Vinegar is mainly acetic acid and water. You can use vinegar as a salad dressing, a preservative, a mild disinfectant and a fiber softener in cooking. I especially like using vinegar in sweet-and-sour dishes, using a recipe provided by my friend Victor Hsia. Its easy to make and also easy to remember:
1 tablespoon cooking wine
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons water
Stew chicken, pork, shrimp or even tofu and eggplant in this sauce for about one hour, and your delicious sweet-and-sour dish is done. I often make this for potlucks, as it is so easy and always popular.
Vinegar is also useful for many other purposes. Here are some great alternative uses for vinegar provided by another friend, Catherine Chang.
A Japanese folk remedy suggests insomnia can be remedied by drinking a tablespoon of vinegar before going to bed.
The shells of hard-boiled eggs are sometimes difficult to remove. Add a drop of vinegar to the water a minute before the eggs are done. It will make the eggshells easy to take off and keep the eggs whole.
To keep fried eggs whole, splash a drop of vinegar on them before turning them over.
You can make vinegar more interesting by creating your own flavored vinegars. Robin Davis Infusions (Chronicle Books, $18.95, 64 pp.) explains how.
First, youll need a base vinegar. Davis recommends rice wine vinegar, as it is the mildest vinegar and is easily infused with other flavors.
To make the infusion, you simply put mashed or chopped fruit into the vinegar, and let it sit for at least four days. Davis prefers berries, because their sweetness helps to balance vinegars acidity, but adding some sugar will also work.
You can also use lemongrass, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, grapefruit, lemon, mango, pineapple, vanilla or oranges.
Here is the blueberry vinegar recipe from Infusions:
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen and unsweetened
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
2 cups rice wine vinegar
Additional blueberries for garnish
Mash blueberries. Add vinegar and sugar. Cover and let sit for at least four days. After that, strain the mixture into a glass cup, pour it into a bottle with the whole blueberries for garnish, and seal.
Flavored vinegars will hold their flavor for several months if refrigerated. Over time the flavor will dissipate, so dont make too much at once.
The flavored vinegars can be used in vinaigrettes, salsas, sparingly drizzled over grilled fish, or splashed over fresh fruit. Flavored vinegar in a fancy bottle also makes a wonderful gift for friends.Yu-Ru Lee
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