The Vinegar Primer
5 essential vinegars you need in your pantry
Vinegars have long been the unsung heroes of our larder. These versatile condiments add instant flavor-packed perfection with just a splash, pour or drizzle (and we're talking about more than salad dressing here). Think a satisfying pan sauces for meats, tangy marinades for vegetables, a final flourish over your favorite fruit . . . the possibilities are endless (And New Year's bonus: all the flavor without the extra calories!). Here are 5 must-haves to start 2018:
The new everyday vinegar
Banyuls vinegar—a sherry-like vinegar from Southern France—is made from the naturally sweet wine of Banyuls (50% Grenache Noir, 40% Grenache Gris, 10% Carignan) and aged in oak barrels for 6 years. The vinegar has a forward tang with a hint of sweetness and subtle nuttiness.
How to use: Banyuls vinegar's balanced sweet and savory flavor makes it out go-to for everything from dressings and marinades to pan sauces and quick pickles (try using it to pickle carrots and beets!).
The pantry classic
Volpaia Red Wine Vinegar—made with Sangiovese and Cannaiolo (two of the traditional grapes used in making Chianti Classico wine)—is aged for close to 18 months in oak barrels. The resulting vinegar is bold, full-bodied and tangy with notes of fresh grapes, oak and berries.
How to use: This is the use-me-in-everything vinegar—whisk in salad dressings, add a splash to braised greens or use in vibrant, herb-based sauces like our recipe for Carrot Top Chimichurri.
The secret flavor maker
Pojer e Sandri's vinegars are made solely from fruit grown on their estate and the neighboring farmers' orchards in the Trento region of Northern Italy.
To make their vinegar, the fruit is gently pressed for its juice, which is then fermented and aged in oak barrels for 18 to 24 months. The Blackcurrant Fruit Vinegar is packed with fresh-picked fruit flavor, intense and tart with a lingering sweetness.
How to use: Add a couple of splashes to enrich a pan sauce for seared duck breasts, pork chops or roasted pork tenderloin.
The all-star finish
Il Pregiato balsamico (Il Pregiato meaning "the precious one") is aged for a minimum of 10 years. This traditional Italian condiment has a thick, syrup-like silkiness with rich, nuanced notes of dried fig and tart cherry. Not for salad dressings, this prized balsamic is meant for drizzling (fruit, cheese, roasted vegetables and meats, just to name a few).
How to use: Who says you can't have vinegar for dessert? Drizzle over poached pears and top with a dollop of lightly sweetened mascarpone cheese. Or do as the Italians do and end the meal on a savory note with Parmigiano-Reggiano topped with a flourish of balsamico.
The salad dressing winner
This California wine vinegar—made using the Orleans method, a classic French vinegar-making technique that showcases the nuances of the grapes—has bright notes of cucumber, citrus and melon with a vibrant, lively acidity.
How to use: Be a vinaigrette master: 3 parts mild extra virgin olive oil, 1 part vinegar, a spoonful of a Dijon mustard, a drizzle of California honey and salt and pepper to taste. Et voilà!