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Kitchen Uses for Wine Vinegar

June 21st, 2010 No comments

Here on the VC Blog, we’ve talked about wine vinegars a lot.  We’ve discussed how to make delicious homemade red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar from those leftover bottles taking up space in your kitchen.  We’ve also talked about how to then take those tasty vinegars to make individual bottles of flavored vinegars that are equally great to use in the kitchen and to give as gifts.

Now, maybe you’ve thought that making your own vinegars sounds fun and cost-effective.  Maybe you have a gallon or so of vinegar ingredients doing their thing in your pantry.  Maybe you’ve started to wonder: what am I going to do with all this vinegar?  Well, here are just a few ways you can use homemade vinegar in the kitchen:

  • Vinaigrette: In a few tablespoons of vinegar, dissolve salt (and, if you like, a little dijon mustard and/or minced garlic or shallots).  Slowly stream in olive oil to taste, only a few drops at a time at first, whisking all the while.  This is a tasty, healthy salad or veggie dressing.
  • A splash of vinegar in a sauce or glaze wakes up the flavors without adding salt or fat.
  • Vinegar is a great dieting tool–sprinkle it on foods to add taste at only 2 calories per tablespoon. Vinegar also dulls the appetite and gets rid of cravings for sweets.
  • Use vinegar as a marinade.  Vinegar, since it’s acidic, breaks down tissue, making your meats super tender.  Splash some vinegar (and herbs, if you’d like) into a bag with your meat and let it hang out for a few hours or overnight.
  • If you get stains from fruit on your hands, remove by wiping with vinegar.
  • Love poached eggs but have a hard time keeping them from falling apart while cooking?  Add a splash of vinegar to a barely simmering pot–vinegar helps the whites coagulate.  Crack eggs into small individual bowls, and gently tip into the water one by one.  After 3 minutes or so, you’ll have perfect poached eggs.
  • Use wine vinegar to deglaze a pan.  After browning meat in oil or butter, remove all but a tablespoon of fat.  Crank up the heat and pour in a splash of vinegar.  Boil and scrape away at the bottom of the pan to loosen all those tasty brown bits.  Add stock or even water, and finish with a pat of butter for a delicious and easy pan sauce.
  • Fish and chips!  Enough said.
  • Use in place of lemon.  (Both are intended to add acid to a dish.)  Add 1/4 teaspoon vinegar for a tablespoon of lemon juice.
  • Sprinkle wine vinegar and olive oil over a sub sandwich for a flavorful, healthy alternative to mayo and mustard.
  • Have white coffee cups stained from coffee or tea?  Wipe out with white vinegar to remove the stains.
  • Stinky kitchen?  Boil a quarter cup of white wine vinegar with a little water.  Let the smell circulate around the kitchen and it will remove smoky, fishy, or any other nasty smells.
  • Clean vegetables with 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a gallon of water.
  • Add a dash of vinegar to a canned soup or sauce to wake up the flavors and make them taste fresh.

There are dozens of uses for vinegars in your kitchen and the rest of your home. These are just a start….share your favorites in the comments!

How to Make Flavored Wine Vinegars

June 17th, 2010 1 comment

We’ve discussed how your can use your leftover bottles of red and white wine to make delicious homemade wine vinegars.  If you’ve already tried this, you know that homemade vinegars are infinitely better than anything you can buy at the store.  They make better vinaigrettes and sauces, and are just plain tastier.  Homemade vinegar is easy to make and very economical.  But if you’re ambitious, you don’t have to stop there!  Try using your homemade wine vinegar to make flavored vinegars that are out-of-this-world delicious.

Flavored vinegars have really become popular in the last few years.  They are simply bottled vinegars that fresh herbs and spices have been allowed to steep in.  The vinegar, given time, really draws out the taste of the flavorings, and takes on a whole new level of flavor and complexity.  Flavored vinegars can be used in place of regular vinegar to any recipe, adding a special zip of flavor.  For example, instead of a plain vinaigrette on your salad, why not try something like an orange-basil white wine vinaigrette or a red wine raspberry vinaigrette?  Flavored vinegars are good, but flavored vinegars made using homemade wine vinegars are incredibly delicious.

