Sherry vinegar (Recipe: fat-free gazpacho)
Updated post, new photos, new recipe, new links.
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
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.