Keeping your pantry stocked with certain real foods stapled ensures you are able to make tasty and nutritious meals for your family. In this series I will share with you some of the pantry staples that will make cooking real food easier and flavorful and how to use them. Today I want to focus on vinegar. As you start to move towards a more real food based lifestyle you will need to find ways to add flavor to your whole foods without the use of overly processed sauces, flavor packs, stock cubes, dressings, etc.
Here are some vinegars I always keep stocked in my pantry:
True Balsamic Vinegar is very expensive and is made from grape juice that is simmered until it is reduced down to a thick concentrate, then it is fermented in wooden barrels for at least 12 years. The result is a sweet thick syrupy substance that is very strong and you only need a small amount for lots of flavor. This vinegar is marked the ‘tradizionale’. I’ve only tasted this vinegar a couple of times because it is so expensive, but it is pretty tasty.
Most of us will use the ‘aceto balsamico di Modena’ which uses vinegar along with the grape juice to speed up the fermenting process. The flavor is not as intense and the consistency is not as thick, but it still adds great flavor to many different dishes. As always there are cheap versions that call themselves Balsamic Vinegar which use colorings and additives like Potassium Metabisulphate to create a similar flavor. Those are not the vinegar I would recommend using. Its worth checking the ingredients on the back of the bottle to make sure its just vinegar and grape must/juice.
Some ways to use it:
- Add a few dashes to Bolognese sauces, stews and stroganoff to add extra flavor.
- Mix with olive oil and some italian seasonings for an easy salad dressing or marinade for chicken.
- Drizzle over roast vegetables just before they are finished cooking.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples and turning the sugars into alcohol which makes wine and then further fermenting them until the alcohol turns into acetic acid. This vinegar is the most popular in the natural health community for its many health benefits that range from lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels to making you feel full quicker so you eat less.
You want to make sure you have the organic unfiltered stuff that still has the ‘mother’ in it. The ‘mother’ is a cluster of strands in the bottle that contain proteins, enzymes and good bacteria. Bragg’s is the brand that I use, but there are many different brands that are organic and contain the ‘mother’.
Some ways to use it:
- Some people drink a spoonful a day just to make sure they get the health benefits or mix it into lemon water in the morning to aid with digestion.
- Mix with greek yogurt, salt and pepper to dress shredded cabbage for coleslaw.
- It’s a key ingredient to my homemade BBQ sauce which I will be sharing in an upcoming post.
- Add 1/2 tablespoon to veggies that you are sautéing, works especially well with Kale or other tough veggies to soften them up and help make the nutrients more available for your body.
- Add a tablespoon or two to the filtered water and bones you are using to make bone broth, it helps break down the bones to add more nutrients to the broth.
- Mix it with olive, avocado or flax-seed oil to make a vinaigrette dressing for salads or marinades.
- Check this article at MindBodyGreen for ways to use it in ways other than for foods from mouthwash to deodorant.
The vinegar are a bit more subtle than the vinegars mentioned above. These vinegars are made from a second fermentation of wine whether its red, white, sherry, or rice so that it will turn into a vinegar. Since most of the time you will not be making your own vinegar and must rely on a processed version you need to pay close attention to the ingredients of the vinegars you buy to make sure they are pure and don’t have preservatives added to them. Always check the back of the bottle and read the small print.
Some ways to use it:
- Red wine vinegar makes an amazing raspberry vinaigrette when mixed with olive oil, raspberry jam, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. It pairs great with a feta spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, and dried cranberries.
- White wine vinegar can be used to make your own dairy free ranch dressing using cashews. Check out my recipe here. I also like to soak cucumbers, tomatoes and purple onions in it with dill for a tangy salad.
- Rice wine vinegar is a go to for any asian inspired dressing or recipe. I love to use it in a quick cucumber salad with sesame oil and a dash of honey and soy sauce or coconut aminos.
I hope you got some ideas for how to add flavor to your real food meals and feel free to share any other ways you like to use vinegar to spice up your dishes. Keep an eye out for further additions to this series where I will talk about oils, condiments, grains and more.