The process is a little time consuming, but simple.  Think of making flavored vinegars as similar to canning.  The more important (and boring) step is ensuring that the containers you’re using are totally free of bacteria before you close them up.  Even the tiniest bit will ruin the batch, so you have to be very careful.  You’ll want to disinfect your containers right before you bottle your vinegars, to minimize the chance they’ll be exposed to something nasty.  First, wash all the containers you’re going to use, along with their lids (good options are canning jars, screw-capped bottles, and corked bottles with brand-new corks).  Next, immerse them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.  While this is happening, bring your vinegar to a boil in a separate pot.

At this point, you should have already laid out the herbs and spices you want to use.  You can use basically any kind of herb or spice in vinegar, so get creative!  Herbs can be used whole, which makes for a pretty presentation.  Garlic makes a great addition to almost any vinegar–just peel the cloves and drop them in whole.  To get you started, here are some herbs and spices that make great vinegars:

tarragon

basil

chives

cilantro

rosemary

lemon or orange zest (cut into long strips for the best presentation)

dill

whole peppercorns

chili peppers

You can make a vinegar with just one addition, such as spicy chili vinegar, or a combination, such as rosemary garlic vinegar. If you’ve made both red and white wine vinegars, you have a choice on which to use.  Use white wine vinegar for subtler flavors like citrus and the delicate herbs like basil, and red wine vinegar for the heartier flavors like peppercorns and rosemary.  Play to your tastes and get creative!  Add the herbs and spices you want to use to the bottle first, then, using a funnel, carefully pour in the hot vinegar.  Seal the container (for an extra fancy touch, pour melted wax over the top), and let the vinegars steep in a cool dark place for at least three weeks to let the vinegar really take on the flavors of the herbs.

These vinegars are so fun and personal (and tasty) that they make incredible gifts.  Store-bought gourmet flavored vinegars be very costly.  But they are simple to make at home, and very inexpensive.  If you’re giving vinegars as presents, leave herbs whole for the best effect, and put a pretty tag on the bottle with the name of the vinegar.  One bottle of your homemade flavored vinegar makes a great gift for a dinner party host.  A small basket of a few choice vinegars makes an incredible Christmas gift.  But consider yourself warned–homemade flavored wine vinegars are so delicious that you might not want to give them away!
Garlic-Rosemary Red Wine Vinegar on Foodista

How to Make Your Own White Wine Vinegar

June 14th, 2010 9 comments

One of our most popular posts on the Vintage Cellars Blog has been How to Make Your Own Red Wine Vinegar.  Our readers seem to love the idea of using up bottles of red that are a little past their prime to make something delicious and useful.  But did you know that it’s just as easy to make your own white wine vinegar as it is to make red?  Here’s what to do:

1.  Buy a ceramic or glass crock.  At least a one gallon size is best–this seems excessive, but you’ll want enough room to add lots of extra wine, and you don’t want to be limited in how much vinegar you can produce–small bottles of your homemade vinegar make great gifts!  Make sure your crock has a spigot to make bottling your vinegar easy.

2.  Obtain a vinegar starter, commonly referred to as a mother.  A mother is a combination of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria.  It uses oxygen from the air to turn alcohol into acetic acid.  A mother is a weird cloudy mass that sits at the bottom of your vinegar crock.  Although it looks unappetizing, it won’t hurt you, and you can easily strain it out of your vinegar with a coffee filter if you want to.  You can get a vinegar mother from a beer and wine-making supply store, from the internet, or from a vinegar-making friend.

3.  Put the vinegar in the crock, then add diluted white wine in the ratio of 2 parts wine to 1 part water.  The less you add, the more quickly it will turn to vinegar.  2 cups wine to 1 cup water is a good start.  The better the wine is, the better the vinegar will be, because good wines have a variety of complex flavors, which will translate to an interesting, full-flavored vinegar.

