Vinegar-art - 6/26/01
"What's so special about Vinegar?" by Mistress Christianna MacGrain, OP,OL, Meridies.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
What's so special about Vinegar?
by Mistress Christianna MacGrain
Vinegar, that's the really sour stuff, right? The stuff you get when your wine or apple juice goes bad? Well, yes, and no, and so much more. Depending on who you ask, vinegar is the world's best food, the worst thing you can do for yourself, or just the stuff you use to clean the coffee maker.
Some of the claims (most of which are substantiated) for the wonders of vinegar are: pain relief, relieves varicose veins, fades headaches away, kills infections, soothes sore throat & coughs, calms nausea ,controls appetite and burn fat to help lose weight, protects the skin from the sun, fades age spots, and minimizes memory loss. Vinegar frees the body from several toxic substances and is antipyretic. Some of the anti-vinegar claims include a problem with the acidity level of your body and digestive tract and the prohibition against eating anything with vinegar if you suffer from candida albicans. Certainly there are some folks who will not be able to tolerate vinegar in their diet, but for those that can, the possibilities are endless.
Around the house, vinegar can be used for many things such as a disinfectant - vinegar kills and retards the growth of microorganisms; in the laundry for its antimicrobial properties; removing carpet stains; it makes an excellent furniture polish, shines your countertops, floors, windows & fixtures, and it is fully biodegredable.
Vinegar should also not be missed in beauty care. Vinegar cleans and disinfects the skin. It also can help you against obstinate skin diseases. Vinegar gives you a beautiful complexion, because it activates the circulation of blood in your skin.
alcohol + oxygen + Bacteria -> Acetic acid + water
The Etymological OED says vinegar is produced by a form of fermentation known as "acetous". If you obtain a good quality organic style apple cider vinegar you often get the 'mother' for the vinegar in the product. Indeed this is considered a bonus, as it proves the vinegar to still be alive. It takes about a month to turn out a nice young vinegar, though it mellows out with age. If you don't know if you have a mother present, get some unpasteurized cider vinegar such as Bragg's and add it to hard cider. The mother will form, converting the alcohol to acetic acid... aka vinegar. New vinegar is sharp, but you can cut it with water to taste.
Vinegar can be made from anything which contains sugar or starch: fruits, grains and sugar holding beverages. Raw, unprocessed vinegar contains the cobweb-like 'mother', a microbial mat that forms the basis for the fermentation. It is rich in enzymes and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, natural organic sodium, magnesium, sulphur, iron, copper, natural pectin and trace minerals. Distilling kills off most of these beneficial aspects of vinegar, leaving it good for cleaning, but not for health.
In the late 1800s chemists learned to make acetic acid from coal tar. Manufacturers added water to reduce its strength to 5%, colored it and sold it as vinegar. Imitation vinegar is still manufactured and by law the label must state that it is diluted acetic acid. Diluted acetic acid is inexpensive and lacks the vitamins, minerals and esters found in fermented vinegar; its flavor and aroma are also inferior. However, due to its low cost, it remains one of the most popular vinegars in supermarkets today.
Wine fanciers often have a container covered with a clean cloth into which they pour the dregs of even their quality wines, which then ferment into great vinegar. Wine kept in casks, tends to go to vinegar fairly quickly. Indeed the problem with wine in earlier days was to stop it going off (note Biblical references to new wine/old wine), which was not easily accomplished without bottling, or special sealed storage jars, and the sealant was a problem before the use of cork started late in the Renaissance.
In the book _Herbal Vinegar_by Maggie Oster, she says in the history section:
"By the thirteenth century, a wide selection of vinegars - including those flavored with clove, chicory, fennel, ginger, truffle, raspberry, mustard, and garlic- was commonly sold by street vendors in Paris. Pepper vinegar was especially popular during the Middle Ages because wine that contained pepper was not taxed on importation into Paris."
At the web site of Alessi, one of the larger commercial balsamic vinegar producers, they say (at http://www.vigo.com/BALSAMIC.htm):
"Balsamic vinegar has been made for hundreds of years. It originated in the Modena region of Italy, and until recently only those regions were privileged to experience its delights. It is recorded that in 1046 A.D., Boniface, marquis of Bologna, made a gift of Balsamic Vinegar to Henry III, the Holy Roman Emperor. Like in wine making, each family had their own special recipe. The Balsamic Vinegar was aged up to 25 years or more, and sometimes spiced with herbs and seasonings. "
According to the web site of Master Choice (http://www.masterchoice.com/vinegar.htm), another commercial balsamic vinegar producer, the traditional production of balsamic vinegar goes like this:
"After pressing, the juices of the trebbiano and lambrusco grapes that are typical to the Emilia-Romagna region are blended and boiled over fire, and then poured into barrels of oak, chestnut, cherry, mulberry and ash. For years, the juice ages, ferments and condenses naturally, gradually transforming into vinegar. Every year, the liquid is mixed with younger vinegars and placed in a series of smaller and smaller barrels. The vinegar absorbs much of its aroma from the oak and its color from the chestnut. Then after five years, the vinegar is bottled."
The truly natural way is to let the wine or beer sit in the open, uncovered for a couple days until it starts to have a vinegary odor, then cover it with cloth and let it mature. The vinegar-producing bacteria need air to live and reproduce so don't cap it air-tight. Keeping it warm speeds the process. It is not a fast process, taking weeks to months to produce a satisfactory product.
