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How many vinegars can I *get by* with?

I currently have on hand balsamic, Champagne, red wine vinegar and plain white vinegar. Do you think that's adequate? I'd be willing to add one or two more if there's strong argument for one. Or perhaps one I just haven't thought of. Lately I seem to be using fresh Meyer lemon juice in place of vinegar in salad dressings. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. The one I'd to your collection is (unseasoned) rice wine vinegar. It's not as acidic as many others, has a slightly sweet flavor, and makes a great dressing for veggies all on its own as well as being an ingredient in Chinese and Japanese (or Asian-style) preps. Try thinly sliced cucumbers sprinkled with rice vinegar mixed with a pinch each sugar and salt and allowed to sit for half an hour.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      Oops, I forgot I DO have rice vinegar!

    2. If you are not using either a banyuls red or Martin Pouret red vinegar, perhaps you should include these in your bunch. l cook with gallons of cider vinegar as well. A new high-priced vinegar has recently come on the market that may make you forget about balsamic. Made of sherry vinegar by solera method than aged again when in this country in old maple syrup barrels, it is exceptional. Like the original balsamics before many were adulterated, so concentrated and syrupy. Just put on finger and enjoy. Brand name is Blis elixir, fabulous

      6 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        Please, any idea or anywhere to direct me as to how to make my own sherry vinegar. I need it to be kosher and cannot find it anywhere. I've been looking for two years. I had a lead through Chowhound, wrote to a chef, and never received a reply. I'd love to make my own. I'll take any nugget of help! Thank you!

        1. re: samsaulavi

          First you're going to need Palomino Sherry. Easy enough to find.

          Next you're going to need a mother. Ideally you could find a sherry vinegar culture, but that may be a challenge. Cider, wine, and malt vinegar cultures are readily available. The wine vinegar variety is probably your best bet. If you have a bottle of unpasteurized wine vinegar with an active mother (a jellyfish-looking thing that floats in the bottle), you can use a bit of that.

          Sherry vinegar is aged in oak for at least six months and up to, well, centuries (in the solera system, each bottle contains a very small amount of the oldest stuff the winery ever made). At home, you're probably better off using the CA winemaker's cheat - age the vinegar in a crock, along with handful of oak chips.

          You could even do a variation on the solera method - make a few gallons, and after six months of aging draw off a bottle or two. Replace the wood chips, top up the crock with fresh sherry, and let the vinegar go back to aging. Some of your very first batch will be in every bottle, and complexity and depth of flavor will develop over the years.

          Good luck!

            1. re: samsaulavi

              making a vinegar needs a yeast mother. you cannot have yeast during passover, right?

              1. re: alkapal

                It's been a long time since I lived in a household that observed any dietary restrictinos, but AFAIR only grain yeasts are chametz. Otherwise wine - which is fermented with yeast, and is an essential part of Pesach - would be forbidden.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  alan, you may be right. i was just thinking logically. in wine, the yeast is no longer in the wine. if one is in the process of *making* vinegar, however, the yeast is active. i'm not jewish, but i understand the symbolic reason behind getting rid of the yeast (leavening = sin, pride, self-justification). however, the kosher dietary laws are far beyond the torah's proscriptions. about these i have no idea.

          1. To your list and Ms McGrath's, I'd add apple cider vinegar, and another balsamic (one to cook with and one to cherish). The apple cider adds a brightness to pork, soup, stews and potatoes - to me it tastes like a sunny day in autumn. I use all of these vinegars but always look first to lemons or limes.

            6 Replies
            1. re: alwayscooking

              That brings up another question. Since I have a friend who's been bringing me Meyer lemons, can I substitute them for vinegar in more than just salad dressing? Hadn't really thought of that.

              1. re: c oliver

                Since the role of acid in cooking is to add a certain dimension to dishes, in many instances they're interchangeable. Exceptions include when the point is the particular flavor of the vinegar and when the vinegar is used as a preservative (e.g., pickling, including refrigerator pickles).

                Something to keep in mind is that Meyer lemons are much less acidic than standard Eurekas. Using Meyer lemon juice is closer to using orange juice than regular lemon or lime juice in terms of acidity.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Excellent poin t about the lower acidity.

