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September 21, 2008

Sherry vinegar (Recipe: fat-free gazpacho) {vegan}

Updated post, new photos, new recipe, new links.


Every time I sit down to write, I start singing.

She-e-e-e-e-e-e-ry ba-a-by (Sherry baby)
She-er-rry, can you come out tonight (Come come, come out toni-i-ight)

Now you'll be singing, too.

Of all the vinegars I've known -- and I've known a few -- the newest and oldest addition to my pantry is sherry vinegar, which comes not from Frankie Valli, but from the Guadalquivir River Valley, in Andalucia, Spain.

The vineyards and bodegas that produce sherry wine and vinegar lie in region of Cádiz, primarily in the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria, which together constitute the Denominacion de Origen (DOC) called Vinagre de Jerez. The DOC system ensures high standards of quality and consistency, requiring sherry vinegar to have less than 1% alcohol, and at least 5% acidity. Throughout the region, sherry vinegar is aged for at least six years, but often up to 30-50 years, or more.

The word vinegar originally meant "spoiled wine," and sherry vinegar was just that -- the byproduct of accidental contamination of the sherry or poor wine-making practices, such as the use of barrels containing too much volatile acidity.

These days, the creation of sherry vinegar is a deliberate, though old-fashioned, process, described on the Medinternational site:

Once the Sherry has begun to ferment it will be allowed to mature using the "Solera" system....[which] consists of rows of 500-litre oak casks piled up in a pyramid, each containing Sherry vinegar of similar characteristics but different ages. The barrels, previously used to store Sherry, release their aroma into the vinegar.

The oldest vinegar is stored in the "Solera," the bottom row of barrels. No more than a third of the barrel content is ever removed from the Solera for bottling. This third is then replaced with younger vinegar from the first "Criadera" [nursery], the row of barrels stored directly above the Solera. The space in the first Criadera is then filled with still younger vinegar from the second Criadera from the row above, and so on. Finally, the top of the pyramid is filled with new vinegar.

New vinegars are added to older vinegars and are blended together, developing a uniform, harmonious colour, fragrance and flavour. The transfer from barrel to barrel increases oxygenation, which encourages the transformation and absorption of flavours.

Cepa Vieja, my favorite sherry vinegar, is made from palomino grapes and the constant blending of ancient vintages over the past 40 years. It has a deep, almost caramel quality, and a taste somewhat like balsamic, but not as sweet. Cepa Vieja is great in maple-walnut vinaigrette, warm green bean and pancetta salad, ajo blanco, couscous salad with asparagus and feta, and mushroom hash.


If, like me, you spent the last 10 years addicted to balsamic, maybe it's time to try something new -- I mean vinegar, of course. Because those old songs are still the best. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons rode this one to #1 for five weeks back in 1962.

She-e-e-e-e-e-e-ry ba-a-by (Sherry baby)
She-er-rry, can you come out tonight

Fat-free gazpacho

Tomorrow is the first day of Fall here in New England, and I'm in denial. Nothing prolongs the summer season more defiantly than gazpacho, made with fully ripe tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers from the garden. This version has no raw onion or garlic, or olive oil, but feel free to add any of those, to taste.


1 slices wheat bread (any size, any type)
1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
3-4 pickling (Kirby) cucumbers, roughly chopped (do not peel)
6-8 large ripe red tomatoes, cut in half, seeded, roughly chopped
24 oz V-8 juice, or more to achieve desired consistency (do not use salt-free)
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Hot sauce, to taste
Coarse sea salt and black pepper, to taste


Place bread in a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped. Empty into a very large (nonreactive) bowl.

In the food processor, chop bell peppers, cucumber, and tomato (in batches, as necessary) and add to the bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients, and adjust seasoning to taste. Remove half of the mixture and return it to the food processor, and pulse until almost, but not totally, liquid (or use an immersion blender right in the mixing bowl). Add this back into the bowl, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to marry. Serve very cold.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Mango-mint gazpacho
French potato salad


You are always so just right on.
Now I think I need just one more summer Gazpacho before we head onto the hot soups. Nothing is more refreshing than great gazpacho.

I usually use red wine vinegar in my gazpacho. But I shall have to try some sherry vinegar next time!

And yes, using an immersion blender makes things *SO* much easier!

It's only spring here on the shore of Lake Titicaca and gazpacho looks just right!

No smoked paprika? Sounds like a natural flavoring for this.

