Why premium vinegar is a praiseworthy pantry essential

Explore the variety and versatility of specialty vinegars in cooking

With ancient origins that trace back to Babylon in 5000 B.C.E. and beyond, vinegar has long been valued as a natural ingredient in prepared foods, condiments, beverages, home remedies, and more. Thanks to the rise of artisan vinegar varieties evolving over time, there are now more options to enjoy than ever before. Vibrant and versatile, premium vinegar has been embraced as a must-have ingredient for home cooks and professional chefs alike. Let’s dive in and discover why!

Benefits & blessings

By far, the most significant benefit of cooking with vinegar is that it is full of flavor and complexity, yet contains little to no calories and sugar, and is free of fat and sodium. Artisan vinegar varieties with added ingredients such as fruit or herbs can potentially have slightly higher calorie or sugar counts, yet are still quite low compared to most other ingredients or condiments that are readily available to consumers for adding flavor to everyday foods.

When it comes to naturally enhancing the flavors of fresh foods without compromising a clean and healthy diet, specialty vinegar can’t be beaten. 

Beyond health-conscious qualities, scientific research is limited when it comes to vinegar’s actual ability to improve one’s well-being in and of itself. However, many cultures have considered vinegar to be beneficial to human health throughout history. Experts say some vinegar varieties, such as balsamic and wine vinegars with live cultures, contain antioxidants and probiotics. Others have trace amounts of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenolic compounds. And, it’s no secret that vinegar enlivens fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins, which encourages consumption of healthy foods and makes maintaining a nutrient-dense diet more enjoyable.

Types & typical uses

We’ve already established that artisan vinegar is ideal for adding or enhancing flavor without unhealthy or unwanted consequences, but it can do more than brighten fresh market finds, meats, and fish. Specialty vinegars range in acidity and from delicate to distinct, sweet to savory, and everywhere in between. Everyday epicureans turn to artisan vinegars to build layers of aromatic flavor, develop delicious depth, and create complexity that can’t be achieved any other way. In essence, vinegar can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary with ease. Vinegar can also be used to neutralize overly rich dishes and encourage a balanced blend of flavors. Vinegar’s versatility makes it indispensable.

Below are the most common vinegar varieties, along with serving suggestions and helpful tips for each type:

  • Balsamic vinegar — Sweet and mellow with complex rich flavor. Balsamic vinegar is made from fermented grape must (crushed fruit plus the skins, seeds, and stems). Dark balsamic is smooth and has a slightly more syrup-like consistency, while white balsamic is lighter with a floral, fruity, and fresh finish. Both varieties taste less acidic than other vinegars, making them a go-to ingredient in salad dressings, glazes, and marinades. Balsamic is also brilliant drizzled over desserts and is often stirred into specialty beverages. Buyers beware: Inexpensive, poor-quality balsamic often contains caramel coloring. O’s California balsamic vinegars do not contain coloring or additives of any kind and are also California Proposition 65 compliant. (California Proposition 65 requires companies to clearly warn consumers about significant exposure to certain chemicals that may cause harm to one’s health or the environment, such as lead.)
  • Premium wine vinegar — Rich, robust red wine vinegars and crisp white vinegars are all the rage for creating complex flavor in an uncomplicated way. The word vinegar derives from the French term “vin aigre” which means sour wine, so naturally, wine vinegars are slightly sharper and taste more acidic than other varieties. While flavors vary by the type of wine (or champagne) used, all yield remarkable results, making wine vinegar an idyllic element of many culinary creations. However, quality counts, of course! Premium wine vinegars such as O’s are hand-crafted with superior wine and champagne from California wine country and the difference is crystal clear!
    • Red wine vinegars are often used in recipes that require slow cooking to achieve a super savory outcome, such as soups, stews, and gravies.
    • White wine vinegars bring out the sweetness of fruits and make sauces and glazes sparkle. White wine vinegars are also excellent for softening spice or cooling off heat in salsas or sauces and harmonizing flavors overall — a great alternative to heavy cream or butter. And, white wine vinegar shines in shrubs, cocktails, and mocktails.
    • Sherry vinegar has gained popularity as a smooth and sultry palate-pleaser with a combination of sweet, smoky, and nutty flavors. Like its red and white wine cousins, it can be used in many ways – splashed over grilled veggies and tapas, whisked into vinaigrettes, and stirred into soups and sauces.

All wine vinegar varieties are deliciously succulent in salad dressings and are often used for cooking meat and fish. In fact, wine vinegar helps to tenderize tough meats to a more desirable texture, making it a popular ingredient in marinades and basting sauces. It can even be used to “cook” fresh fish for ceviche without the use of heat!

  • Rice vinegar — As one might guess, rice vinegar is made from fermented rice. It tends to be more mild and sweet than wine vinegar, yet lighter than balsamic. A blissful in-between, if you will. Rice vinegar pairs exceptionally well with Asian-inspired cuisine such as sushi, stir fry, and pickled vegetables.

Essentially, artisan vinegars are incredible when used to create classic or vibrant vinaigrettes, invigorate fresh fruits and vegetables, make mouthwatering marinades and sauces, and so much more. In all sincerity, we believe that no cook’s kitchen is complete without an array of vinegar varieties.

A few morsels to keep in mind:

  • A little goes a long way. Replace salt with a splash of wine vinegar, but treat it similarly sparingly to avoid excess acidity.
  • Due to their acidic nature, vinegars are self-preserving and do not need to be refrigerated. They should be stored in a kitchen cabinet or pantry protected from extreme temperatures and sunlight.
  • We stamp our vinegars with a shelf life of 5 years. However, vinegar has a practically indefinite shelf life, and, like the wines they originate from, vinegar tends to improve with age (especially those made with red wines).
  • Remember, the best way to use vinegar is to naturally boost or balance out flavors of a nutrient-dense diet designed to support your well-being.
  • Get creative, experiment with different vinegar varieties, and have fun with it!

Ultimately, we love that vinegar offers effortless, harmless, and endless ways to naturally enhance a healthy diet. That’s why we’re passionate about producing premium, hand-crafted vinegars that help you take your home cooking to new heights.

Visit our blog to find out why O’s premium vinegars are preferred by both foodies and chefs. Plus, check out our recipe collection to discover different dishes featuring O’s artisan vinegars, additional inspiration, and more.