Cider vinegar (Recipe: tomato-nectarine chutney)
In a pantry filled with olive oils from Italy, Spain, California and Trader Joe's, there's bound to be a vinegar or two. Or more. Welcome to the end of Vinegar Week, Day 3. Updated October 2010.
I was going to rave about cider vinegar's culinary assets, how it's wonderful for making pickles and chutneys and cole slaw and salad dressing and marinades.
I was going to tell you about the cider vinegar diet, and that cider vinegar supposedly possesses magical curative powers over everything from arthritis to the common cold.
I was going to explain that cider vinegar is made from the fermented juice of apples, diluted with water to a uniform strength of 5% (50 grains) acidity, and that consistent minimum acidity is necessary for the safe canning and pickling of food.
I was going to add that that same acidity means that cider vinegar has a long shelf life (almost unlimited if unopened, and six months or more after you've opened it).
I was going to point out that pure (i.e., unflavored) cider vinegar is kosher and gluten-free.
I was going to mention that, while the color is mild and mellow, the taste is not.
I was going to confess that I've tried expensive, small-producer artisan vinegars, and see little difference between those and the one I find most easily in my local supermarket (other than price and the fact that the supermarket brands are filtered to remove any sediment).
All of that pales next to this one fact, this life-altering nugget of information that I discovered while reading up on vinegar this morning. And even if it seems that this has nothing to do with food, with cooking, or with The Perfect Pantry, it has changed my world forever.
Vinegar kills weeds.
A late-summer favorite with fish or grilled chicken. Makes approximately 4 cups.
4 cups seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes
2 cups chopped nectarines
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp kosher salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper, or hot sauce, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large stainless steel or other nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1-1/2 hours or until thickened. Stir frequently to keep chutney from burning. Pack into airtight containers and store in the refrigerator for up to a month (or can, using a water-process bath).
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Blue cheese cole slaw
Dried cranberry and pear chutney
Sweet and spicy tomato jam
Refrigerator zucchini pickles
Other recipes that use cider vinegar:
Sweet and sour red cabbage, from Simply Recipes
Vegan blueberry muffins, from Madhuram's Eggless Cooking
Chili and apple cider vinegar pork, from Anne's Food
Potato salad with sweet potatoes and red onion, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Pickled yellow wax beans, from The Amateur Gourmet