In Defense of White Vinegar
The vinegar world is wide, unbridled, and a little aggressive. Between the health fanatics touting the purported healing properties of ACV and the more sophisticated flavors of the more sophisticated guys (such as sherry vinegar), plain, distilled white vinegar doesn’t enjoy much culinary love.
However, there are times when white vinegar, which is essentially just diluted acetic acid, is the right vinegar. It adds a flavor that others cannot come close to while allowing other flavors to shine. Here are some of our favorite ways to use the simplest vinegar, none of which require cleaning.
- Pickled foods: The finest pickles are the boldest pickles, and white vinegar lives boldly. It’s great for classic pickled crustaceans , but it’s not weak acid release that makes this sweet and tart pickled corn so damn delicious.
- Vinegar Salt and Chips: Using a simple acid-base reaction, you can make your own acetic acid powder – the powerful acidic powder that decorates my favorite potato chips. This means you are making chips with salt and vinegar, but it also means popcorn with salt and vinegar, croutons with salt and vinegar, almonds with salt and vinegar. If you want to reimagine your favorite snack as a side dish, try Bon Appetit’s Salted Vinegar Chips , which are boiled in (diluted acetic) acid before baking.
- Shrubs: If, like me, you really are a fan of aggressively acidic drinks, I recommend making a shrub out of white matter . It works best with especially sweet, very ripe fruits. Simply sprinkle a pound of chopped fruit with two cups of sugar, cover and let sit at room temperature for a day, then strain the resulting syrup and mix with vinegar to taste. (Depending on how sweet your fruit is, this should be one to two cups.)
Also, remember to make a white vinegar vinaigrette, especially if you want to highlight other sweet, spicy, or pungent flavors. You may need a little extra sugar to reduce the sourness, but the sharp contrast between sour and sweet is worth it.