Celebrate National Vinegar Month

Celebrate National Vinegar Month (Heather Burns photo)

May is National Vinegar Month, and I know what you are thinking. I al­so wondered why an entire month was dedicated to common vinegar, until I did a little research.

As it turns out, vinegar is a rather amazing product that has been a household staple for thousands of years, and has applications for cooking, clean­ing, gardening as well as several health benefits.

There are many types of vine­gar, with the three most popular being white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and red wine vinegar. Balsamic vinegar and rice vinegar have also gained popularity over recent years, with each possessing their own specific applications in household use.

Standard white vinegar, also known as distilled vinegar, is a clear solution containing four to seven percent acetic acid and 93 to 96 percent water.

Historically, white vinegar was produced from the fermentation of certain foods such as beets, potatoes, molas­ses or milk whey. The food items used to make vinegar usually de­pended on availability for a particular season or region.

Today, most white vinegar is made from the fermentation of grain alcohol, called ethanol. Other ingredients like yeast or phosphates are added to start the fermentation process.

Apple cider vinegar is brown in color, and red wine vinegar is red. Both consist of five to six percent acetic acid and 94 to 95 percent water, and are made from a two step fermentation process using the liquid extracted from crushed apples or grapes.

When it comes to cooking, all three vinegars have been culinary staples for generations.

White vinegar has a harsh flavor that you would not want to consume by itself, but when paired with other ingredients, it can be very versatile.

Mixed with pickling spices and water, vinegar is a great base for canning vegetables, fruits and eggs.

Just a dash of vinegar will brighten up many summer sal­ad recipes including back yard favorites like potato and macaroni salads.

Vinegar also makes for great addition to sauces and marinades and pairs especially well with seafood and vegetables.

Mixed with baking soda, white vinegar can be used as a leavening agent for baked goods.

Cheese crafting can also benefit from the addition of vinegar, resulting in a soft and mild cheese.

Apple cider, red wine, balsamic and rice vinegars are mainly used in cooking and have slightly different flavor compositions than white vinegar, so be careful when substituting one for the other, as the flavor of your finished product may change.

Typically, apple cider vinegar pairs best with chicken and pork, while red wine vinegar goes well with hearty foods. Both have an added nutrition value because of the fruit they are made from.

Balsamic is best for marinades and dressings, and rice vinegar is ideal for asian in­spired recipes.

The addition of any of these vinegars to your regular diet may also have health benefits due to the acidic content. This can aid in blood sugar control, weight management and cholesterol reduction.

Of all of these vinegars, white vinegar is perhaps the most versatile, offering many non-food applications.

Because white vinegar has an­timicrobial properties, it is a useful disinfectant and clean­er for many household surfaces, and is significantly more economical than commercial cleaners.

For sparkling clean windows with no streaks, spray a mixture of vinegar and water on glass and wipe with a newspaper.

To clean automatic coffee makers, fill the reservoir with vinegar and run it through the brewing cycle, then rinse with clean water.

For rinse free cleaning of no wax floors, mix a half cup vine­gar to a gallon of warm water.

Boil one cup of water with one-quarter cup of vinegar in the microwave to steam off food residue from microwave oven walls.

Vinegar is great for removing film and soap scum on tubs, sinks, toilets, and shower doors, and is useful in unclogging shower heads.

However, there are several surfaces that you should not clean with vinegar.

Vinegar is not recommended for cleaning hardwood floors, as it will leave them dull and cloudy. The same goes for wood furniture.

Do not use vinegar on natural stone countertops. The acid in vinegar can pit, etch and dull stones such as granite, marble and soapstone.

Although vinegar is great on glass, it is not recommended for electronic screens like phones, TVs and computers.

Specialized vinegars with acetic acid content of 20 percent are useful in the garden as a natural, short-term herbicide for unwanted vegetation. It also makes for a good deterrent for animals to keep them from using your flower beds as their personal restrooms.

Vinegar is also helpful in removing skunk odor from clothing, pet fur, and even yourself if you are accidentally sprayed.

A 16 ounce bottle of white vinegar cost approximately $0.89, which is quite a bargain considering the many household uses of this one product.

Although you may not be considering “celebrating” this household marvel this month, it is certainly worth the investment to keep your home well stocked with versatile vinegar.

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