Vinegars of the World
Derived from the French vin (wine) and aigre (sour), vinegar is in essence alcohol that has been coaxed into sourness since the Babylonians first used it to great effect for preservation and pickling. Vinegars of the world have found favour and flavour with the civilisations of Ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece and the Middle East. The French mastered the art of vinegar making during the Renaissance when its production became big business. In 1394 the Orleans method for producing the acid-sour elixir was discovered, and it is to this early tradition that Rozendal refers in creating its own range of vinegars infused with Fynbos, Green Tea, Lavender and Hibiscus. The Orleans method equals oak barrels for fermentation. The vinegar is then siphoned through a spigot at the bottom of the barrel and the remaining liquid, the ‘mothership’ with its concentrated bacteria, becomes the catalyst for turning new batches of cider or wine into vinegar. This is a continuous method that has been widely used as the template for vinegar production. Vinegar variations take their inspiration from their sugar-containing source, so that for example apple cider vinegar is the symbiosis of apples and alcohol.
Balsamic vinegar, a firm favourite of foodies, is derived from the concentrated must of white grapes and slow aged. It takes decades of immersion in wooden casks for the flavor profile of the vinegar to intensify until it yields the sweet, viscous and concentrated liquid that has become a pantry must-have the world over. Modena in Italy owes fame and fortune to its balsamic vinegar heritage and purists are inclined towards its complexity and balance which, like all good things, takes time to perfect. The secret lies in the painstaking process of transferring the aged liquid to successively smaller casks of wood. The vinegar would be informed by and impart the gentle notes of oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, ash and acacia – according to the woods used.
Malt vinegar and fish and chips are the perfect pairing, and so it that you will find this a popular choice in England. Malt vinegar is what happens when barley is malted, turning starch to maltose. From this a heady brew of ale is produced and in time allowed to turn to vinegar which is then aged and matured, like all good vinegars should.
Botanical vinegars, such as the ones produced at Rozendal, are inspired by the pungent and subtly-flavoured dried herbs that are the star of many gastronomic feasts. Particularly associated with the Mediterranean, these herbs include thyme and oregano. Rozendal’s fynbos vinegar is a South African take on the herb varieties, and an ode to the Cape Floral Kingdom on its doorstep.
Anyone cooking Asian knows that rice vinegar is the star of stir fry or sushi. Delicacy and lightness are its trademark, rather than the heady sweet viscosity of Balsamic. Rice vinegar can be sweetened or spiced and is red, black or white in colour.
White vinegar is also a popular choice for cooking, salad preparation and pickling and the end-product of a distilling process where the vinegar is turned to steam barraged by high heat. This is then condensed back into liquid form until it becomes the white vinegar commercially available in supermarkets.
Wine vinegars are big in the Mediterranean and Europe traditionally composed from red and white wines and matured in wood for as long as two years.