Many people are staying at home wrapped in a cocoon of stress. With illness and anxiety troubling the world we need healthy, inexpensive ways to detoxify body and mind. White, red, and brown vinegars have been household friends for a long time. Their tangy flavor adds zip to foods and eases digestion. Some even improve heart health.
White and distilled vinegars are not the same. They differ fundamentally in their acetic acid content. White, known as spirit vinegar, has 5% to 20% acetic acid which makes it better for cleaning the bathroom than adding it to your salad. Distilled vinegar, on the other hand, is better for cooking, flavoring, food preservation and as a natural home remedy. It is usually no more than 5% acetic acid which makes it useful for pickling. Distilled white vinegar is made by feeding oxygen to a vodka-like grain alcohol, causing bacteria to grow and acetic acid to form. It’s those acids that give vinegar its sour taste. Vinegar can be made from any alcohol—wine, cider, beer—but it’s grain alcohol that gives distilled white vinegar its neutral profile. Distilled white vinegar is used for pickling, marinades and the light taste is used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.
A short list of health benefits for distilled white vinegar, due to its acetic acid content include, blood sugar control, weight management, reduced cholesterol and antimicrobial properties.
All pickled foods, wines and beers naturally contain sulfites, sulfur dioxide, a natural preservative and antioxidant, but white distilled vinegar does not. Sulfites are also found in dried fruits, molasses, sauerkraut and pickled foods, pre-made gravies and sauces, soy products, canned vegetables, dehydrated fish, condiments, frozen shrimp, dehydrated potatoes, potato chips, jams, and trail mix. Sulfites also occur naturally in some foods, such as beer, wine, most vinegars and fruit and vegetable juices. Exposure to sulfites has been reported to induce a range of adverse clinical effects in sensitive people, ranging from dermatitis, urticaria, flushing, hypotension, abdominal pain and diarrhea to life-threatening anaphylactic and asthmatic reactions. But moderate use of sulfites has little or no side-effects.
White V and Cleaning
Look at the internet to find lots of uses for white vinegar, mostly in house cleaning: “Use white vinegar to clean windows and kitchen and bathroom fixtures because it dissolves soap scum. The acid in vinegar can etch natural stone.” So never clean these with vinegar:
- Granite and marble counter tops.
- Stone floor tiles
- Egg stains or spills
- Hardwood floors
- Truly stubborn stains
You might use a teaspoon of white vinegar in a basin of water as a hair rinse in order to remove soap and conditioner buildup. Always dilute it. It also works very well for smelly pets’ fur as does diluted apple cider vinegar because the apple nutrients are helpful for skin. Using a vinegar rinse removes itching and makes hair and fur shiny. Use diluted ACV to reduce fleas for pets.
ACV, made from apples, has become a star among vinegars mainly by people who believe it improves weight loss and liver cleansing.
Apple cider vinegar has various healthful properties, including antimicrobial and antioxidant effects. Evidence suggests it may offer health benefits such as reducing cholesterol, lowering blood sugar levels, and improving the symptoms of diabetes. A typical dose is 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) mixed with water and taken before or after a meal. Some research doesn’t support claims that it can “improve digestion and prevent heart disease, cancer or infection.” Some people believe that adding ACV daily to make the body more alkaline is counter productive because the body over-compensates and makes more acid. It is a tossup.
If drinking water is boring, adding a teaspoon of ACV to a glass of water makes it easier to stay hydrated. Always dilute vinegar when drinking it. Drinking lots of vinegar or undiluted vinegar burns the throat and digestive tract and wears down tooth enamel.
Hair and Face Rinse
Hair, Skin, Weight loss: ACV improves these. At home I have a glass jar of fresh rosemary twigs to which I have added ACV. After it steeps for a week or more, I apply it to the scalp as a light massage. It can be rinsed off after fifteen minutes or more. Rosemary enhances circulation and ACV reduces oily scalp and itch. Or add 1 -2 tablespoons of the ACV rosemary mixture to the final rinse when washing my hair. If it gets on my skin it does no harm as ACV helps to reduce large pores due to its astringent action. Adding up to one cup of ACV to warm bath water helps to balance the skin’s PH.
ACV is known as a weight loss and arthritis treatment perhaps because it helps to cleanse the liver and enliven circulation. It is alkaline which improves acid indigestion and reduces bloating. You might use it with olive oil as a vegetable dressing.
