I read a piece in Bloomberg Businessweek recently about vinegars. At first, I thought it sounded strange that a financial magazine would review such a commonplace condiment. As it turns out, these new, exotic vinegars are moving to take over grocery shelf space. And that means dollars. The article was entitled, “Bye, Bye, Balsamic,” a heading that somewhat saddened me. In recent years, I’ve become quite attached to hearty balsamics. I enjoy a splash on my roasted vegetables or mixing it into a salad dressing. I read on. . . .
The Exotic Vinegar Takeover
- One intruder into the market is Iio Jozo, a purple sweet potato vinegar made in Japan, that’s less tart than most. They turn the vegetable into sake first and then into a beautiful purplish vinegar perfect for soups and stew. Price: Aggghg!! $39 a bottle at thejapanesepantry.com.
- Keepwell produces an upscale vinegar from aronia, or chokeberry. The cranberry-like fruit is considered by some to be a natural healer. It comes at the more reasonable price of $14 per bottle from keepwellvinegars.com.
- Honey vinegar sounds like an attempt to produce a sweet and sour sauce. But this Napa Valley brew is also fruity and ideal for salads, chicken, pork, and, some say, sore throats and coughs. Costs $11 at katzfarm.com.
- In Virginia, Lindera Farms turns out some unusual vinegars, including sorghum, turmeric, hickory, and even ramp for a blast of onion flavor, that makes it good in stir fries and sauces.
The World’s Best Vinegar
Saucy and Sassy
P.X. Noble Sour is the product of Austrian producer, Erwin Gegenbauer, the best vinegar maker in the world or as he’s known in Europe: The Vinegar Pope of Vienna. This variety is so superb, that by law it no longer has enough acid to be labeled vinegar. It can be enjoyed from a shot glass or used in roasting.
For a sauce, just deglaze a roasting pan with some water, add stock, reduce, whisk in some cold butter, and season with a few drops of Noble Sour P.X., being careful not to spill any of the liquid gold. (To prevent waste, Gegenbauer sells droppers and spray attachments for their vinegar bottles.)
On Ice Cream, Really??
European chefs also use the mahogany-colored vinegar as a drizzle over ice cream!! I’ve not tried this, but at a whopping $58 a bottle, I’ll continue topping with Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
Among Gegenbauer’s other culinary jewels are such hard-to-find fruit vinegars as melon, pear, quince, apricots, figs, plums, sour cherries, and tomato, all aged like fine wines. Available online at gegenbauer.at.
For now, I’m still enjoying my Williams-Sonoma balsamic, that I buy when it’s on sale and the Maple-Bourbon balsamic, that I get from Di Olivas in the Central West End. But someday I hope to try a drop, or two, of Noble Sour.