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    Me, too! I think I may be out of my league with some of the vinegar experts here. However, I thought I liked apple cider vinegar until I had it with mother. Know I really love apple cider vinegar!

                2. that's pretty much what I have, balsamic, champagne, and a sherry. If I had to add some more, plain white, and rice.

                  1. I see that you have also rice wine vinegar, that one is really necessary for dipping sauces and dressings. It's an old standby but apple cider vinegar is one of my favorites. If I want tarragon vinegar, I can make a small batch for what I need immediately.
                    I too love to use citrus for the acid I love lemon and olive oil, they are wonderful paired together. One of my favorite salads is arugula, artichoke and avocado with olive oil and lemon juice, cracked pepper and sea salt. SO fresh tasting!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      I am totally addicted to arugula so thanks for this suggestion. Do you mean artichoke or the hearts? If hearts, marinated or canned?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        As often as I make this salad and as much as I love to cook I don't use the fresh. I buy lovely artichokes in a jar packed in water from Trader Joes, they are the hearts with some stem and a few tender leaves. Actually they are quite good, and not as expensive as the canned hearts. Yes, I am another one that loves arugula, and I had this salad at Prima in Walnut Creek CA, a few years ago. At the time they charged about $10 for it, but by far it was the best thing I ate that night. I am totally addicted to it, I could eat a bucket load of it this salad. No don't sub those jarred marinated artichokes whatever you do, they are not for this salad.

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Thnaks so much and also thanks for the tip about the TJs hearts. Yes, canned ones are SO expensive. Have you ever used or do you think frozen ones would work?

                    2. I find that I use sherry vinegar quite a bit. It's almost totally replaced red wine vinegar for me in cooking.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: JonParker

                        I love sherry vinegar and personally, my kitchen is never without it. It has wonderful toasty, nutty flavors. I use it much more often than balsamic (I mean the non-precious kind!).

                        A favorite salad dressing during the colder months is simply equal parts sherry vinegar, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and olive oil.

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I also use a lot of sherry vinegar - and love the idea of combining it with orange juice. I do not like apple cider vinegar, and could live without balsamic vinegar, though I do have a small ancient bottle of high quality aged vinegar. I usually have red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice wine vinegar/rice vinegar. I do like tarragon vinegar as well, and I have a Greek rose wine vinegar that I need to consume.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            My bad MMRuth, I have sherry as well. I love it. I don't know how I forgot. with OJ and lime it is wonderful. I use it all the time. Thanks for the reminder. Apple juice sherry and garlic makes an awesome marinade for pork chops simple and quick. Marinade and grill. Serve with sauteed apples and coleslaw and a side of roasted green beans. A favorite simple meal.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I haven't had any balsamic in the house for months and do not miss it one bit.

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                I use balsamic more than any other vinegar, I couldn't live without it

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  What kind do yo use? Most of the balsamic in the states is absolute garbage. It's one of those ingredients in which you get what you pay for. Because it was such a trendy product in the 90's we got inundated with junk that isn't truly balsamic vinegar at all.

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    I get one from a small Italian shop down town. I don't have the bottle. sorry. It it is my green bottle on the counter. There is one whole foods carry that is also good. They are the only two that I buy. I have bought others and use them now and then but use these two for their flavor. Unfortunately I have neither bottle, sorry, but whole foods is one and the other is from Italy. Sorry I can't give you more info. I usually keep them, but in an apt. NO room. So I didn't keep it. I do use it all the times, fresh fruit, dressings, even over chicken and pork, lots of uses. I would be lost without it.

                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                      Suzanne Goin calls for less expensive balsamics - i.e., not the aged ones - in many of her recipes. I'll see if she recommends a brand. I tend to substitute a combination of red wine vinegar with a little bit of my aged balsamic.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        Thanks, that would be great, MMR.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          She says to look for one from Modena, but not to confuse regular balsamic vinegar with "the pricier, aged vinegars labeled 'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale', sold in small, shapely bottles."

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            Thanks. Those "shapely" bottles sure are pretty though, aren't they?

