What is Vinegar?
The dictionary defines vinegar as “sour wine” or “a sour liquid obtained by acetic fermentation of diluted alcoholic liquids and used as a condiment or preservative.” It can be made from any fruit or material containing sugar.
How is Vinegar Made?
Vinegar is made by two distinct biological processes, both the result of the action of harmless microorganisms (yeast and “Acetobacter”) that turn sugars (carbohydrates) into acetic acid.
- The first process is called alcoholic fermentation and occurs when yeasts change natural sugars to alcohol under controlled conditions.
- In the second process, a group of bacteria (called “Acetobacter” ) converts the alcohol portion to acid. This is the acetic, or acid fermentation, that forms vinegar. Proper bacteria cultures are important; timing is important; and fermentation should be carefully controlled.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Italy is made from white, sugary Trebbiano grapes grown on the hills around Modena in the region of Reggio Emilia. These grapes are cooked down to create grape “must” creating a naturally higher sugar content and resulting in a sweet and tart, well balanced vinegar. The “must” is then matured by a long and slow vinegarization process through natural fermentation. Balsamic vinegar is placed in wooden casks to begin the aging process in which it evaporates by about 10% each year, creating a thicker, sweeter substance as the years pass.
Wine Vinegar is obtained through the acetous fermentation of a selected blend of wines. The taste is distinctly acidic, and the aroma reminiscent of the wine from which it comes.
What is “Mother?”
“Mother” is a naturally occurring cellulose (a natural carbohydrate which is the fiber in foods like celery and lettuce) produced by the harmless vinegar bacteria. Today, most manufacturers pasteurize their product before bottling to prevent these bacteria from forming “mother” while sitting on the retail shelf. Because Olivelle’s vinegars are all natural they will, over time, form mother, considered a sign of quality by many.
Mother of vinegar can appear in different forms including: slimy, gummy, jelly-like substance; a thin or layering film that can form on the top of the vinegar; an overall cloudy-ness; or a wispy, spider like web throughout the bottle. Vinegar containing “mother” is not harmful or spoiled. The mother can either be left alone, continuing to use as normal, or simply removed by straining or filtering.
How is Vinegar Used?
Balsamic Vinegar has a versatility that is surprising to many. It can add depth to everything from salad dressings, sauces, gravies, dips, marinades, desserts, soups, vegetables, and drizzling over cheeses and fruits.
Wine Vinegar can be used to bring out the sweetness in strawberries and melons, add a twist to spicy salsas and marinades and wake up the flavor of sauces and glazes. This product is perfect for today’s lighter cooking style -- replace heavy cream or butter with a splash of White Wine Vinegar to balance flavors without adding fat. The tart, tangy taste also reduces the need for salt.
How Long Does Vinegar Last?
Because of its acidic nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. While some changes can be observed, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence.