Saturday, June 20, 2015
KM asks: my friend and I had quite a discussion on white vinegar the other day. She insisted that it's absolutely necessary to buy it from an organic store while I could not be sure if there is a whole lot of difference in taste and suitability for cooking between white vinegar bought from the normal counter and from an organic store. Is organic white vinegar superior to normal vinegar and is there a marked difference in how each tastes?
Firstly , white vinegar is pretty much removed from it's feedstock ancestry. It is made by first fermenting a sugar source of some sort, using yeast. The resultant alcohol is distilled from the fermented liquor and then fermented with a separate bacteria (acetobacter) to convert the distilled alcohol to an acetic acid solution. The fermented liquor is filtrered through a filter aid, such as diatomaceous earth, and heated to sterilize. It is then diluted to the desired strength. Vinegar is a weak solution of acetic acid.
It is not out of the question that the acetic acid is a by-product of industrial processes as well. This could be directly or by comnmercial alcohol being fermented to produce acetic acid. The acetic acid we use in the laboratory is far too strong to have been produced by natural fermentation.
Which ever pathway it comes through, it must meet the requirements for 'food grade'.
How 'organic' plays into this is a bit obscure. White vinegar is pretty refined and even if the feedstock was not truly organic, it goes through a serious of steps that far removes if from its origins.
I would not expect any taste difference in organic and non-organic vinegars of the same strength. Both are just diluted acetic acid. The 'whiteness' points to the lack of other components of note.
Other vinegars (malt, cider, red wine, white wine, balsamic etc) carry more of their original feed matrix with them and, if organic is a goal, have more of an impact from organic practices. Certainly the flavour is very different.