinegar is something we don't typically think about. Knowing which vinegars are good, and worth buying, is an ongoing process. Choosing a vinegar from this ever-growing shelf full of options can be overwhelming.
Accorfing to Eater, here are some tips to buy and store vinegar.
One of the most popular and accessible forms of vinegar, distilled white is a blank slate — a literal blank slate, as it’s clear in appearance and used for anything from marinating (and tenderizing) meats to cleaning. Use distilled white vinegar to marinate meat or fish, as the base in a salad dressing, or even in baking — alongside baking soda, distilled white vinegar acts as a leavening agent.
Dark in color due to being aged over a long period of time, balsamic vinegar is chiefly produced in Modena, Italy, and has to meet strict requirements, including being made from particular grape varieties, in order to be labeled balsamic. Once you have a verified balsamic vinegar, the most obvious way to use it is straight from the bottle, drizzled over salads, toasts, or any number of other dishes. Vinegars can be used to amplify or balance out flavors, and balsamic is no exception. I put a few dashes in red sauces, which deepens them in a way I haven’t been able to replicate otherwise. White balsamic vinegar, made from white grapes, exists, too. I use the Ponte Vecchio white balsamic vinegar I found at an Atlanta market in a Bermudian lobster curry dish.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, made from fermented apples, is fruity in scent and flavor. This vinegar is best purchased without cloudy sediment lurking at the bottom of the bottle; instead, it should be clear and have a crisp, subtle smell of apples. In cooking, there are a number of ways ACV can be a secret tool. The Tex-Mex ground beef tacos I make quite often rely on ACV as a finishing sauce to bring the flavors of cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, and chile powder together.
Salad dressings are another fun use for ACV. I adore making my own vinaigrettes from scratch because I can customize the amount of salt, fresh herbs, and spice. My go-to is an apple cider vinaigrette: Along with ACV, I mix minced garlic, a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper flakes, raw honey, and kosher salt in a mason jar, then shake until it’s fully emulsified.
Wine vinegars — red, white, and champagne — result when leftover wine and a mother culture have been fermented together. Similarly, sherry vinegars are sold on a spectrum from super-dark to ultra-light, all of which feature the nutty notes sherry is known for. Wine vinegars are a go-to for salad dressings and marinades, as well as flavor-enhancers for soups and other completed dishes.
Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice and is key to sauces, stir-fries, and other East and Southeast Asian dishes. Also known as rice wine vinegar when it is made from fermented rice wine, this vinegar variety is usually sweeter than other vinegars, while still adding a crisp acidity to completed dishes.
Malt vinegaris made from ale and English in origin. If you’ve ever had fish and chips, you know about this one. Crispy french fries pair beautifully with a malt vinegar and a dusting of salt.
Darker is better, for both the bottle and the storage space. Once you’ve brought it home, avoid keeping vinegar in a sunny spot or near a stove where it could come into contact with a heat source. Glass-spigot vinegar dispensers look cute, but exposure to air will greatly impact a vinegar’s taste and flavor. A pantry or a cabinet are your best storage bets, and if stored properly, the shelf life of vinegar is indefinite.
Building out your vinegar collection takes time, research, and patience. But it’s worth it when you can pull out the perfect vinegar and, with one finishing splash, tie every meandering element of your dish together.