Vinegar made from beer is more properly called "alegar". It may have been introduced as early as Roman times. Around the 17th century, alegar began to take the place of verjuice (unripe grape juice) in pickles and sauces, and began to usurp the name "vinegar", previously only applied to wine-based products. Although other kinds of vinegar were still made, malt vinegar became the most common. The suffix "egar" meaning sour, with the Old French 'vin', and 'aigre', or sour wine. So alegar or ale "vinegar" does indeed come from soured beer or ale.
It takes good alcohol (wine or beer) to make fermented vinegar. The Hit-or-miss method of making vinegar by allowing sugar and water to ferment is not wise. The fermentation of sugar to alcohol by wild yeast is followed by a conversion of the alcohol to acetic acid by wild bacteria. Chances of failure or undesirable tastes and aromas are high. Control the process by using great care in cleanliness and introducing chosen yeast and bacteria to obtain quality vinegar every time.
If you make vinegar or pickles, have a pickle crock and a brewing crock and never the twain will meet if you're smart. Some people don't even have their vinegar mother working in the same room as their wines and beer, and some brewers won't have it in their house at all.
Vinegar should contain at least 5% acid as required for preserving or pickling. Specialty vinegar contains acid as high as 7%. Beer containing 5.5% alcohol will yield about 5% acid. Wine containing 11 to 12% alcohol must be diluted to 5.5 to 7% alcohol before using it to make vinegar. Acid test kits, sold by winemaking suppliers, are used to determine the acidity of vinegar. Acid tests are easy to perform and instructions come with the kit. The quality of vinegar improves for up to two years and then gradually declines. Fermented vinegar can be sold without the special permits or licenses required for alcoholic beverages. It costs the same as a good bottle of wine.
Vinegar can be made from any dilute alcohol, which makes wine and beer ideal for the purpose. Keep the vessels that said potables are made in sealed to prevent contamination from the air and fruit fly like creatures referred to as "vinegar flies" from getting to the brew and infecting it with acetic acid bacteria.
Flavoring can be added to homemade vinegar just before bottling. Good examples of additives include green onion, garlic, ginger, or any combination of dried or fresh herbs. To make flavoring, place material in a small cheesecloth bag and suspend in the vinegar until desired strength is reached. This will take about 4 days, except for garlic, which takes only 1 day. For every 2 cups of vinegar, use one of the following: 1/2 cup crushed fresh herbs, 1 tablespoon of dried herbs, 2 large cloves of garlic, or 8 small green onions. Other good flavorings include tarragon, basil, nasturtium, chives, mint, chervil, borage, hot chilies, and raspberries. Adjust the amounts to taste, but be careful not to overload the vinegar. Too much vegetable matter can destroy the acid and ruin the preservative quality of the vinegar. Some flavorings may not go well with cider vinegar's distinct taste and color. When flavoring store-bought vinegar, use more delicate or decorative flavors. When flavoring store-bought vinegar, you will still need to pasteurize it and use sterile bottles.
Flavored vinegars taste great and have a beautiful color, making them excellent for use in salads. You will be tempted to display flavored vinegar; however, be sure to keep your bottles out of direct sunlight, which will destroy the flavor, acidity, and color of the vinegar.
In the Bragg's book Apple Cider Vinegar - Miracle Health System, Paul and Patricia Bragg make so many claims for the health benefits of vinegar, you wonder how you ever lived without it! According to them, a daily drink of equal parts of apple cider vinegar and honey, diluted with water, makes the perfect health cocktail, to be consumed morning, noon, and night. Some of the benefits they claim for this drink are that it: helps fight germs and bacteria; helps retard the onset of old age in humans and animals; helps regulate calcium metabolism; helps regulate menstruation; helps relieve sore throats, laryngitis, sinus, asthma, flu, sunburn, pimples, arthritis, obesity and baldness! There is something to this, as the Roman legions marched on rations of watered wine and vinegar, and regularly drank a vinegar, honey and water mixture to relieve fatigue and to keep them healthy while conquering the world (that and the garlic, it is said they could be smelt before they were seen). Ancient Middle Eastern texts include recipes for jalabs, or syrups that are mixed to be diluted with water over ice for a refreshing, cooling drink. One of these is called Sekanjabin, which is a syrup of mint, honey and vinegar, which is then diluted and enjoyed. It acts like an electrolyte balancer, and is much better for you than Gatorade!
Here is the Bragg's secret to their Miracle Health System:
Patricia Bragg's Vinegar Drink recipe
1 to 2 teaspoons of Bragg's Vinegar
in a 8 0z. glass of Distilled water.
Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of Raw Honey or
organic maple syrup if desired.
She suggests you take it 3 times a day; upon arising, mid-morning, and mid-afternoon.
So, drink vinegar, be healthy, and the next time someone says "You're full of p**s and vinegar!", say, "Yes, I am!"
Apple Cider Vinegar - Miracle Health System by Paul C. and Patricia Bragg
Making Vinegar- by Elaine C. White Copyright 1993
Stephan's Florilegium www.florilegium.org - "vinegar"
alt.chips.salt-n-vinegar Newsgroup: People fond of salt and vinegar potato chips. www.tile.net
Copyright 2001 by Christine Seelye-King. 1039 E. Confederate Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316 <kingstaste at mindspring.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.