Matching vinegar with other ingredients is
simple. Just keep in mind that most vinegars are made from wine. Use red
wine vinegar and other intensely flavored vinegars with hearty,
rich-flavored foods such as beef stew. White wine vinegar and other
lighter-flavored vinegars go well with more-delicate foods such as chicken
and salad greens.
Balsamic Vinegar: This very distinctive Italian
vinegar is aged in wooden barrels for at least 10 years. Some have been
aged 50, even 100 years, but these are generally family heir-looms handed
down in wills. True balsamic is made from concentrated Trebbiano white
grape juice and is aged by transferring from barrel to barrel, each made
from a different kind of wood that imparts flavor and color. When you see
the words aceto balsamico tradizionale on a bottle of balsamic vinegar,
you know that you have the real thing. To enjoy it at its best, don't heat
balsamic vinegar. You might not even want to combine it with other
ingredients. Savor it, instead, in its purest form, drizzled over grilled
steaks or tossed with ripe red berries. For intense flavor and a light
color, try white balsamic vinegar. Commercial balsamic vinegars are made
from red wine vinegar that has been fortified with concentrated grape
juice and, sometimes, caramelized sugar. While they lack the complexity of
true balsamico, these vinegars can have a sweet, pungent quality that
works quite well when used to make a deglazing sauce or when used in salad
dressings or to season slow-cooked meats and stews.
Cider Vinegar: Look for cider vinegar that is unfiltered and
unpasteurized. It will have the fruitiest apple flavor. Use cider vinegar
to make a deglazing sauce for a pork roast or in a vinaigrette for a salad
garnished with bacon and bits of hard cheese. Its mild flavor also makes
it a good vinegar to use for pickles.
Distilled Vinegar: Made from commercially processed grain
alcohol, distilled vinegar has a harsh, pungent flavor. Though it is
widely used in processed foods and preserves, in the home kitchen, it's
best reserved for washing down counters and cutting boards.
Flavored Vinegars: These are made from wine vinegars (usually
white wine) infused with fruits and/or fresh herbs. Use them to add a
subtle herbal or fruit flavor to your salads, chicken, or fish. Raspberry
vinegar is one of the most flavorful fruit vinegars and has a particular
affinity for beets. In Mexico, many home cooks make pineapple vinegar. If
you're looking for an herb vinegar, tarragon vinegar is one of the best.
It lends fabulous flavor to salad greens, potato salad, and fish.
Malt Vinegar: A classic condiment for fish and chips, malt
vinegar is traditionally made from beer. It has a mild flavor that makes
it a good choice for pickles and salad dressings.
Red Wine Vinegar: The best wine vinegars are produced in the
world's great wine-making regions, such as France, Italy, and California.
Deglaze a roasting pan with red wine vinegar to make a sauce for beef or
Iamb, or combine it with mustard and shallots for a boldly flavored
Rice Vinegar: There are three main types of rice vinegar: white,
red, and black. White rice vinegar has a pale, golden color and delicate
flavor and is by far the most versatile. Use white rice vinegar in
Asian-inspired sauces for chicken, fish, and vegetables. When buying white
rice vinegar, keep in mind that Japanese brands tend to be milder and
sweeter than the sharper, more acidic Chinese versions. Red rice vinegar
is used mainly as a dipping sauce. The more esoteric black rice vinegar is
used most often as an ingredient in Chinese pickled pigs' feet.
Sherry Vinegar: Sweeter and more complex than ordinary wine
vinegar, sherry vinegar is aged for a minimum of 6 years in a network of
barrels known as a solera. The best sherry vinegars come from southern
Spain and bear the words Xeres or Jerez on the label, Spanish terms for
sherry. Sherry vinegar makes an extraordinary vinaigrette and can also be
used to deglaze a roasting pan or sautes pan when making a pan sauce for
pork, chicken, or beef.
White Wine and Champagne Vinegar: Use these subtle-flavored
vinegars with more delicate foods. They're great with seafood salads or in
a sauce for chicken or fish. They can also be used for pickles.