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              I'm a little confused, could you please clarify. So Goin suggest using any balsamic labeled Modena? I understand staying away from the Tradizionale because of the cost but does she mean the Condimento? As I understand it, regular unaged balsamic is just wine vinegar with caramel and color added.

                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                I'm not particularly familiar with balsamic vinegar - I do have one of those little bottles of v. aged balsamic vinegar. She does not mention 'Condimento' but adds, "These aged balsamics are used more as a condiment than a vinegar. Thick, syrupy, and rich, they're delicious drizzled over ...." In her recipes, she often calls for 1/4 cup or more.

                                                Edit - Don't know if this makes a difference, but she refers to balsamic "from" Modena, rather than 'labeled" Modena.

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  Thanks, MMRuth. I'm not really that familiar with balsamic vinegar either from what I've read and tasted most balsamic vinegar just isn't very good. Here is what wikipedia has to say about Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

                                                  "These commercial grade products imitate the centuries old traditional artisan product. They are made of wine vinegar with the addition of colouring, caramel and sometimes thickeners like Guar Gum or cornflour. There is no aging involved and hundreds of thousands of litres can be produced every day."

                                2. re: MMRuth

                                  I have a recipe for a cranberry-sherry vinegar dressing that my brother makes. It has some nutmeg in it, salt, pepper, and oil of choice - not in front of me at the moment. The cranberry is from soaking craisins and using the juice. Since I haven't been able to find a kosher sherry vinegar, I have been using a combination of cranberry concentrate (real, not sweetened), a bit of water and sherry. It's good, though I'd love a kosher sherry vinegar or to make my own. The salad to this dressing has tangerine slices, toasted pecans and craisins over fresh spinach- if they are to a person's tastes. It sounds like a lot, though it is quite refreshing.

                                3. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  I use sherry vinegar and sometimes balsamic as part of the marinate for steak it makes for a nice combo with all the other spices.

                              2. Just to pile on, you've gotta try aged sherry vinegar. Reserva's great, Gran Reserva's spectacular. And apple cider vinegar is my go-to for down-home type cooking. White vinegar is largely reserved for use as a household cleaner.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  For all you sherry vinegar owners: where do you buy it? Our Publix does not sell it...so I doubt that Sweetbay would. Do you order it? That's the one I don't have and I keep looking for it. Thanks!

                                  1. re: Val

                                    Have whole foods in Sarasota, do you have one in Naples. If not easy to get on internet, there are young, olod, and very very old as the one l described above. All wonderful and all different.

                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                      Deluca...yes! Yay...we do have a Whole Foods here...thanks! They opened...hmmm...about 6 months ago, right nearby! Will stop by on my way home from work this week.

                                    2. re: Val

                                      We're lucky enough to have an incredible gourmet grocery in town. If you don't, maybe someplace like Whole Foods? You might also try an upscale kitchenware store like Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table. Some wine shops also carry things like vinegar and olive oil. Failing all else, mail order would work, but the stuff isn't terribly expensive, so it seems like the shipping and handling charges might exceed the cost of the vinegar itself.

                                      1. re: Val

                                        My Publix and Sweetbay both carry it in Sarasota 3 or 4 stores. If not just ask the manager, they usually can get it in. My stores always have it.

                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                        But I do use sometimes, not often mostly to clean the coffee pot, but I do use now and then. Works great on windows too

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          White vinegar is also great when used in the clothes washer - it make clothes/sheets softer and it's cheaper than a fabric softener.

                                          1. re: alwayscooking

                                            Really, never new. Very interesting. I clean with it alot, windows, everyday stuff. Clothes, I'll have to try.

                                        2. A standard for me, red, white, rice wine, cider, balsamic, champagne I always have them. Lemon and lime juice and yes I use those stupid plastic limes, just in case. Fresh, but you never know. It works just fine as a substitute. Also have sesame, olive 2 kinds and vegetable oil. My stables. Wouldn't leave ... (stay) home without them.

                                          1. Seconding some thoughts: white, red wine, balsamic, and rice wine. For me no others, but I use a lot of each of the four.

