Vinegar use is very ancient. Traces of vinegar have been found in and on the remnants of Egyptian pottery dating to around 3000 B.C. Vinegar has been used as a curative, disinfectant and food preserver/flavor enhancer in many cultures around the world ever since.
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Some benefits of vinegar include:
Condiment/Flavor Enhancer for Food Items
Foods such as beetroot and flavorful combinations such as Fish-and-chips have benefited from the liberal addition of vinegar prior to consumption. In the case of Fish and Chips(fries,) use of malted vinegar is probably more common, but regular white vinegar is also used. Malted vinegar is created by the fermentation of barley which changes the starches of the grain into he sugar maltose. This is in turn brewed into ale and allowed to sour, creating the distinctive varietal Malt Vinegar.
Pickling and Preserving
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Brining (or corning) of food is a process by which food items can be preserved in heavily salted water. The anaerobic fermentation by yeasts in the salty brine produce an acid (lactic acid) which preserves the food item by the killing and maintaining of conditions unfavorable for the growth of bacteria. Storing a food item (hard boiled eggs, braised meats, vegetables, etc.) in vinegar introduces the food item to a long-term immersion bath of acid (acetic acid, a.k.a. vinegar) and produces a similar and desirable preservation effect called pickling.
This pickling imparts both a sour and salty flavor directly into the food item which is made palatable and agreeable in flavor but more importantly, the food is preserved. Food so pickled can now be transported to where food is scare or non-existent, making exploration feasible into or across barren regions. Explorers can bring their own food and not have to rely upon or spend precious time searching for non-existent or unfamiliar consumables.
Dubious claims of health benefits from the consumption of vinegar come from many cultures, even our own modern culture has many beliefs regarding health benefits of vinegar. Some benefits are difficult to substantiate while other real benefits are deemed entirely possible. Among these benefits are stated to be:
- Blood Glucose Control and management of Diabetes,
- Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels,
- Infection prevention is among the benefits of vinegar. Vinegar makes an adequate surface disinfectant for hard surfaces such as counter-tops, tiled and enamelled bathroom surfaces and its ability to clean and sterilize cookery are well known.
- Dietary Aid. People claim that including vinegar in the diet reduces caloric intake versus fatty dressings, and does so without sacrificing taste. Eating fewer calories not only controls weight, but weight-loss can reduce the strain upon the heart to move blood throughout your body. Less bulk means less work for the heart.
It is however entirely urban myth that consumption of vinegar (either apple cider or white/distilled vinegar) clears the urine to test negative for marijuana use. It does not. Yet this urban legend continues to be circulated and cited.
A Substitute for Lemon Juice in Recipes
Cider vinegar although lacking the essential Vitamin-C of lemon, in cooking any recipe that calls for lemon juice an equivalent amount of vinegar can be substituted. The flavor will be slightly different using vinegar instead of lemon juice but the finished item will still be pleasing.
Contraindications: Vinegar Over-use?
Long-term over-use of vinegar can have deleterious effects upon the living organism though. Erosion of the esophageal tissue can occur from excessive consumption of Apple Cider Vinegar. Acetic acid is of course, an acid which can under prolonged and repeated exposures is known to erode flesh and bone.When I was in school we did an experiment once whereby we soaked the long-bones of turkey drumsticks in a large jar of white (distilled) vinegar. After a month, the bones became rubbery and could be bent into a half-circle. Eventually, the bones degraded to the point that they had holes and pits all over them. Clearly, vinegar attacks the calcium in bone and removes it, weakening the bones.
Long-term and heavy consumption of vinegar can also potentially cause the conditions of Hypokalemia, Hyperreninemia, and Osteoporosis. As in all things, moderation of even a beneficial agent is always best.