I have been thinking about vinegar lately. For the last few years I have mainly used a Spanish sherry vinegar, but with salad season almost upon us I wondered what I have been missing. I haven’t bought bottled salad dressing in as far back as I can think. Homemade is so much better and so easy. I also like to finish soups and stews with a bit of vinegar for another layer of flavor. I invited my friend Anne to taste a variety of vinegars. The first thing was to buy several. Every place I looked had shelves of balsamics and flavored vinegars but only a couple of wine vinegars. Balsamic has never been a favorite of mine as I find it too sweet for everyday use. Plus the good stuff costs a fortune. We were not looking for the best vinegar but rather identifying the different flavors. Here is what we found.
The process; We used a plain bread to dip into the vinegar. Then cleansed our palettes with water and more bread between vinegars.
1. Colavita White Wine Vinegar: This was surprisingly nice and light much smoother than we expected. You can find this in most grocery stores for under $4.00. It has 6% acidity.
2. O Champagne Vinegar: This was sweeter but sharper than the white wine. The sweetness was not cloying but quite apparent. This is readily available for about $12.00. It has 6% acidity.
3. Gingras Extraold Apple Cider Vinegar: This one is from Canada and aged up to 12 years in oak casks. This one was very smooth and clean. We expected more of an apple flavor. It only has 5% acidity and sells for around $6.00 for 6.76 fl. oz.
4. Monari Federzoni Red Wine Vinegar: This one was full and rich we thought this was very nice. It has 7%acidity and sells for less than $4.00 for 16.9 fl. oz.
5. Columela Vinagre De Jerez Vinegar: I expected this to be my favorite as I have used it for years. It tasted strongly of sherry. It was sweet but quite sharp. It has 8% acidity and sells for about $10.00 for 12 fl. oz.
6. O White Balsamic Vinegar: This is made in California. I was dubious about a white balsamic but this was very good. It was fruity and sweet. I was surprised how much I liked it.
7.Bumble Balsamic Traditional Vinegar: This is a store in the mall that sells olive oils and balsamic vinegars of many flavors. This is made in Modena and aged up to 18 years. We found this sweet and complex without the heaviness of some balsamics. Where I still think balsamic is to sweet for every day vinaigrette it would be lovely as a glaze or to finish a dish.
8. Fresh Market Balsamic Vinegar: Although made in Modena this was the only one we were disappointed with. It tasted sweet yet sharp with no great flavor or depth. It has 6% acidity and sells Only at Fresh Market stores for about $7.00 for 8.45 fl. oz.
What I learned:
First of all I need to use a greater variety of vinegars. I started using the sherry because so many wine vinegars were so sharp. Either my taste has changed or the industry has.
Second: price does not necessarily predict flavor.
Third : there is way too much low quality balsamics. The variety was overwhelming. How to choose?
Do you have a favorite vinegar? Tell me about it, I would love to learn more!