Gourmet Vinegars in the Kitchen
Like olive oil, fine vinegars are not just for salads, though a vinaigrette is an excellent way to enjoy your balsamic or other vinegar. Vinegar's acidity will brighten stews, braised meats, and roasted vegetables. Vinegar's ability to draw flavors out of herbs and spices make it great for sauces and marinades. Sweet balsamic vinegars are good over fresh fruit or even ice cream when it's time for dessert. There are even drinking balsamics to enliven your sparkling water or prosecco!
Acidity = Brightness. Brightness as a flavor means a clarity and crispness that brings out the best of the other flavors in the dish (it illuminates them). Think of how the pickle (cured in vinegar) improves your burger or sandwich, by more than just the flavor of the pickle. A splash of vinegar can brighten most foods: wine or cider vinegar for cooked vegetables, or perhaps a balsamic for your strawberries or ice cream. The vinegar in a German style potato salad makes a relatively bland food delicious.
Salt shares with acid the ability to enhance the flavors of other ingredients. This means that vinegar (or other acids) can make up for reduced salt in a recipe.
Pickling is not just for pickles! Many vegetables can be preserved in jars by pickling, but pickling with vinegar can also be used in a variety of quick recipes. Here the goal is flavor, not preservation. perhaps the best known example of this is vinegar based coleslaw (much healthier than one with creamy dressing). Another great example is marinated cucumbers, thinly sliced with fresh dill and soaked in vinegar for 5-30 minutes. You can make delicious dishes this way from many other vegetables and even fruit. Honeydew melon balls and even grapes are delicious when quickly pickled with a good tasting vinegar, fresh herbs and/or citrus.
If you are making jarred pickles then be careful to choose the correct vinegar. Many vinegars destined for salads, sauces, or marinades are 4% acetic acid. This is too low for safe pickling in jars that will be heat processed. Be sure to use a vinegar with 5% acetic acid or greater for canning pickled vegetables.
Vinegar is both flavorful and excellent at pulling flavors out of other ingredients. This makes vinegar an excellent base for many sauces. Carolina style barbecue sauces start with vinegar. The thickness of a balsamic vinegar makes a great start for a steak sauce. Wine vinegar sauces work well with chicken. Our Vinegar of Banyuls from Abbe Arrous is great for classic French chicken recipes. Vinegar, like wine, is an excellent way to deglaze a pan to make a gravy from the freshly cooked meat juices and crusty bits in the bottom of the roasting pan.
Vegetables need attention too. A vinaigrette (vinegar and oil with optional flavorings) is a "sauce" for your salads. In addition to dressing a salad vinaigrettes are great over cooked vegetables as well. A thick balsamic vinaigrette will cling to vegetables as a nice grilling glaze. The acidity of vinegars enhance the sweetness and saltiness of foods and provide overall balance so don't leave them out. Your taste buds will thank you!
The acetic acid in vinegar breaks down protein in meats and is excellent at pulling out the flavors from herbs and spices. Both of these reasons are why vinegars are the base of most marinades. While flavors are being pulled from the herbs and spices the meat is being tenderized at the same time. And of course the many kinds of vinegar will bring their own flavors to the party in addition to the other ingredients in the marinade.
From our best area chefs:
Love going to Extra Virgin an Olive Ovation. I want to have everything there in my pantry.
- Ben Poremba, Olio, Elaia
Marianne Prey is a wealth of knowledge. Every time I go in there, I learn something new about olive oil.
- Gerard Craft, Niche, Brasserie, Taste, Pastaria
I like Extra Virgin An Olive Ovation for imported mustards, vinegars and olive oils. Incorporating these ingredients into a dish can change it significantly. For instance, a Zinfandel vinegar over a dessert is divine, and mustard in a soup is quite amazing.
- Natasha Kwan, Frida's Deli