What if it is just wine turned sour, vinegar is useful in many ways.
Vinegar is a vital accompaniment in Chinese cooking
CLEOPATRA ONCE bet that she could consume a fortune in one go, and she did it by downing pearls dissolved in a goblet of vinegar. Pearls weren't the only rocks this 10,000-year-old liquid famously helped dissolve. Hannibal literally cracked his way across the Alps by first heating obstructing rocks and boulders and then dousing them with vinegar till they crumbled away.
The Greeks and Romans were among the first to use vinegar as an antiseptic, and as recently as World War I, soldiers were using it to prevent wound infections.
So what exactly is vinegar?
It is nothing but wine gone sour. A bacterium called acetobacter acts on the alcohol in wine and beer, turning it into dilute acetic acid. The sugar that gives rise to the alcohol in the first place comes from molasses, honey, maple syrup, fruit, potatoes, beetroot and grains.
Vinegar is arguably the oldest condiment, preservative, cleaning agent, beauty aid and antiseptic all rolled into one.
Its uses in the kitchen and garden are too many to list comprehensively here, but here are a few:
Odour-remover: Rubbing white vinegar on fish before de-scaling them lessens some of that fishy odour. A few drops on your palms before chopping onions stops that sulphurous smell from hanging around you all day. A few drops in the water for boiling cabbage prevent that rotten egg smell from forming in the first place.
Food uses: Soaking wilting vegetables in vinegar and cold water perks them up appearance wise. Egg whites cook better in water with a teaspoon of vinegar in it because the acid stops the eggs from cracking midway through the boiling.
Parboiled rice turns out whiter and fluffier when boiled with one teaspoon of vinegar. This method helps get rid of that yellow brown colour without affecting nutrition. Cheese keeps moist and fresh for longer when wrapped in a vinegar-soaked cloth. Soaking flowers in vinegar and sugar water keeps them fresh all day.
Pickling and tenderising: Dark vinegars are usually the best, but white vinegar is better for onions and other light-coloured vegetables.
Vinegar is also one of the best stain removers for skin, metal ware and clothes. Pet owners should know that wiping the ears of a dog with a soft cloth dipped in dilute vinegar will keep it from scratching its ears all day. Cats hate the smell of vinegar: so wipe it on the surfaces you want your cat to keep away from.
Medicinal uses for vinegar are a dime a dozen, but the most reliable ones are the simple, time-tested solutions for common ailments. In small quantities, it is an appetiser. Doctors anxious about the rising use of antibiotics for sore throats recommend larder remedies such as gargling with honey and vinegar water.
Dotting bee stings with vinegar relieves the pain and the itching. Rinsing with dilute vinegar after shampooing is as good a cure as any for dandruff.
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