The store shelves are lined with vinegars to choose from but how do you know which vinegar is the right choice for your particular recipe? While there are no clear-cut rules regarding usage, personal preference does play a large role in determining your vinegar style.
Types of Vinegar
All-purpose vinegar is plain white vinegar. It is produced by the distillation of alcoholic spirits from grains like corn and rye. The vinegar has no color and no distinctive flavor other than of acetic acid. This vinegar is mostly used for pickling or household remedies because of its high acetic strength.
Apple cider vinegar became popular in the Colonial days of the United States when excess apples were used to make apple cider. The excess cider became vinegar due to fermentation and exposure to air. Apple cider vinegar is favored for pickling due to its strong fruity flavor, but only when its amber color won't interfere with the end product. Use it as a base for flavored vinegars containing fruit and in fruit salad dressings. It’s also good in bean salads.
Malt vinegar is made from grains, which have been allowed to germinate. Its malty flavor makes tasty sauces. Malt vinegar is best known as a condiment for fish and chips.
Rice vinegar, flavored and unflavored, is best known in Oriental cuisine. The unflavored vinegar is often used to make herb- or fruit- flavored vinegar, since it has a mild flavor and light color. The flavored rice vinegar makes a nice salad dressing; use alone over vegetables or fruit. Add a dash to stir-fries or plain rice.
White wine vinegar is excellent for making herb-flavored vinegars because of its delicate taste and light color. Use white wine vinegar to make marinades, sauces and glazes. White wine vinegar also brings out the sweetness of strawberries and melons.
Red wine vinegar has a full-bodied flavor, well suited to the classic vinaigrette. This vinegar is best used for marinades or for flavored vinegars using strong-tasting herbs. It's especially good to use in Italian cuisine.
Champagne vinegar is made from the same grapes used to make champagne. It has a very mild flavor, making it the perfect choice for flavored vinegars. It's an excellent choice for salad dressing and fruit salads.
Balsamic vinegar has a very dark color due to its long aging in wooden casks. While authentic balsamic vinegar comes only from Modena, Italy and is quite expensive, lesser balsamic-type vinegars are available at a more reasonable cost. Its sweet and pungent flavor adds punch to marinades, vinaigrette dressings, pan sauces and gravies. It also adds flavor and aroma when sprinkled on cooked meats.
Unopened commercially sealed vinegar can be stored in a cool, dark place almost indefinitely. Once opened, store at room temperature up to 6 months.