Forget about the vinegar you used to color Easter eggs, wash windows or make pickles (although our vinegars make GREAT pickles!). Our gourmet fruit vinegars are something you have never tasted before.
As long time home wine and beer brewers, we began dabbling in vinegars for our own use in about 2009. We bottled some to sell at a local farm market and it flew off the table. That got us thinking about the potential of vinegars as a farm product. We spent the last few years researching the technical aspects of making vinegars and market opportunities. The pieces seemed to come together and so, here we are in 2014, unveiling our first line of culinary fruit vinegars. We think you will like it, and be able to taste the quality fruit and herbs we use to make it!
We grow the fruits and delivery them to White Winter Winery where they are made into fruit wines to our specifications. That wine is then converted into a crisp, bright and flavorful gourmet vinegar for sipping or as an ingredient in a whole range of dishes, beverages and condiments (see Recipes).
What is vinegar
More than just “sour wine”, a great vinegar comes from a great wine which comes from great raw ingredients!
Vinegar is made using Acetobacteria (an air-loving bacteria). When added to wine (or any alcohol) the Acetobacteria eat the alcohol, converting it to acetic acid. The resulting elixir now has the tangy tartness of vinegar with the essential flavor of the fruit from which it originated, along with seasonal variation! Each batch will be different, like a fine wine.
Historically, vinegar was a critical ingredient for the preservation of foods while maintain the nutritional value. High quality vinegars were so important that the “mother” (acetobacteria culture) and the vinegar barrels that had adapted to the local fruits were passed down through generations. Many still are today!
Today, we are seeing a resurgence of vinegars because of the wonderful flavors and health benefits they offer. Rediscovering vinegars leads naturally to a rediscovery of living food. Vinegars allow you to explore different textures, flavors and even colors of food, making it more easily digestible while also preserving it. The fermentation process adds its own flavor and health benefits too.
How is vinegar made?
At Clover Valley Vinegary, we use both traditional and modern technology to produce our high quality vinegar. Acetobacteria do the heavy lifting. Our job is to create an environment in which they thrive, our reward is vinegar. Each fruit encourages the growth of slightly different strains of Acetobacteria. As the bacteria consume alcohol they reproduce, some of those bacteria stay in the liquid and some collect to form a “mother”. The “mother” can take many forms but is generally a thread or gelatinous mass at the top of the liquid being fermented.
Look for the live “mother” in our vinegars! It is totally normal for some sediment or culture to develop. Keep vinegars in a cool, dark place to limit the development of mother (you won’t kill it!). However, if you want to develop the mother (to try inoculating your own wine), keep it in a warm spot and add just a bit of weak alcohol every once in a while. Draw off what you want to use and you can keep it going.
We are continually renewing our “mothers” by adding new wine. We keep separate barrels for specific fruits so as to maximize the development of culture well adapted to each of our fruits. In this way we are literally breeding Acetobacteria, lots of it!
Gourmet Fruit Vinegars vs. Balsamic Vinegars
Our fruit vinegars get their flavor and character from the fruit we use to make them. They are crisp and dry (very little to no sugar) giving them a lot of flavor without overpowering the dishes you prepare with them. Balsamic vinegars which use grape “must” (cooked fruit) during the acetation process, tend to be sweeter because of their higher sugar content. There are some fabulous balsamic vinegars out there (avoid those which add syrup for flavor), but the gourmet fruit vinegars we create are something very different and unique.
Aging and Infusing vinegars
A young vinegar tend towards a more crisp and bright flavor. The vinegars we have available now are young and so carry that fruity flavor.
Aging of vinegars, in food grade plastic or wood barrels, adds a mellowing to the vinegar that is sometimes more desirable for certain dishes. For example, some very old Balsamic vinegars (16 to 20 years) are so thick and sweet that they can go right on top of fresh fruit or ice cream…delicious!
We have several vinegars aging now that will be ready…oh, sometime in 2015…sign up for our newsletter to stay abreast of what we have available!
While a great vinegar is fabulous in its own right. To add culinary flavor and variety we also infused small batches of the fruit vinegar with a variety of our own herbs and spices including Dill, Garlic, Basil, Sage, Rosemary, Mint, Green Chili, Serrano Chili, Red Chili and a Honey Sweetened version too (see our Online Marketplace for what’s available). Vinegar captures and carries the truly “fresh” flavor of the herbs so well that it’s hard to believe it until you taste it!