Bacteria are often portrayed as bad, but we wouldn't have some foods without
certain bacteria. Historians believe vinegar was discovered accidentally, as was
wine. Airborne yeast fell into fruit juice and fermented it to form wine. Wine
became vinegar when airborne bacteria caused the conversion to acetic acid. In
fact, the term vinegar is derived from the French word "vin" meaning
wine and "aigre" meaning sour.
Modern-day vinegar is produced in a highly controlled environment. The sour
taste is due to the acetic acid content. Most commercial vinegar products are 5
to 6 percent acetic acid (also called 50 or 60 grain), and home pickling recipes
generally require at least 5 percent acid. Commercial vinegar is rarely
pasteurized, but processors take precautions not to expose the vinegar to air.
Such exposure could result in the cloudiness referred to as the
"Mother." Usually the cloudiness can be removed by filtering, and the
bacteria that causes it can be killed by boiling.
For home canners, vinegar is an indispensable ingredient. Vinegar preserves
as well as flavors foods. Besides being a key ingredient in most pickle recipes,
vinegar is used as a tenderizer in marinades and basting sauces and as a flavor
enhancer in some stews and soups. It also has been used for medicinal purposes
and as a household cleaning agent.
The nutrition and flavor of vinegar depends on the original fermented liquid.
Apple cider vinegar, the most popular, would differ in taste from rice, wine or
distilled vinegar. Gourmets usually prefer wine vinegar. All types of vinegar
are very low in calories (about 2 calories per tablespoon), but they do contain
minerals and other trace elements depending on the original source.
Specialty vinegars are often sold in gourmet shops for a fancy price. At
home, always start with clean equipment to avoid off-flavors from stray
bacteria. Fruits, spices and herbs can all be used to flavor vinegar. Some of
the more popular types are basil, tarragon and thyme, and the usual rate is one
tablespoon of dried herbs per two cups of vinegar. It usually takes a month to
develop full flavor in herbal vinegar.
While you can safely make your own garlic-flavored vinegar at home,
make and store flavored garlic-in-oil mixtures. Those homemade mixtures have
been linked to cases of botulism, which can be deadly. The oil provides a
perfect air-free environment for the spores that can germinate to produce the
deadly botulism toxin. Commercial flavored oils, on the other hand, are safe due
to the added preservatives.
Source : NDSU Agriculture Communication