Vinegar is one of those pantry staples that we sometimes take for granted even though our kitchens couldn’t function as well without it. Think of all the things we use vinegar for salad dressings; as a tangy ingredient in many sauces, and even as an eco-friendly cleaning product. There’s no doubt about it – vinegar is a kitchen essential you couldn’t manage without! There are many types of vinegar we love and use a lot, including apple cider vinegar; white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and many, many more.
Many folks aren’t aware that this simple yet essential pantry staple must be stored correctly to maintain its freshness. Storing vinegar properly isn’t simply a matter of putting it on a kitchen shelf and forgetting about it until the next time you need it to add a bite to a favorite recipe. In this post, we offer tips for storing vinegar properly, so it maintains its freshness and tang as long as possible.
Understanding the Basics of Vinegar
Fermentation is the process through which vinegar gets its much-loved tang. It can be made with a variety of products, including rice and fruit. If something contains natural sugars, you can probably make vinegar from it. Fermentation produces alcohol once yeast is added to the base ingredient, which in turn leads to acetic acid. That’s what produces vinegar’s famous sharpness and bite. No matter what you make the vinegar from – apples, for instance – it will taste slightly of that original ingredient, as apple cider vinegar does.
Types of Vinegar
Getting to know the variety of vinegar on the market increases your culinary skills. Learning about which vinegar is right for the recipe you’re making is key to making your dish sing with flavor and zest! For example, balsamic vinegar’s subtle tang is ideal for salad dressings. White vinegar lifts barbecue sauce from so-so to scrumptious! But beyond knowing which vinegar is best for which recipe, knowing how to store vinegar correctly is vital for the ultimate taste of your dish. Read on to learn about shelf life and other integral factors in storing vinegar.
It’s important to note that, contrary to many people’s opinions, vinegar does indeed have a “best before” date when it comes to quality. Vinegar does last a very long time when it’s stored properly, but if it’s not, the acidity declines, which reduces tartness. Consuming old vinegar isn’t risky in any way – not like eating moldy bread might be – but it just won’t taste as good or as sharp.
If you want to make the most of the various types of vinegar you purchase, you’ve got to store them properly. Several factors impact its flavors, so storing vinegar correctly is key if you want it to still taste great weeks after you buy it.
What Affects Vinegar’s Quality
Vinegar’s inherent acidity and antimicrobial properties often grant it a prolonged life, but factors such as exposure to light, heat, and air can hasten deterioration.
Like many foods, vinegar is affected by light, and not in a good way. Light – especially sunlight with ultraviolet rays – damages the color and taste of vinegar. Storing vinegar away from all light sources is vital, but take it one step further! Purchase vinegar that comes in dark glass bottles or other containers that help block light and keep it from penetrating inside. Storing vinegar in this way – in a dark corner of your pantry, in a dark bottle, will preserve its bold tang and delicious flavor notes until you’ve used every last drop!
Like many foods, allowing heat to access vinegar is going to impact its freshness and bite. When storing vinegar, choose a location without heat vents or one that’s close to a heat source, like your oven. Keep it out of sunlight too, because sunlight means not just light, but heat, too.
It’s important that air doesn’t get at the vinegar because air kicks off the process of oxidation, which jeopardizes the vinegar’s purity. Once the purity of the flavor is at risk, changes to taste – unwelcome ones – often follow. You can ensure vinegar is protected from air by tightening the cap on the bottle every time you use it. You might even want to consider transferring your vinegar into smaller containers as you use it up. This helps keep air out by lessening the amount exposed to air when you open and close the bottle.
Practical Tips for Vinegar Storage
Storing vinegar correctly is crucial if you want to make this delicious ingredient so many of your favorite recipes last, with its tang and bite at peak freshness. Here are some quick, simple strategies for storing vinegar.
Select the right container
Like any liquid (we’re thinking of olive oil here) what you store it in is just as important as where you store it. Storing vinegar is best done in containers that won’t affect flavor. It’s best to avoid using certain materials for storing vinegar, such as metals, including steel and aluminum. Vinegar is unlike other liquids in that it may react poorly to metal containers and even utensils, so choose ones made of glass or plastic instead.
Store vinegar in a dark and cool location
As we mentioned, a low pantry shelf, away from heat and light sources, is ideal for storing vinegar. In addition to affecting the flavor of your vinegar, these two factors also affect the color. And no one wants to pour out red wine vinegar for a recipe only to find it’s turned brown!
Should you refrigerate vinegar?
This is one of those issues that is frequently debated by both professional chefs and amateur cooks. The deciding factor here is that refrigeration is helpful if you want to keep your vinegar fresh for longer than two years – that’s the opinion of food freshness experts. But if you – like most folks – will likely use up a bottle of vinegar within a year or so, storing it in the pantry is just fine.
Some kinds of vinegar are more acidic than others, like white vinegar, and those should be kept at room temperature. Even once you’ve opened it, highly acidic vinegar does just fine on a dark, cool pantry shelf. However, certain kinds of vinegar that aren’t as acidic and therefore don’t keep quite as long (balsamic vinegar, for instance) stay flavourful and fresh if you tuck them into the fridge. Preserving flavor and tang is what counts in these top-quality vinegar types, so make room in the fridge and they’ll last an incredibly long time!
How to Check for Vinegar’s Freshness
Knowing whether your vinegar has retained its freshness is key when you’re making a recipe that counts on the zesty bite of this ingredient. How can you tell if your bottle of balsamic vinegar is still in peak condition? Here’s how!
Check the taste and aroma
As we explained, the fresh taste of vinegar may be compromised if it’s exposed to light, heat, or air. To ensure this doesn’t happen, storing vinegar properly is important. Before you use vinegar, do a taste test and take a big whiff of the scent. If the wonderful, sharp aroma is there, and a small sip reveals the vinegar’s classic zest is present, you’re good to go! Providing you have stored vinegar correctly, these two key factors – aroma and taste – won’t change even if you’ve stored vinegar for months or even a year or two.
Cloudiness and sediment
Although seeing that your vinegar has gone cloudy can be worrisome, that alone doesn’t necessarily mean it’s spoiled. Certain kinds of vinegar, particularly those that have been fermented naturally or that aren’t filtered, tend to get sediment buildup on the container bottom when they’ve sat somewhere for a while. This setting is perfectly normal and shouldn’t put you off using the vinegar.
However, if you notice that cloudiness seems to have occurred suddenly and the flavor has shifted, it may mean the vinegar is no longer at its peak freshness. In that case, it’s your call whether to continue using it, depending on how severely the vinegar’s flavor has changed.
Additional Tips and FAQs
Many folks have questions about storing vinegar, so we wanted to include a few of the most common.
Q: Does any container work for storing vinegar?
A: Plastic and glass are your best bets. Don’t store vinegar in metal containers (such as aluminum) or the taste might be altered and the purity of the vinegar negatively affected.
Q: How frequently should vinegar be checked for freshness?
A: If you notice the appearance has changed, check your vinegar right away. Otherwise, once a month or so should be just fine.
Q: Is vinegar safe to use past its expiration date?
A: Well, yes, it is, but it may not taste fresh, and there may be an odor you don’t care for. Our best advice is this: if your vinegar exhibits any changes you don’t trust, simply replace it.
Knowing how to store vinegar correctly is vital for getting the most out of this delicious kitchen staple. Follow these suggestions and you’re bound to get the most from this wonderful liquid that’s so much a part of many dips, sauces, and other great recipes. Storing vinegar properly means you’ll always have it on hand when you want to whip up a tangy treat that will have the whole family asking for second helpings!