What Is Cider Vinegar?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Apple Cider Vinegar

Nadine Greeff / Stocksy

Found in salad dressings, healthy drinks, and in many barbecue sauces, cider vinegar is one of the most popular ingredients in the pantry. It's made by fermenting apples into a sour, pungent liquid that has long been used in food, drink, and chemical-free cleaning products. Cider vinegar can enhance a dish and help break down tough fibers all while adding a zesty zip to a meal.

What Is Cider Vinegar?

Also called apple cider vinegar or ACV, cider vinegar is basically a liquid made from fermented apples. Cider vinegar has enough acidity to aid in breaking down cell walls in tougher vegetables and meat while also giving foods a tangy flavor. Many people tout the health benefits of this ingredient as well, used for anything from curing a stomach ache to lowering blood sugar to suppressing appetite.

Cider vinegar is made by cutting up apples, placing them in a jar filled with purified water, adding honey or sugar, shaking, then covering with a cloth and letting natural fermentation happen. The container sits for about three to four weeks and then gets strained. The liquid leftover rests another three to four weeks and then can be strained again or used as-is. If there are bits of solid mass floating about the cider vinegar, don't worry, those are pieces of the "mother," a combination of yeast and bacteria that forms to eat up the sugars and create the vinegar. It's not harmful and usually will sink to the bottom when the bottle is left to rest.

How to Use Cider Vinegar

Cider vinegar is a lot like regular white vinegar though much tastier in dressings and sauces. Use it to lightly pickle vegetables like carrot, radish, and cucumber which can add some zing to a sandwich, toast, or wrap. Mixed with herbs and olive oil, cider vinegar makes an excellent vinaigrette, especially for hearty salads comprised of kale, arugula, or spinach, and topped with nuts, cheese, beans, and seeds.

Barbecue sauce also benefits from cider vinegar. Chefs in the Carolinas have used it for decades to make their famous, tangy condiment that pairs perfectly with roasted and smoked pork. Overall, it's a great ingredient to add to rich meats to help tenderize and cut the fat.

Cider vinegar can also be used in drinks. A shrub is a vinegar-based fruit drink that's sour and sweet and can refresh on a hot day. Sip it straight or add booze for a cider vinegar forward tipple. Spruce up a cup of cider vinegar with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, honey, horseradish, and garlic for the ultimate cold cure that also tastes good. Or, simply add to a glass of fresh juice for a little punch.

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What Does It Taste Like?

There's nothing subtle about cider vinegar—it has a pungent, in-your-face flavor that makes lips pucker. Think of sour candies mixed with apple in liquid form with the strong smell of vinegar and there's the flavor profile of cider vinegar. Sip it straight to really taste it, or mix with fruit to get the nuances of the ingredient without the strong tartness.

Cider Vinegar Recipes

Cider vinegar works well in salad dressings, condiments, as a braise, and in certain drinks. Start experimenting with the versatile ingredient with these tasty recipes.

Where to Buy Cider Vinegar

Any grocery store should carry some brand of cider vinegar (sometimes labeled apple cider vinegar). Unfiltered cider vinegar has bits of the probiotic-rich "mother" floating around. There's also a clear version, and while the health benefits have been diluted a bit, it still has that tart apple action used to flavor and break down foods.

Storage

Vinegar as an ingredient lasts seemingly forever thanks to the acidic nature of the product. It's the same for cider vinegar, though keeping a bottle of the stuff in a cool, dim spot of the pantry is recommended. If the cider vinegar has a "mother" still in the bottle it might grow more if the liquid is placed in a warm area, so it's best to keep all types of this ingredient out of heat and sun.

Nutrition and Benefits

Cider vinegar is ripe with B vitamins and polyphenols, those plant-based antioxidants that help cleanse the body. It also has probiotics thanks to the fermentation process and "mother," which is found in unfiltered apple cider vinegar and gently filtered versions. Some people claim the mother helps with digestion thanks to those probiotics, but studies have been inconclusive as to the real benefit of drinking the vinegar for health reasons.

Varieties

Cider vinegar is purely a vinegar made from apples, also called apple cider vinegar. While a lot of brands grace the grocery store shelves, they are all similar. The biggest difference in varieties is between filtered and unfiltered. The unfiltered has wisps of the "mother" floating around the bottle, which people consume and some even tout as beneficial thanks to the probiotics found in the living bacteria. Filtered cider vinegar is clear with a reddish-brown hue and is best used for vinaigrettes and drinking vinegars.

Myths

Can cider vinegar cure hiccups? Some say it does while others aren't convinced. Either way, it's not a proven solution though it can't hurt to try. On another note, while cider vinegar has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels, it's not recommended as a replacement for diabetes medication.