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Vinegar is one of the most unique, versatile and mysterious ingredients when it comes to cooking. And this mystery has helped to create a fair number of myths, some true and some not. Does vinegar burn fat? Does vinegar go bad? Why is vinegar seen as a sort of magic potion? We revealed many of its secrets in an article previously featured, where we talked about how vinegar is made.
Simply put: by fermenting wine. From this process comes a compound that owes its acidity to acetic acid, at 47%. Common lowquality white vinegar has 5%, while the rest is water. That's because its acidity is "hard", almost annoying. More refined vinegars have diluted acetic acid with other, sweeter acids. In particular, tartaric acid in red wine vinegar, or malic acid in the apple cider vinegar. It is always about acid, and it is precisely this feature that makes vinegar so special: it releases hydrogen ions that, depending on the food with which they come into contact, cause different reactions. If, for example, vinegar is sprayed on broccoli, they fade away due to the reaction of hydrogen and chlorophyll. Instead, vinegar revives the color of foods that are rich in anthocyanins, such as cherries and red cabbage. That's why balsamic vinegar pairs so well with a cup of red fruits.
The precious hydrogen released by vinegar is also responsible for the textural change of many foods. In particular, those rich in proteins and starch. Meat marinated in vinegar becomes softer. Do you know what happens to carpaccio when left to marinate in vinegar? It is said that it "cooks", because proteins tend to be denatured, as happens when they are brought into contact with a heat source.
It is all due to the acidity of the vinegar, which is seen as a panacea for a multitude of ailments. And it is here, unfortunately, that we enter into the myth. The most common one concerning vinegar is that it helps to burn fat. In certain items, there is talk about its ability to "melt" fat, saying that a spoonful should be consumed on an empty stomach. Do not do it: apart from the fact that vinegar contains "real" acid, and would hurt the stomach if drunk alone, there is not a single scientific study that proves its effectiveness as a weightloss aid or that it "melts away fat".
Vinegar is therefore used to flavor dishes, and I suggest that you always have it at home. And, if you find good quality vinegar, stock up on it vinegar never goes bad. In fact, the real myth about it refers to its excellent durability, and it is true. Due to its great acidity, vinegar has virtually no expiration date. And that's not all: for this reason, it is even used as a preservative in many dishes. One of which is "sardines in saor", a typical Venetian dish, made with fried sardines that are then marinated in a mixture of onion and vinegar. It is a centuriesold dish, invented by fishermen who went to sea for weeks at a time. Unable to return home, they needed to take food with them that could be preserved for long periods. In this case, the myth that vinegar doesn't expire is true, to the point that the more expensive vinegars are those that are aged the most. Of course, these are special vinegars, because if a discount vinegar is kept for years it tends to lose acidity... and that's it. That means that you can add a little more and not worry about it.