A pearl among vinegars is Traditional Balsamic from Modena, Italy. It is always labeled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and carries a D.O.P. (“Denominazione di Origine Protetta”) stamp — a European Union certification that guarantees an ingredient’s quality, production, and place of origin. The only ingredient is grape must. It is made using whole grapes, skins, seeds and juice. Traditional Balsamic contains naturally occurring sulfites; none should be added. It is brown, rich, sweet with notes of fig, molasses, cherry, chocolate, or prune, and is very healthy. Made from local grapes in Modena and Reggio Emilia, Balsamic helps to reduce harmful cholesterol, naturally lower blood pressure and keep blood vessels healthy.
In 1046, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III was given a silver bottle containing this celebrated vinegar while passing through a town on his way to his coronation. The record of this visit is thought to be the first written reference to Balsamic vinegar, a condiment once known and produced only in the Emilia-Romagna region of what is now modern Italy, where Henry III was visiting and in neighboring Modena.
Today, Balsamic vinegar is known to cooks around the world and available to shoppers everywhere. It can sell for as much as $200 an ounce, or as cheaply as three dollars for a 16 ounce bottle. How can one vinegar offer such a dramatic price range? It is in the processing.
Made like wine
Traditional Balsamic vinegar begins with grape must —whole pressed grapes complete with juice, skin, seeds and stems. The must from sweet white locally grown and late-harvested grapes (usually Lambrusco or Trebbiano varieties) is cooked over a direct flame until concentrated by roughly half, left to ferment naturally for up to three weeks, and then matured and further concentrated for a minimum of 12 years in a “batteria,” or five or more successively smaller aging barrels. These barrels are made of different types of wood such as oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper, and mulberry, so that the vinegar can take on the complex flavors of the casks.
Once a year the vinegar is bottled from the smallest cask in the sequence. Each cask is then topped up with vinegar from the next cask up, with the largest cask getting filled with the new yield. None of the casks are ever completely drained. This ageing process is similar to the solera process used for sherry, ports, sweet wines, and Spanish brandies. The vinegar gets thicker and more concentrated as it ages because of evaporation that occurs through the walls of the barrels. The vinegar in the smallest barrel will be much thicker and more syrupy than the liquid in the successively larger barrels.
Because of the multi-barrel process, it takes complex math to gauge the average age of the bottled product, so instead a tasting commission of five expert judges convenes to taste the vinegars and determine an appropriate grade, and no age is printed on the label. In Reggio Emilia, traditional Balsamics are graded affinato (fine), with a red cap, which roughly corresponds to a 12-year vintage; vecchio (old), with a silver cap, which roughly corresponds to a 15-20 year vintage; or extra vecchio (extra old), with a gold cap, which roughly corresponds to a 20-25 year vintage. In Modena there’s just affinato, with a white cap, or extra vecchio, with a gold cap.
Balsamic Not for Cooking: Traditional Balsamic is not a cooking ingredient. Heating it kills its distinctive bouquet. It would be wasted as an ingredient in a salad dressing. Instead, use it where it can shine. Put a few drops on fresh berries, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or creamy desserts like panna cotta, zabaglione, or vanilla ice cream. Traditional Balsamic can be used at the end of cooking. It’s excellent drizzled over traditional veal scaloppine, a rich risotto, or the Italian stew bollito misto. It’s also great over grilled meats and seafood. Add about a teaspoon per person just before serving to get the best of its flavor. I add it to cooked chickpeas and raw garlic.
A Delicious Digestive
I add it to enliven the flavor of drinking water. In Italy really good Balsamic is drunk as a palette cleanser, aperitif or light digestivo, especially on special occasions such as weddings. The name “Balsamic” connotes the vinegar’s original use as a tonic, or “balm.” I add a teaspoon or more to a glass of water. It soothes the stomach and heart at bedtime and can help with liver cleansing and slimming.
Imagine a grapevine covered archway in a floral garden. A band is playing for an Italian wedding party. The elaborate, rich feast is spread on a long wooden table. The bride and groom are in love, healthy beautiful people. Their parents are smiling, dancing. The wedding guests are enjoying a sip of Balsamic added to sparkling water.
How have you used the 3 Vs for weight loss, housecleaning or as a digestive? AcademyHealingNutrition’s “Longevity Diet,” which aims to build strong, intelligent and adaptable immunity against illness and aging, has benefits that enhance beauty, stamina, pain reduction and emotional balance. The fall session in New York starts in October and Registration is Open.