It’s not easy to eliminate processed foods from our pantries: they’re always ready-to-go and their taste is familiar. But if you want to eat healthier, have a few more meals at home with the family or get off the takeout runway, there are a few key ingredients to have on hand to make that change easier.
Top-quality red wine vinegar is one of those products. I used to buy whatever the supermarket had on offer. But once I had tasted the good stuff in French homes, that all changed.
What’s the difference between an artisan-made and a mass-produced vinegar?
Two main differences: the quality of the base
All products that contain sugars are used as a basis for vinegar. Wine but also apple juice can be used. First, the sugars are converted into alcohol by using yeast. Next, the alcohol is transformed, with the presence of oxygen, to acetic acid by the acetic acid bacterium “Acetobacter.”
An artisan-made red wine vinegar will use a good quality wine as it’s base whereas a mass-produced vinegar has a low-quality red wine as its base.
The Fermentation Process
Vinegar is produced either by a fast or a slowfermentation process.
Large quantity, industrially produced vinegar uses an acetator- a machine that speeds up oxidation through a constant stream of air bubbles. This speeds up the fermentation so that vinegar can be produced quickly -in 1 to 3 days.
However, it also causes the vinegar to lose the flavor characteristics of whatever was used to produce it, such as a good wine in red wine vinegar. So it no longer has the innate flavor profile of the source used to make it.
Slow methods are used in traditional vinegar production, where fermentation progresses throughout a few months to a year or longer.
Two Recipes With Red Wine Vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar can be used in many different ways with all salad greens and any raw vegetable.
Simple Red Wine Vinaigrette
• 2 TB of oil (olive oil, sunflower oil)
• 1 TB of Red Wine Vinegar
• Salt & Pepper to taste
You can also add 1 teaspoon of Dijon or whole grain mustard if you’d like the traditional vinaigrette recipe. The French also add a dash of sugar to the recipe which I don’t do: I think we have enough sugar in our daily lives as it is.
To make a simple, green salad taste special, I love to add a dash (or more) of curry powder to my simple red wine vinaigrette formula to give it a warm, spicy taste.
1. Cauliflower Rice with Carrots and Red Wine Vinaigrette
• 1/4 Cauliflower
• 2 Carrots
• 1 Tomato (or 6 cherry tomatoes)
• 1/4 Cucumber
• 1 TB Sesame Seeds
• 4 TB of Olive Oil
• 2 TB of Red Wine Vinegar
• 1 tsp of Whole-Grain (or smooth) Dijon Mustard
• Chopped Chives
• Salt to taste
(You can also add 2 TB of lemon juice to adjust the taste).
-Rince the cauliflower and peel the carrots
-Pulse the cauliflower and carrots in a blender
-Dice the cucumber and tomato
-Add all of the ingredients into a serving bowl
-Whisk the vinaigrette and mix into the ingredients
-Chill for one hour in the refrigerator
-Add the sesame seeds before serving
2. Poached Eggs “En Meurette”
• 1/4 lb (115g) of thick smoked bacon, diced
• 1TB butter
• 1/4 lb (115g) peeled pearl onions (tops & bottoms removed)
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 1/4 lb (115g) button mushrooms (cleaned & cut into quarters)
• 50 cl Red Wine (Beaujolais or Cabernet)
• 1 branch of Thyme
• 4 Eggs & 4 tsp of Red Wine Vinegar
• Black Pepper
• Parsley Leaves, Toast & Butter
-Over medium heat in a large saucepan stir fry the bacon until it is just brown (5 minutes)
-Remove the bacon and set aside
-Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan
-Add the butter, onions, and garlic and cook 1 minute
-Lower heat to medium-low and add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally
-Add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan and add the thyme
-Bring back to a simmer and cook until reduced by a third (around 45 minutes)
-Add the red wine vinegar and cook for another 30 minutes (dilute with 1/4 cup of water if too acidic for you)
-Poach the 4 eggs – each with one teaspoon of red wine vinegar (if using an egg poacher) or add the vinegar to boiling water, swirl the water and drop the eggs in to poach them (only a few minutes if you like the yolk soft)
-In 4 individual serving bowls, evenly distribute the onion/mushroom mixture and pour in some of the sauce
-Put one egg in each of the bowls on top of the onion-mushroom mixture and garnish with the bacon, parsley and fresh pepper to taste.
-Serve with buttered toast
This recipe is simple, but it takes time. You can make it ahead of time and reheat slowly in oven-safe bowls to serve warm.
A well-made red wine vinegar has many uses, not just in salads but also in cooking. You’ll definitely taste the difference in your raw vegetables when you make a vinaigrette with a good quality product. So if you want to up-level your pantry, make sure you have a high-quality red wine vinegar on hand.
Where to buy High-Quality French Red Wine Vinegar in the U.S.
An excellent place to start is with one of the last great artisanal vinegar makers in the French “Orleans” style, Martin Pouret. This company has been operated by the same family since the 18th century and is now run by the 6th generation of the Martin family
You can read about French artisan-made vinegars here.
If you want to up-level your pantry and get away from processed foods, then a high-quality red wine vinegar is one of the must-haves to add to it. As with white wine vinegar, you’ll reach for it often to make delicious salad dressings and
A well-made red wine vinegar has little to do with the mass-produced vinegar sold in supermarkets. It has more flavor, and its careful production eliminates the need for chemical preservatives and coloring to make it look good. Add to that the high-quality ingredients used in producing it, and you’ll realize it’s healthier for you and your family.
And now you: What vinegar do you use? Have you ever tried red wine vinegar? Leave a comment and tell me about it!
And come on over and say “Hi” on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nancyconwayparis/
Cauliflower rice recipe courtesy of Virginie Moreau