Vinegar is a ubiquitous kitchen staple, but not all vinegars are created equal. Distilled vinegar, made from grain alcohol that has been fermented and then distilled via slow filtration, can be used for more than just pickling, though it excels in that regard. Whether you’re looking to add a hint of tartness to your fries or even create fire cider (a kind apple cider and garlic tonic), understanding the basics of distilled vinegar can help you make the most of this pantry staple.
As the name implies, distilled vinegar is made from grains that are first brewed and then vaporized. This process is known as distillation, and it is used to release and concentrate the inherent flavor components. A key part of this whole process is the bacteria known as acetic acid bacteria that actually produces a molecule known as acetic acid during fermentation. This acetic acid is responsible for the sour taste of any vinegar - the greater the concentration, the stronger the flavor. In the case of distilled white vinegar, the concentration of the acid is low and the vinegar itself is typically clear and without any sediment.
One of the primary uses of distilled vinegar is as a pickling agent, as it is non-opaque in nature and often works well to preserve the original color and texture of the items being pickled. Distilled vinegar also offers a light, crisp flavor that is often preferred for pickles of all varieties, often acting as the flavor carrier for garlic, dill, or any other spices in the mix. Furthermore, the acidity provided by the vinegar helps to preserve the pickles for longer, which is increasingly important when it comes to preserving the summer harvest for winter pantries.
In addition to its use in pickling, distilled vinegar also carries an impressive list of other advantages. From helping to make mayonnaise to killing weeds, distilled white vinegar has a number of other applications. In terms of culinary uses, it's a key ingredient in homemade dressings and marinades, great for deglazing pans, and it can even be used as a low-calorie substitute for a wide array of sauces and glazes. Distilled vinegar also has household uses such as deodorizing carpets, untarnishing silver, and even declogging a shower drain, making it a versatile item for any home.
In terms of nutrition, distilled vinegar is surprisingly high in potassium, packing up to 259 mg per tablespoon. This may not seem like much, but it's enough to make it a powerful contributor to our body's daily needs. It's also worth noting that distilled vinegar contains no fat or calories and is an excellent antimicrobial and antifungal. These properties make it an ideal item to have on hand both for food preservation and sanitation.
In sum, while vinegar of any sort can add a tart flavor to any dish, distilled vinegar stands out in terms of its efficacy, versatility, and general health benefits. From silver polish to salad dressing, it's an item that should be kept in any pantry or medicine cabinet. So if you're looking to pickle or deglaze, distilled vinegar is a great choice for any culinary situation.