Vinegar enhances the flavor of recipes and has long been used as a food preservative But Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen's Janine Washle says vinegar can also be used as a condiment or seasoning in recipes and a preservative in drinks.
But what do most people really know about vinegar? This mild acid had an accidental start and is considered an ancient seasoning. Legend has it that Cleopatra won a bet against a man when she bet him that she could eat a fortune at dinner. She dropped pearls into vinegar, and when they dissolved, she drank the resultant liquid.
It is believed that wine was left exposed to air and of course, the bacteria (aerobic) floating in the air. This bacteria reacted with the sugars in the wine creating what the French call vin agre or soured wine. Not all air borne bacteria makes good vinegar. The desirable strain is one of the strains of acetobacter which specifically converts the liquid to acetic acid otherwise known as vinegar.
To make a palatable vinegar this process needs to be monitored to ensure cleanliness and proper conversion. It all starts with either grain, or fruit; specifically, rice, corn, or barley, apples, and grapes.
Other fruits can be used but these are the basis of the common vinegars we use today:
Rice = Rice wine vinegar
Corn = white distilled vinegar
Barley = malt vinegar
Apples = apple cider vinegar
Grapes = red wine, white wine, or champagne including sherry which is a fortified wine.
The juices convert to ethyl alcohol. Then these alcoholic concoctions are treated with acetic bacteria which react with the ethyl alcohol creating acetic acid. This acid with a mild PH is diluted to 5% or 50 grains for table/pickling vinegar and 6% for cleaning vinegar. This measurement is listed on the vinegar labels. It refers to the acetic acid content of the vinegar. The grain strength is 10 times the acetic acid content. Never use homemade vinegar at full strength as it can burn soft tissue and even take the finish off of surfaces.
Culinary uses are many for this tangy liquid. Adding vinegar to milk lends a fine buttermilk substitute. It used to be a common stand-in for then expensive citrus. The traditional vinegar pie is a unique favorite. Homemade vinegar used to be made into a thirst quenching drink known as switchel and when combined with fruit and liquor, shrub.
Besides drinking, vinegar is used to make vinaigrettes for salads, and to add a sour punch to ethnic dishes. Whatever your use for this ancient seasoning, you will benefit, if nothing else, from the pick-me-up effect of this tangy tonic.
While there are those who attribute this pie to the South, it more likely was a pioneer woman's noble attempt at using humble ingredients to provide a dessert for the table.
1 9" pie crust, unbaked pressed into pie plate
3 large eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 TB all purpose flour
2 TB white or cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted
Garnish: dusting of ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, flour, vinegar, vanilla, and butter until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake for 20 minutes then cover edges of pie with foil to prevent darkening. Continue to bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Cool completely before slicing. Dust with cinnamon if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.
Haymaker's Punch (Switchel)
A common country drink when hay was being cut. The electrolytes in the vinegar and the calming effect of ginger prevented stomach upset when consumed cold. Many times plain cold water could cause a farmer to become nauseous.
Makes: 2 servings
2 TB vinegar such as apple cider or balsamic
2 TB plain pomegranate juice
2 TB granulated sugar or 1 TB honey
1 TB grated ginger
1 to 1-1/2 cups water or sparkling water
Heat vinegar, pomegranate juice, sugar or honey, and ginger in a small saucepan just until steam rises. Do not let it boil. Whisk until the sugar or honey is fully dissolved. Pour into a glass. Add water just until diluted enough to enjoy. Add ice and serve.
Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen also has a special Vinegar Recipe Booklet available by email. To ask for a complimentary copy, just email Janine Washle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
3720 Mt. Olive Rd.
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
About Cloverfields & Janine Washle:
Janine Washle and her family live at the Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen in Big Clifty, Kentucky in Hardin County. CloverFields Farm & Kitchen, part of a century old farmstead, is our home and business. The McGuffin house, the original farmhouse, is a registered state landmark. CloverFields Farm has a prosperous farming history. They are continuing this rural story in their own unique way by the addition of CloverFields Kitchen a place to explore the past through food and merge it with our modern lifestyles.
CloverFields Farm is dedicated to the preservation of southern, especially Kentucky, food traditions. The kitchen is commercially-outfitted compliant with Health Department standards. In this kitchen I develop new recipes based on original ideas, inspirations from my culinary research, and most often according to what is in season.
On the farm, they make many gifts and specialty items. She is currently working on her first cookbook, but she also has a long resume developing recipes for several companies. She has also won several contests and cook-offs with her original recipes.