Ahhh! Very interesting about vinegar and sherry vinegar. I like your recipe. I've never had gazpacho before.


I'm so in denial here too about it truly being fall. Also I'm realizing I haven't made gazpacho once this summer. My tomatoes are barely starting to ripen for some odd reason, so maybe I can still do it!

Bring on the denial! Gazpacho is so *cool* any time of year.

I've never made gazpacho, but this recipe looks really good and I have tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden...I will give it a try.
I also agree, fall aready? It's only supposed to be 65 degrees today in Portland, it really is happening.

Hi Lydia,

I can hear Frankie's song in the background...I think I won't be able to get it out of my head all day! ;-)

I never bought sherry vinegar ever before, your post is making me want some now.

Making gazpacho is a perfect way to be in denial of the end of summer. :-)


MyKitchen, Kalyn, Susan, Jason: hooray for denial! Today the temp went over 70, and with some gazpacho in the fridge it was hard to believe that Fall has arrived.

Nate, I'm so in love with my immersion blender. In fact, I seldom use my regular blender anymore.

Rupert, we are all so jealous -- wish I were there.

Mae, smoked paprika would be a good addition. I'd add it a little bit at a time, so the smoky flavor doesn't overwhelm the garden-fresh taste of the tomatoes.

Paz, I think of gazpacho as my summer "health food" -- low fat (or nonfat, if you make this version), packed with veggies, and refreshing. Do try!

Nora, sorry -- it takes days to get that song out of my head! And of course making this version of gazpacho just makes me sing more...

I have still never made gazpacho. And, more shamefully, I have not tried sherry vinegar. I chicken out at the price - usually about 3x more than white wine vinegar. You have convinced me to give it a try!

Everything I am allergic to...all in one bowl! So pretty, yet so deadly for me.

I'm so ready for fall. I love your "fat-free" gazpacho... it's tempting!

You must see Jersey Boys... great Frankie Valli broadway show!

You know, I only discovered sherry vinegar a few years ago. I have no idea what took me so long... Now I can't live without it. Beautiful recipe Lydia, thanks for sharing!

i have every ingredient for this recipe. thank you, dear lydia. every post of yours is like a little pearl in the necklace that is your blog.

Natashya, you really must try gazpacho, and it's not too late -- the tomatoes are still available at the farmers' markets!

Peabody, I'm so sorry!

RecipeGirl, thanks for the recommendation. I'll put Jersey Girls on my list!

Ann, I think sherry vinegar hasn't been that easy to find, except in gourmet markets. Now I'm seeing some brands in my local supermarket, though I have my doubts about the quality.

Bee, what a beautiful compliment. I'm truly honored.

Hooray! More recipe ideas for my bottle of sherry vinegar. I bought it for a recipe last week and have been wondering how I'm going to use it up. Apart from vinaigrettes, of course.

Hi, sorry but this is not really a gazpacho recipe, I know there are many versions of gazpacho but it is definitely never spicy, people in Spain don't eat much spice, and when they do it is never hot sauce, the traditional gazpacho uses, Tomatoes on the vine in Spain but in the US they tend to have more acidity so I usually use plum tomatoes, green pepper, olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, leftover bread and a clove or two of garlic, some people add onion and cucumber but v8? Also it is completely blended so it ends up being as smooth as possible. The recipe you wrote sounds good but I think the traditional one is so simple its worth doing.

Maria, thanks for your comment. No, this is not a traditional gazpacho, but it's one of many versions that my family enjoys. I love to share reader recipes, so how about sharing your more traditional one? I'd love to try it.



10 Tomatoes (in Spain I use from the vine but in the US they are more acidic so I use plum tomatoes instead)
1 Green Pepper (NO SEEDS)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Some leftover bread
2 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of Sherry vinegar

…some people add Cucumber and 1/4 onion

No cooking involved just blend it all until it is completely smooth

Garnishes (optional, can be served on the side):

Everything cut in small pieces

Boiled Egg
Crostinis or any toast bread, in Spain its Picos or regana.
Green pepper
A little bit of olive oil on top once its served in the individual bowl


Thanks, Maria. I will make this as soon as my garden gives me enough ripe tomatoes (another week or two). In the meantime, I hope you'll give this one a try!

PS: Its better after a day in the fridge. And adding the garnishes once its in an individual bowl makes it look pretty but it also gives you that great crunch. you can cut any bread in small pieces and put them in a pan with olive oil so the toast, delicious!

I will definitely try it!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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