Have you ever had a simple salad at a really good restaurant and found that it tasted out-of-this-world delicious?
Maybe you’re like me and asked yourself “Is it magic? How did they make that taste so good? It’s just salad!”
It’s not the salad (though the quality of the lettuce counts a ton). You had probably just tasted a high-quality, artisan-made white wine vinegar. For me, it’s the stealth bomber of vinegar to have in your pantry arsenal: so subtle, but so powerful as to be a game-changer.
What’s the difference between an artisan-made and a mass-produced vinegar?
Two main differences: the quality of the base product used to make the vinegar and
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 white wine vinegar will use a good quality wine as it’s base whereas a mass-produced vinegar has a low-quality white wine as its base. Read more about the ingredient choices of a master vinegar maker here.
The Fermentation Process
Vinegar is produced either by a fast or a slow fermentation 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 like a good wine in white 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.
Traditional, slow processes, such as the French “Orleans” method, demand a lengthy aging process in oak barrels, yielding a naturally stable product which doesn’t need preservatives or added sulfites. Yaay!
The final result also carries the full flavor profile of the underlying high-quality base used. It’s a better tasting and healthier product than the quickly made processed version.
3 French Recipes with White Wine Vinegar
White wine vinegar is more subtle than its red wine counterpart. In addition to making just a plain green salad taste magical, it’s also used in vinaigrettes for other vegetables and in classic French sauces.
1. Up-level a Simple Fried Egg:
• 1TB of Butter
• 1 Egg
• Salt & Pepper
• 2 TB of White Wine Vinegar
• Chopped Herbs (tarragon or parsley)
-Fry the egg with the butter over medium-high heat
-Place on a warm plate
-Add the white wine vinegar to the pan while still hot and reduce by half
-Spoon butter/vinegar mixture over the fried egg
-Salt & pepper to taste and top with chopped herbs
2. Leeks with a White Wine Vinaigrette
• 1 lb (455g) of Leeks
• 1/4 cup (60ml) of White Wine Vinegar (Orléans method is preferable)
• 2 TB Dijon Mustard
• Black Pepper
• 1/2 cup (60ml ) of Hazelnut Oil (Walnut Oil can also be used)
• 1/2 cup (70g) Roquefort Cheese (or other quality blue cheese)
-Trim the roots and the green parts from the leeks
-Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse off any dirt, without letting the halves fall apart
-Cook the leeks in salted boiling water for a few minutes until you can pierce them with a knife
-Drain the leeks and put on a serving platter
-Whisk together first the white wine vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper
-Add the oil in slowly while whisking
-Drizzle over the leeks
-Add small pieces of Roquefort over the top and serve while warm
3. White Fish in “Beurre Blanc” (White Butter) Sauce
• 1 lb (455g) White Fish (flounder, sole, etc.) cut in 2 equal fillets
• 1 to 2 TB Olive Oil
• Salt and Pepper
• 1 cup (240 ml) White Wine
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) White wine Vinegar
• 1 Shallot finely chopped to make 1/2 cup (70g)
• 12 TB (1 1/2 sticks or 170g) Unsalted Butter
-Salt and Pepper the Fish
-Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat
-Fry the fish fillets skin-side down
-Remove from pan when cooked through, light brown and crispy
-Set aside on a plate skin-side up
-In the same pan over medium heat add the shallots, white wine, and white wine vinegar
-Stir and let reduce to 1/4 of the original volume or about 3 TB of liquid
-Add the butter 1 TB at a time, mixing it well into the liquid each time
-Remove sauce from heat and salt and pepper to taste
-Divide the “beurre blanc” sauce evenly among two plates
-Place the fish skin-side up in the middle of the plate of sauce and top with a touch of salt
Where to Buy a high-quality White Wine Vinegar Online:
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 find Martin Pouret’s white wine vinegar on Amazon.com.
The French achieve that restaurant-quality magic in their home-cooking by using great ingredients in their vinaigrettes and sauces. One of those key ingredients is a well-made, artisanal white wine vinegar. As with a good quality red wine vinegar, it’s a versatile pantry staple you’ll return to often.
A well-made 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. Read more about French artisan-made vinegar here.
Add to that the high-quality ingredients used in producing it, and you’ll realize it’s healthier for you and your family.
So if you’re bored with the same old recipes on repeat, try an excellent white wine vinegar. It will be a subtle but powerful addition to your pantry that will up-level a simple green salad, fried egg, vegetable or a classic butter sauce.
To expand your pantry selection further, you may want to try a well-made raspberry vinegar.
And now you:
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Leeks Recipe: by Michel Troisgros
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com