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A sip of vinegar. April 23, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I love vinegar in its myriad varieties. Our favorite salad dressing is simply 18-year aged balsamic vinegar and Hojiblanca extra-virgin olive oil, with a good sprinkling of RealSalt and fresh-cracked pepper. It’s the perfect way to bring out the varied flavors of the ingredients in the salad itself.

And I love a splash of vinegar (again, preferably balsamic) on cooked greens like spinach, kale and collards. (For pure decadence, saute the greens in olive oil with minced garlic, and then finish with a splash of balsamic. Mmmmm!)

I’ll admit, I’m sort of an olive-oil-and-vinegar junkie. For a splurge, I’ll pair up lavender-infused balsamic vinegar or juniper-berry-infused balsamic or grapefruit-infused white balsamic or a rich, aged sherry vinegar with an infused extra-virgin olive oil like blood orange, Meyer lemon, or rosemary. When heat-loving friends come for supper, their salads may be dressed with chipotle-infused olive oil and Key lime balsamic vinegar. There are so many options available now, the possible combinations are mind-boggling. And, for good or ill, there’s a Seasons oil and vinegar store in nearby Bethlehem, PA that carries an awesome selection.

Which brings me to the point of this post, which isn’t about using vinegar but drinking it. Drinking vinegar may strike the uninitiated as akin to gargling with carbolic acid. But think about it: Wine is essentially grape vinegar, just not quite fermented to its final form. As hard cider will inevitably become apple cider vinegar if you allow it to continue fermenting.

Even so, I would never have encountered vinegar as a beverage were it not for the tastings offered at Seasons and other oil-and-vinegar emporiums and at our beloved annual local Bowers (PA) Chile Pepper Food Festival. The shops and the festival provide tiny paper cups so you can sample their wares before you commit to buying them. This has saved me from many a misfortune on the olive oil side, as I prefer a deep, rich oil like Hojiblanca to a light, grassy one. But oh, my, the vinegars! Yum. I’ll be happy to take most of them straight up.

Mind you, I’m not talking about gulping down a wineglass full of vinegar here. A shotglass would be plenty. But I’d be happy to sip a shotglass of Seasons’ 18-year balsamic vinegar or Rolling Hills Farm’s garlic vinegar any day. I encountered Rolling Hills’ garlic vinegar at the Bowers Chile Pepper Festival last year. They were offering samples in little plastic cups and inviting passersby to sample them. For some reason, they weren’t getting too many takers. Drink garlic vinegar?!

But the Rolling Hills folks knew the health benefits of garlic and apple cider vinegar, and they knew how to make the vinegar mellow and sweet, even though they infuse a whole pound of organic, homegrown garlic into every gallon of vinegar. I was game. I drank my little cup. I was hooked!

Unfortunately, OFB and I were a bit cash-strapped by the time we reached the Rolling Hills booth. We were already kicking ourselves for buying just one bottle of our beloved Chef Tim’s balsamic vinaigrette (“Shake! Shake! Shake! Don’t refrigerate!”) and here we were confronting this luscious garlic vinegar with barely enough change rattling in our pockets to buy one bottle. Aaarrgghhh!!!

After we devoured Chef Tim’s vinaigrette on our salads, I broke open the Rolling Hills garlic vinegar and started dressing our salads with it and my favorite Hojiblanca olive oil. OFB and I loved our salads, but the bottle was empty all too soon. Since Seasons was relatively near us, I next began dressing our salads with the yummy blend of Hojiblanca olive oil and 18-year-old balsamic vinaigrette.

We love this combo, but the memory of the garlic vinegar still haunted me. I finally went online to try to track it down, even though of course I’d long since recycled the bottle and forgotten the name. Fortunately, Googling “garlic vinegar” immediately brought up the website of local producers Rolling Hills Farm in nearby Bangor, PA. I bought six bottles on the spot (and you can, too: http://www.rollinghillsgarlicvinegar.com).

Amazingly, two days after placing my order, the mailman delivered the box of garlic vinegar, each bottle tenderly nestled in a bed of hay. Whoa! Vinegar and free mulch in the same box! How nice to see bottles carefully packed with no irritating, polluting plastic seals. And yes, I do plan to drink a shot a day now that my stash has arrived. Not to mention adding it to my salads. (They have lots of other suggested uses on the bottle.)

You can choose between Rolling Hills garlic vinegar with honey or brown sugar. And let me just say again that, despite that pound of garlic cloves per gallon, you don’t either taste or smell like garlic (a la garlic bread or garlic knots) after drinking, er, eating this rich, mellow vinegar.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the pioneers of vinegar-drinking, the Braggs. They’ve been touting their apple cider vinegar as a cure-all for decades, and recommending it as a beverage. Now they’ve gone a step further, bottling cider vinegar beverages. I just bought a bottle of their ginger-spice vinegar drink and am looking forward to trying it. Bragg products are available at all heath-food stores, so you have only to stroll in to choose your favorite flavor.

Ready to give it a try? Here’s what Rolling Hills has to say about the health benefits of their garlic vinegar: “Antiseptic. Kills bacteria and fungi. May help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, may help prevent heart disease or stroke, and may lower the risk of certain cancers. Helps the body absorb minerals from food. Helps fight osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease.” That’s all well and good. But the main thing is, it’s so delicious! Try it, you’ll like it.

And if you love vinegar, let me know how you use (or drink) it!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Comments»

1. Daphne - April 24, 2013

I’ve never drank pure vinegar, but I have had shrubs. They were colonial drinks which were fruit infused vinegars/vinegar syrups mixed with hard liquor or carbonated water. But usually I take my vinegar in smaller doses. Like splashed on cooked spinach or kale or used for pickles (and I’ll pickle anything),

Hi Daphne! Some friends gave us a bottle of ginger shrub for Christmas; we’re still working up our nerve to try it. I too love vinegar on cooked greens—that’s the way I grew up eating them. And who doesn’t love pickles? I especially love making hot sweet refrigerator pickles. Btw, I’m so sorry about the horror on the MIT campus.


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