                                            1. Instead of buying another vinegar now, why not wait until you have a recipe that calls for one? I have red wine, balsamic (the cheap kind), cider (which is essential for my potato salad among other things), rice wine, and I use them all. I also have some berry vinegars that just sit there. After reading the comments, I would like to try sherry vinegar, but probably will wait until I want it for a specific dish. After all, it's probably only a couple miles away! Sometimes I buy white vinegar for household use or pickling.

                                              1. I recently acquired a bottle of Maple Syrup vinegar. It's delicious.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. We usually have:

                                                  Red wine, white wine, cider, balsamic, sherry and malt.

                                                  I could get by without the balsamic, sherry and cider.

                                                  1. Since you have rice vinegar, I'd say cider vinegar. We use it often for all the reasons already listed.

                                                    1. Lurking in cupboard now: rice wine vinegar, aged sherry vinegar, cider vinegar, red wine vin., balsamic (the cheapstuff...), white vin., and white wine vin. Looked for a tarragon vin. a few months ago when making green goddess dressing but couldn't find it so just subbed fresh tarragon. I love vinegar! Almost out of my 50 yr. old sherry vin. that was a gift from a friend in the trade. Crying silently.... adam

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: adamshoe

                                                        Have a fifty year old sherry, dry and flavorful, is wonderful. Look at one of my earlier posts on this discussion above, talk about a syrupy sherry one.

                                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                          These sherry vinegars have definitely gotten my attention.

                                                      2. let's see:
                                                        1. white
                                                        2. apple cider
                                                        3. rice wine
                                                        4. red wine
                                                        5. champagne
                                                        6. balsamic
                                                        7. tarragon
                                                        8. sherry
                                                        9. white wine
                                                        9 essentials (mr. monk is now obsessing over getting an even "10").

                                                        OK, GOT IT!
                                                        10. chinese black vinegar

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          Oh, I forgot. I have Chinese red vinegar! Thanks for the reminder :)

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            dang, another condiment i gotta buy!

                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              Too bad groups of chowhounds don't live in the same neighborhoods. We could share condiments! Hmm, I have keys to two of my neighbors' homes (they're second homes). I could start keeping things there, couldn't I?

                                                        2. Hey there! We just picked up a fantastic pomegranate balsamic. Enjoyed it straight as salad dressing tonight. What a flavor! Really outstanding:

                                                          Maybe make room for one more? :



                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                                            Doesn't that sound good? But I'm trying to pare down!

                                                            Just sent friends home after Hazan's carbonara and MMRuth's arugula salad. All three dogs bonded well. Night, night.

                                                          2. Pick up a couple specialty varieties for fun. A few favorites I've been burning through:

                                                            PURPLE SWEET POTATO VINEGAR - Great flavor, versatile. Aces for hollandaise and making a vinaigrette with pumpkin seed oil.

                                                            BLOOD ORANGE VINEGAR - Makes a great reduction to pair with homemade orange vanilla ice cream.

                                                            PASSION FRUIT VINEGAR - Good in marinade.

                                                            1. Kylie Kwong, who used to be on the old Discovery Home Network, turned me on to Chinese Red and Black Vinegars. They have become a staple in my kitchen. Recently, I found out about Blood Orange Vinegar, which is wonderful to use in a vinaigrette for fruit salads. Kat'z's in California makes a wonderful Sauvignon Vinegar that is very special, too. It's great to finish a sauce, and it's good in marinades and salad dressings.

                                                              1. As a random aside, several people I know including a doctor swear by the health benefits of taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day. It's also nice to have around to splash on salads so you might want to add that to the pantry!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: gourmandadventurer

                                                                  I've seen that tip on the internet...I too am a lover of vinegar...I notice that I do love strongly flavored foods and am always seeking out low-sodium ways to achieve those flavors: vinegar does the trick. But, is there any scientific data to support the claim? Not sure I've seen it ... but I still love the vinegar!

                                                                2. I have balsamic (30+ years aged and regular), cabernet, apple cider, rice wine, champagne, white wine balsamic (I like it for vinaigrettes), blood orange and raspberry vinegars. Used to have sherry vinegar, but I believe I used it up and never replaced it. Oh - and regular white vinegar (mostly used for cleaning <g>). I think that's it.