4.  The best thing about vinegar making is that you can use those half-empty bottles that have been taking up space in your fridge.  Since the alcohol in wine starts to turn into acetic acid when you open it, wine a little past its prime simply has a jump-start on becoming vinegar!  Because of this, vinegar-making is very cost-effective.

5.  Cover the top of your crock with a cheesecloth and attach it firmly with a rubber band.  This keeps out insects, but lets in the oxygen that makes the process happen.

6.  Add small doses of white wine once a week or so.  (Or whenever you have a half-empty bottle sitting around.)

7.  Wait at least 12 weeks, then taste-test.  If it smells like vinegar and tastes like vinegar, it’s ready!  Bottle it using a funnel.  Any vinegar left in the crock (be careful to leave the mother, too), you can continue to use to make more vinegar.  Just keep adding more white wine!  Use your vinegar to make sauces and vinaigrettes, and a million other tasty dishes.

You’ll find that homemade vinegar has a much different taste than store-bought–it’s fuller and richer, and doesn’t have as much harsh bite to it.  You can use it in endless ways in the kitchen, and it makes great gifts.  Check our next post for a description of how to take your homemade vinegar by making pretty and delicious flavored vinegars.
White Wine Vinegar on Foodista

How to Make Your Own Red Wine Vinegar

April 8th, 2010 11 comments

Are you tired of throwing out half-full bottles of wine?  (If this is a frequent problem, maybe it’s time for a preservation system!) Do you wish you could put those leftovers to good use?  You can!  Try making homemade red wine vinegar.  Not only is it a great way to use up the ends of bottles, it’s easy and the results are spectacular.

Homemade red wine vinegar is very different from the store-bought stuff.  Even expensive store-bought vinegars are often rushed through fermentation, making them highly acidic and lacking in flavor.  Homemade vinegar, by contrast, has a milder, more rounded taste that is great for deglazing a pan, incorporating into a sauce, and of course, for making a great vinaigrette.

You’ll need a starter, commonly referred to as a mother.  A vinegar mother is composed of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria.  It

A vinegar mother

feeds on a fermenting alcoholic liquid (in this case, red wine), and uses oxygen from the air to turn alcohol into acetic acid.  A mother is a strange-looking, cloudy-whitish substance (see picture), but it can’t hurt you or the vinegar, and it’s easy to strain it out from your product with a coffee filter.

You can make your own mother by leaving out vinegar, uncovered and ideally in a shallow dish, to catch the naturally-occurring bacteria from the air and allow it to cultivate.  But this can be a tough and time-consuming process; it’s easy to start cultivating the wrong bacteria and watch your vinegar attempts rot again and again.  If you want to make it easy on yourself, you can either get a mother from a vinegar-making friend, or you can order one from a beer-and-wine-making supplier.

Besides your mother, you’ll need an earthenware crock with a plastic or wooden spigot.  Bigger is better here–a crock that holds at least a gallon will free you up to make a large quantity of vinegar.  If you think you might want to bottle your vinegar for friends–it makes a great gift–buy a bigger one.

Vinegar-making doesn’t require a specific recipe, but here’s a basic one to get your started: Add two parts red wine to one part vinegar to your crock, and toss in the mother.  Cover the crock with cheesecloth (to keep out insects) and attach it with a rubber band.  Then simply add a couple cups of red wine to the crock twice a week for the next two weeks.  Let the crock sit for about 10 weeks.  When it tastes and smells like vinegar, it’s ready.

The best wine vinegars are made from good wines.  Typically, fruitier, younger wines result in tastier vinegars.  After your vinegar is ready, you can let it age in the bottle for a deeper, richer flavor.  You can even add herbs or spices to make flavored vinegars.

Stop throwing away your leftover wine!  Put it to good use, and enjoy a tasty, homemade red wine vinegar for many meals to come.

We’ve also written about white wine vinegar! Check it out.