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WhiteTrash BBQ -- Real Pit Barbecue from New York City. This is the story of a fire obsessed guy, living in Brooklyn, with a dream of producing award winning, competition busting, real Barbeque. Come live the dream as I compete around the country in the KCBS Championship Barbecue circuit.

Friday, February 29, 2008

BBQ Ingredients: Vinegar

I've been thinking about vinegar lately. During the cleanup of the "puddle" 10 days ago I realized that I have a lot of open bottles of vinegar. I have white vinegar, red wine, white wine, fig infused, pear infused, sherry, champagne, rice, taragon and of course balsamic vinegar. And I have a couple of bottles of unopened vinegar. Thank God most of it is relatively cheap.

This got me thinking, do I need all this different vinegar? Do they really taste all that different? I decided to taste them all. I put about 1/2 teaspoon on a piece of white wonder bread and sampled them all.

First up was white vinegar. I rarely use white vinegar. White vinegar can be a bit harsh. It does add tang, but not much more.

According to The Vinegar Institute, apple vinegar is the most popular in the country, and it's the one I use most in barbecue. Sometimes before I cook my meat, I give it a quick bath in the apple cider vinegar before putting on the rub. Apple cider vinegar adds a tart and subtle fruity flavor to anything it touches.

I have a bottle of Heinz apple cider vinegar that states on it's label that it's made from apples. The Heinz apple cider vinegar has a distinct apple flavor and smell. My bottle of Admiration apple cider vinegar doesn't claim that it's made from apples and the apple flavor is missing in the taste test. It does have an apple smell and a sweet finish, but it just doesn't taste of apples.

I've always wondered why the Heinz company labeled the vinegar as made from apples and now I know. It turns out that the Admiration vinegar is made by the Supreme Oil Company. God knows what's in it!

After apple cider vinegar, I use Balsamic the most. Balsamic vinegar was introduced to the United States sometime during the 1970's but has been around since the days of the Roman empire. True balsamic vinegar is made only in Italy and is a true artisan's product. Its production is tightly regulated and can take as long as 25 years to make. I have a small bottle of this that I rarely use as it's very expensive and too good to be mixed into salad dressings or sauces. Traditional balsamic should be used on its own.

Then there's the commercial balsamic vinegar which anyone can make. Some of this is made in Italy and Modena, but most isn't. It's significantly cheaper than true balsamic vinegar and varies greatly in quality and taste from brand to brand.

The "true" balsamic vinegar is a little tart, a little sweet and very complex. The commercial stuff is still pretty good, but it lacks the complexity in taste and mouth feel of the good stuff. All balsamic vinegar pairs amazingly well with both sweet and salty foods.

Up next was the red wine vinegar. Again I have a bottle of Heinz and a bottle of Admiration. Both were tart and a little sweet with a finish not unlike a chianti. I really didn't much of a difference between the two brands.

I won't get into the rest of the vinegars today, as this post is getting much too long, but tasting the vinegars individually answered my question. Yes, I do need all these different vinegars. Each adds a unique flavor to recipes.

All pictures in this post are courtesy of The Vinegar Institute who state that there are vinegar virgins... "Virgins (over 33 million Americans fall into this group) Virgins are simply unaware of white distilled vinegar’s various uses and have not purchased or used white distilled vinegar in the last year."

Imagine that.

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At 7:55 PM, Blogger Eric Devlin said...

Great article, but freaky odd. I finished writing an article about vinegar in sauces not more than 20 minutes ago. I pop over here and see this. Crazy synchronicity.

Would you mind if I linked to the article when I post mine?

BTW, how are things progressing with another location for GotB?

Eric Devlin

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

funny, I did the vinegar, taste-testing a few months back, also. (sorry, to read about your "puddle" I've experienced that as well!) it helped me decide which brands where better, as you noted, quite surprising how different the taste could be brand to brand.
as fare as types of vinegar
my favorites:
champagne vinegar for dijon mustard vinegarettes.
apple cider vinegar for everything bbq.
red wine vinegar: in my chili, beans, and even dashed on top of cous cous
aged balsamic vinegar of modena: drizzled over chunks of parmesian cheese
rice vinegar: in miso marinades for fish

interesting topic, often over-looked aspect of cooking.
different types of salt and ways of using them is also an often overlooked component.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I'm glad you posted this because I wasn't aware of the difference with balsamic. I'll have to try some of the good stuff from where my wife works. With her employee discount (40% for non-corded items), it should actually be affordable :)

At 6:50 PM, Blogger WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Eric, feel free to link to this blog anytime. i think there's a bit of synchronization amongst most bbq folks. On some level, some metaphysical plane we all seem to be as one.

Chris, maybe you could setup a little black market on balsamic. With the dollar being so weak right now your discount may come in handy. You'll find "true" balsamic vinegar can run from $20 to $300 a bottle and more. It all depends on how, where, and when it was created. Let me know you find out.

And Anonymous, you're right on with your choices for the different types of vinegar. When you get a chance try some rice vinegar with beef. Very interesting combination.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Eric Devlin said...


Just posted the article and linked over here to the vinegar article. Hope you feeling better.

Eric Devlin


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