Using flavored vinegars

I have received a number of beautiful, and I’m sure flavorful, vinegars such as garlic, lemon, basil and onion. I am at a loss as to how to incorporate these into my cooking, other than vinegar and oil salad dressing. What do you suggest?

Versatile vinegar has been gracing the kitchens of good cooks for centuries. It can be used for flavor enhancement, food preservation or aroma control. With flavored vinegars like yours, Linda, a small, fragrant splash in most any skillet or stew-pot dish will create an instant burst of complex tastes. Just before serving skillet-roasted potatoes or vegetable, sizzle the hot pan with a tablespoon of garlic vinegar. Of course, you can always sprinkle vinegar on oven-roasted potatoes or french fries. Marinate and refrigerate shredded cabbage and sweet peppers overnight in onion vinegar with celery seed and some sugar for a tasty sweet and sour pepper cabbage.

Whenever I am boiling shrimp or other shellfish in a pot, I toss-in a tablespoon of vinegar to stifle the aromas. It helps to keep your house fresh while cooking seafood. Vinegar serves me well when making homemade basting sauces and marinades. I mix vinegar into my hot wing marinade for good penetration. It really gets the spicy flavor into the meat of a chicken wing. An old cook once told me to add a teaspoon or two of vinegar to my chicken stockpot, to dissolve calcium from the bones into the broth. I can’t verify that claim, but I still do it. The vinegar flavor passes quickly with the cooking of the broth.

And of course, I must tell you about the classic, fresh fruit dessert made with balsamic vinegar. And summer is the perfect season to try a unique combination. Drizzle soft balsamic vinegar over cut, fresh strawberries for an exotic Mediterranean after-dinner treat. You’ll be surprised how well the two flavors embrace each other. This recipe does not work so well with other vinegars. Balsamic vinegar mellows and, I think, sweetens while aging in wooden casks. Most balsamic vinegar comes from Modena, Italy. Today you can find fine, old balsamic vinegars in the same price ranges as fine wines.

I only wish I could find a good vinegar “mother,” with directions for make my own wine vinegar. If anyone knows a current and reliable source for viable vinegar “mothers,” please let me know.

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