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What does 'add vinegar' mean in a recipe, exactly? Always means white vinegar?

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    What does 'add vinegar' mean in a recipe, exactly? Always means white vinegar?

    I keep looking at recipes that ask you to add vinegar, but I suppose I've been away so long that I've started second-guessing myself. That means white vinegar, right? Yeah, I know you can probably substitute a flavored vinegar, but I just want to check my thinking. China has tons and tons of different flavored vinegars: rice vinegar, heavy fishy black vinegar, etc. so I'm not starved for choice...except for "ordinary" stuff like balsamic vinegar and apple vinegar. Luckily they have white vinegar, although I've really always thought of white vinegar as more of a cleaner than a food ingredient.

    The reason I'm asking is because, lacking anywhere to buy BBQ sauce in jars, I have to start making it. I've always been a 'just buy it' kind of man because I figure someone else already figured out what tastes good and did all the work. Obviously you don't want Kraft BBQ sauce in the squirt bottle, but pretty much anything locally made is bound to be delicious. Plus, you're supporting local businesses and justifying their shelf space in the store. But I'm on my last bit of Spring Creek and I guess it's time to start making it for myself. I found this recipe which seems like it comes from a credible source:

    The vinegar in this recipe can be assumed to be white vinegar? If so I'm going for it. I suppose you should use it all the day you make it, as it uses fresh ingredients. Or will the vinegar and lemon juice let it keep if you stick it in a jar in the fridge?

    She also says to drench the meat in the sauce before cooking? I thought in most situations you are just supposed to add the sauce after the meat is already cooked. Is this outdated thinking, or did Lady Bird cook her meat differently than how we do today?

    I would guess it depends on the flavor profile your looking for. Its my understanding that Vinegar is made when Sugars are converted to acid so red wine vinegar and apple cider would have a fruity flavor and I use red wine vinegar in my BBQ sauce . White or Distilled vinegar is made from distilled alcohol and would work as well just would not have the fruity profile.


      If it says "add vinegar" and doesn't specify which type, then it is really saying "this is an amateur recipe and cannot be trusted". As you know there is a big diff between vinegars. Any recipe writer who fails to tell you which is not a good recipe writer and the chance of failure is greatly increased.


      • Lost in China
        Lost in China commented
        Editing a comment
        Hmm...I disagree. At the time this recipe was written, things like this simply didn't need to be specified. Everyone knew what she was talking about. My question is, which vinegar did this contemporary author mean?

        It's likely that the stores that she shopped at simply did not stock balsamic, apple cider, red wine, malt, raisin, coconut, and every other variety of vinegar under the sun. If you went to the store and asked, "vinegar, please" they would have given you....what? We're talking about a time in America where pizza was a new and novel thing, and Coca-cola came in 6oz bottles because drinking any more than that in one sitting was considered tooth-hurtingly sweet.
        Last edited by Lost in China; May 10, 2015, 02:10 PM.

      • Meathead
        Meathead commented
        Editing a comment
        I did not see anything about when this was written and you have confused me even more. But I write recipes for a living. If a recipe calls for vinegar, salt, or flour without specifying what type, I say it is a poor recipe. I would never stand for that kind of lapse if I was editing a recipe. That is the problem with most recipes on the internet. You will not find that in my recipes (I hope).

      Here's a pretty basic recipe that works well. I'm not sure of the availablility of the ingredients in China. You could certainly substitute actual onion and garlic, but the amounts would have to be adjusted. I would chop/grate them and saute in a tbsp or 2 of oil until soft and fragrant then follow the rest of the directions.

      1/3 CUP PREPARED MUSTARD (I usually use Dijon, but yellow mustard works too)
      3 TBSP BROWN SUGAR (dark preferred, but light is acceptable)
      1 TBSP GARLIC POWDER (a/k/a granulated garlic)
      1 TBSP ONION POWDER (a/k/a granulated onion)
      1 CUP CORN SYRUP (You can substitute honey, molasses, maple syrup, Agave syrup, etc. but each will change the flavor profile some.)

      In a good sized sauce pan, whisk together ketcup and mustard until well blended. Whisk in the vinegar and worcestershire. Add the dry ingredients. Add the corn syrup and stir to blend. Bring sauce to boil then reduce heat to a hard simmer for about 40 minutes until it thickens up some. It will get even thicker when it cools. This sauce works best if chilled thoroughly before using on grilled meat and caramalized on a hot grill or under a broiler.



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