Monday, November 28, 2005

Vinegar roundup

How many vinegars does one three-person household need? Ours needs nine. Here's the current roster, in alpha order so none feels unloved, each with a typical use:

-apple cider vinegar (cole slaw)
-balsamic vinegar (caramelized onions)
-black vinegar (short ribs)
-cognac vinegar (I'm not really sure what to do with this one, actually, and I don't remember how we came into it)
-distilled white vinegar (poached eggs)
-red wine vinegar (tuna and white bean salad)
-rice wine vinegar (potsticker dipping sauce)
-sherry vinegar (vinaigrette)
-white wine vinegar (potato salad)

I'm always meaning to get some malt vinegar but it never quite makes it onto my shopping list. If I ever get around to frying fish in batter I'll get some for sure to make an even ten. Otherwise, I don't want for vinegar.

Is there any reason to practice restraint when it comes to vinegar? It practically never goes bad. And is there any reason to spend a lot of money on vinegar? I don't think so. With the exception of real balsamic, which I've never tasted and which isn't really treated like vinegar in Italian cooking, one can get very good vinegar for relatively little. The old saying goes that it takes three cooks to make a vinaigrette: a spendthrift for the oil, a miser for the vinegar, and a wizard for the salt. I think this means you're supposed to use restraint when adding vinegar, not that you're supposed to be cheap, but this still supports my general point. The yuppies spending $14 for a half-liter bottle of vinegar at Williams-Sonoma are chumps, but you probably knew that already.

My favorite of them all is sherry vinegar. If I had to give up all but one this would be my choice. It makes excellent vinaigrette, following the recipe here, and is perfect in beurre blanc. My second choice would be red wine vinegar.

Like many of my favorite things to eat, vinegar is the antithesis of fresh and local. Most of the vinegar I have is old and imported. And delicious.

(I usually dress salad in vinaigrette but occasionally I do have a taste for gloopy dressing out of a plastic jar. The two we always have in the fridge are Kraft Thousand Island and Hidden Valley Ranch. Not low-fat. These are best poured onto iceberg leaves and sprinkled with Bac-O's. Uh huh, come on, you want it.)


Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

Okay I am off to count my vinegars. I think I have more than nine. But like you say, they never go bad.

10:41 PM  
Blogger the chocolate doctor מרת שאקאלאד said...

Vinegar inventory meme! I can't resist. Here at chez Chocolate Lady (who lives alone, but entertains a lot):

Balsamic vinegar (vinaigrettes, deglazing almost any pan)
red wine vinegar (beet salad)
unfiltered apple cider vinegar ((health tonic, collard greens)
white wine vinegar (every now and then you need it for something)
distilled white vinegar (collard greens)
brown rice vinegar (liang ben doufu (cold mixed tofu, many rice dishes)
mirin (gravies)
"special reserve" balsamic vinegar (see balsamic)

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uncanny. I was just thinking about a vinegar depth chart post last night. I think the idea about cost/reward is an interesting one. Certainly, with vinegar, you can get by with basic supermarket stuff in a way you can't with olive oil.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

I've been thinking about this for a while...

...that I don't have any vinegar. :| I didn't have all the basic condiments for a while, but I forgot about vinegar. Then again, I haven't needed it or else I would've bought a bottle by now. (I don't really make any of the foods you listed with the accompanying vinegars, although it would go nice with dumplings. At home, I just ate it with soy sauce and only had the vinegared sauced in restaurants. We did have vinegar at home, although the one I remember most clearly was a tiny bottle of somewhat syrupy balsamic vinegar. I don't know what we were supposed to eat it with, but my mum liked to dip bread in it with oil.)

...damn, I think I'll get a bottle today. Except I don't know what kind to buy.


1:29 PM  

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