I was being a good little shopper, reading labels.
Corn? Corn? It has to be a typo. I stood there, stunned in the supermarket aisle. I picked up another brand. Same thing. Another. “Sun-ripened grain.” Corn is grain. What’s going on? I thought vinegar was made from wine, and wine, from sun-ripened GRAPES.
Sure, I’ve bought and enjoy rice wine for certain recipes, especially one of Richard’s favorites, Chinese Chicken with Peanut Sauce. But never did I ever suspect that those gallons and gallons of distilled white vinegar that I use for everything from making herbal vinegars to unclogging sink drains to spraying on weeds were made from corn.
I got home and grabbed my laptop. Whew, I’m not crazy. The French words “vin aigre” literally mean “sour wine,” and, squished together, two words became one, “vinegar,” in the English language. Grapes=Wine=Vinegar, my narrow mind told me.
The Vinegar Institute website explains that vinegar is made from the fermentation of natural sugars into alcohol. That alcohol then goes through a secondary fermentation to become vinegar. The Bunsen burner in my brain started flaming. Dandelion wine. Elderberry wine. Plum wine. Vinegar, it turns out, can be made from fermenting molasses, dates, coconut, pineapple, potatoes, beets, even kiwi. And yes, corn, apples, grapes…
Well, I bought a bottle the Heinz Pickle Perfect and two spice bottles; one of whole coriander seeds and one of celery seed, and got to work. A couple weekends ago my mother and I took a Spring Creek Homesteading course on Root Vegetables. I wanted to get a few ideas beyond roasting. I got hooked on pickled vegetables, as in kohlrabi, carrots, celery root, jicama, beets.
Our instructor, Laura, has restaurant kitchen experience, and while working at a local CSA, spent much of her time explaining to customers how to use their weekly vegetable shares. She loves to make pickled root vegetables which she serves with hummus and pita bread. You can make a mini hummus and vegetable sandwich or just pick and dip. I love taking a small container of the pickled vegetable sticks for a mid-morning snack at work.
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar (distilled white vinegar)
1 Tablespoon salt (sea or kosher)
2 Tablespoons sugar
½ Tablespoon coriander seeds
½ Tablespoon celery seeds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Bring all of the above to a boil, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve, then turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. In the meantime, cut a selection of raw roots into sticks, all approximately the same size. Place carrot sticks in a large bowl. Pour hot brine on carrots, let sit for a few minutes. Then add other vegetables, making sure all stay below the brine. Let cool, then refrigerate in brine. You can serve in an hour or so, or keep for several weeks.
Laura says the carrots need the hottest brine to infuse the flavor, which is why she puts them in first. If you don’t want everything to turn pink and purple, pickle beets separately. You can also experiment with a variety of herbs and spices and combinations—dill seed, fennel seed, mustard seed, peppercorns—or try toasting them for different flavors. Laurie Lynch
Thank Heavens for this mild Sun-day: In sweatshirt weather I mulched the strawberries, picked the kale, gathered the last of the leaves, hauled the hoses into the barn, and stashed the deck furniture cushions in the basement.
Leaf and Learn: With the fierce winds and frigid temperatures we had earlier this month, I checked out my leaf-mulched garlic beds. Several rows were bare and a few patches on several other rows were mulch-less—blown away. That has never happened with straw mulch. Needless to say, I sprinkled straw on the denuded rows, tucking in my garlic babies one more time.
As Thanksgiving Approaches: Thank you all for reading, following, commenting, and emailing over the year. I love being able to share my experiences in the garden, kitchen and life with all of you.
Written on Slate: “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.”—Thomas Jefferson