Versatile VinegarRabbi Akiva Tendler
People have been using it to flavor food for centuries. Although vinegar is commonly added to dressings, marinades, and pickling, it also serves as a medicine, a corrosive agent, and as a preservative. Recently, vinegar has also received a resounding endorsement from the alternative health industry, with claims of health and nutritional value, including weight loss.
Formed from a dilute water solution of acetic acid, vinegar comes in many varieties and varies in taste and appearance. Some of vinegar’s tasty offerings include wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar (a form of wine vinegar), raisin vinegar, apple cider vinegar, beer vinegar, white vinegar (distilled alcohol), rice vinegar, malt vinegar, cane vinegar, pineapple vinegar, coconut vinegar, black fig vinegar, and many more. The choice source of vinegar varies from country to country.
Vinegar can be made from just about any food that contains natural sugars.
Adding water and yeast ferments these sugars into alcohol. This microbiological process, causes bacteria to convert sugar or alcohol solution to vinegar.
Producing Kosher Vinegar
The guidelines for using kosher vinegar in kosher certified product differ from those for other kosher or non-kosher foods processes. Therefore, certifying vinegar production, particularly in places that also produce non-kosher vinegar, presents additional challenges.
Unique considerations in the production of kosher vinegar:
Kosher vinegar cannot be stored in tanks used by non-kosher product, despite ambient temperature, even with a thorough cleaning. This is due to the acidic taste.
Wine/grape/balsamic vinegar has extra stringencies attributed to all wine products.
Grain based vinegar might not be certifiable for Passover and may affect equipment that is used for Passover production.
Nutrients used to supplement the diet of the bacteria may include yeasts, phosphates, nitrates, and other ingredients. These must conform to Passover standards to be certifiable for Passover.
At plants that bottle red wine vinegar, enocianina, a grape skin extract that is mostly not kosher, is used to darken the red vinegar.
Kosher for Passover vinegar historically has always been cider vinegar because it could be produced without grain nutrients. Vinegar produced from petrochemical ethanol (synthetic vinegar) can also be certified for Passover.
Wine-flavored vinegar generally refers to white vinegar that has been colored and flavored to imitate wine vinegar. Such a product may bear kosher certification, provided that the flavorings and colorings are kosher.
Cider-flavored vinegar can be produced from white vinegar using appropriate flavors and colors.
Another carbohydrate often fermented into alcohol is lactose (milk sugar). In certain countries (for example, New Zealand and Ireland), such alcohol is the predominant base for the production of vinegar. Such vinegar would be certified kosher dairy.
Only you can determine which vinegars taste the best. As for the ones that are best for your health? I recommend you ask your alternative health practitioner.
RABBI AKIVA TENDLER, OU KOSHER RABBINIC COORDINATOR SERVING THE OIL, TEA AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRIES, IS A FREQUENT CONTRIBUTOR TO BTUS.