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Monday, June 19, 2006 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

Where does vinegar come from or how is it made?

The word "vinegar" derives from the French vin aigre, meaning "sour wine." That tells you a lot about the origins of vinegar itself. The tart liquid was probably first created by accident when wine went bad or when fruit juice was left out long enough to ferment into alcohol and then ferment again into vinegar.
People have made and used vinegar for about 10,000 years. The ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, and Romans used it as a flavoring, medicine, and preservative for foods. Before refrigeration, pickling in vinegar was an important way to keep vegetables from spoiling.

Vinegar can be made from most any sweet or starchy material, such as juices of fruits, vegetables, and grains. A little warmth and the right bacteria will turn sugars and alcohol into acetic acid, the main component of vinegar. Like a fine wine, vinegar can be aged to produce more complex flavors.

Different ingredients and brewing processes are used to create various types of vinegar. Balsamic vinegar, the favorite of foodies, is traditionally made from the sweet, white Trebbiano grapes grown in Modena, Italy. The grapes are crushed, filtered, boiled, cooled, filtered again, and poured into casks to age for 12 to 25 years. This results in a very fine and expensive condiment used sparingly and sometimes drunk as an aperitif.

In Asia, rice vinegar is very common. The grain is ground, steamed, and fermented for many months in clay pots. The process creates a mellow, fragrant vinegar used to season sushi rice and in other dishes.

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