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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle
cider vinegar

How is Vinegar Made?

If you have never called into an Extension office to ask a question, know that you can - and should. Our educators are able to provide evidenced-based answers to many questions.

It happens occasionally that a question is beyond the scope of my knowledge. In those cases, I learn something new myself searching for an answer. So, for any others out there who want to ask "how is vinegar made?," let us explore.

Vinegar Basics

Many vinegars are based on fruit, as noted in Table 1. Initially, fruit juice is turned into wine. The next step turns wine – or rather ethyl alcohol – into acetic acid. Similar to other fermented products, like beer or sauerkraut, bacteria are utilized in the process. For vinegar, acetobacter bacteria convert alcohol to acid. Vinegars sold on the market are not 100% acetic acid, but are diluted with water to a percentage of acid, usually 5%. For more on the steps, view the Vinegar presentation from Ohio State University.

Table 1. Vinegar

Vinegar Type

Made From




Champagne grapes




distilled grain alcohol


grain mash, such as used in beer making




sherry wine


any wine

Homemade and Flavored Vinegars

It is possible to make vinegar at home. And you can make herb-infused or berry-flavored vinegars from a base vinegar – such as distilled, cider, wine, or rice – and include other flavorings.

See the References below for links to instructions on making cider vinegar or a flavored vinegar. Take note of the information on food safety, including steps on sterilizing jars, checking for molds, and safely storing the finished vinegar.


A tablespoon of vinegar contains just a few calories from a small amount of carbohydrates. Vinegar does not contain fat, protein, or sodium. Some vinegars may contain very small amounts of vitamin or minerals, but not enough to contribute significantly to the diet.

The internet is full of information about cider vinegar and its proposed health benefits. There are some studies on vinegar related to specific health conditions, but more research is needed to show enough evidence before advocating using or not using vinegar for treating health conditions. For now, stick to using vinegar in cooking.

  • Buy: Many stores carry a variety of vinegar flavors in glass and plastic bottles. Look for what your recipe recommends, but certainly feel free to substitute for what is at your store and in your budget. Just know the flavor profiles are different for each. It is helpful to read ingredient lists in the bottles, as lower quality vinegars may have added ingredients, such as sulfites or colors.

  • Price: Vinegars range from cheap to expensive. Go with that fits in your budget, but be aware that cheaper vinegars may be lower quality or a mix of a light-colored vinegar with added flavors and colors.
  • Store: Store vinegar in their original bottles in a cool, dark place. While it will not likely mold or develop an off flavor or smell, toss it out if it does.
  • Prepare: Vinegar is ready to use straight from the bottle.
  • Eat: Vinegar is used in a variety of recipes, including salad dressings, condiments like ketchup, savory dishes like stews, and even sweet dishes like cooked fruit. Remember, vinegar is used to accent flavors, not overpower. A small amount is enough.


Pulled Turkey BBQ Sandwiches with Coleslaw (Serves 4)

For a lighter take on BBQ with less fat, use poultry instead of the traditional pork. Thighs will shred better than breast meat. If you cannot find turkey thighs, go for chicken thighs.

1 pound boneless, skinless turkey thighs
1 BBQ Recipe (see below) or 3/4 cup prepared BBQ sauce
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split and toasted
1 Slaw Recipe (see below) or 1-1/2 cup prepared coleslaw

1. Place turkey thighs and BBQ Recipe (or prepared BBQ sauce) in 3-4 quart slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on high 1 hour and reduce to low. Cook another 5-6 hours on low or until cooked.
3. Shred turkey and return to slow cooker until ready to eat.
4. Fill each sandwich bun with turkey and about 1/3 cup slaw.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 350 calories, 11g fat, 540mg sodium, 41g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 23g protein

BBQ Recipe

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 Tbps water

1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients.
2. Heat to boiling and reduce heat.
3. Simmer 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Slaw Recipe

1/2 Tbsp prepared mustard
1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp chopped onion
2 Tbsp chopped green bell pepper
1 cup shredded green cabbage

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, oil, and sugar.
2. Add onion, pepper, and cabbage and toss.

Recipe from: Kirby's Kitchen, UI Extension, 2013

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