Mom may have used vinegar to clean windows, and grandma might have used it to make pickles, but today, drinking vinegar—or drinks made with vinegar—are all the rage. And why not? Aside from its well known culinary uses, vinegar is a known antibacterial, and when it’s consumed as a drink, the list of health benefits is impressive. It’s an antioxidant reported to be effective in lowering blood pressure, alleviating the effects of diabetes, and preventing cardiovascular diseases.
What takes vinegar from condiment to beverage is fruit, and we’re not talking just grapes and apples. Many cultures have historically made fruit vinegars with flavours such as blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, fig, and persimmon. If you’re from Southeast Asia, Mexico, or Central America, you’re likely familiar with pineapple vinegar, which has been popular for ages. And drinking these fruit vinegars isn’t new, either.
In the Arabic world, fruit vinegars were used to make a drink called a shurb, which became the shrub, and eventually this concoction became common in colonial America, where it was mixed with water for a tart and refreshing beverage.
In the Caribbean, fruit vinegar drinks called switchel were popular, and they likely came to the U.S. colonies in the 17th century. Switchel was a regular summertime refresher in New England until the days of refrigeration and soda pop.
In China, there are a variety of blended fruit vinegar beverages that, like many Chinese recipes, are centuries old. They include fruits such as plums, strawberries, and wolfberries. They still remain popular in China, and Korea has turned the drink into a grocery store staple, right there in the cooler next to the kombucha.
Making drinks with fruit vinegar can add a whole new world of flavour to cocktails as well as providing interesting flavour profiles for nonalcoholic drinks. If you’re attracted to sweet and sour with a nice balance of acidity, you’ll enjoy these drinks as much for their flavour as for their reported healthy properties. Fruit vinegars are filled with good live bacteria that help to balance gut enzymes. They’re filled with amino acids and are rich in B vitamins, and yes, it’s true, some studies even say that drinking fruit vinegar with every meal can help with weight loss.
Pick any fruit—we’ve experimented with plums and grapes.
This is more a method than a recipe, as it is based on proportions. The ratio of fruit, white rice vinegar, and sugar is 1:1:1. If you’re using a very sweet fruit (such as grapes), you can reduce the sugar by 10 to 30 percent.
Unseasoned white rice vinegar
Fruit of choice
Clean and chop your chosen fruit; be sure to remove any woody stems, thick peels or leaves. The more chopped your fruit, the more it will release its juices.
Making sure the fruit is well dried, place in a dry, clean (sterilized) glass jar that has a lid that can be tightened (when the time comes). Be sure not to use a plastic or metal container.
Add to the jar equal amounts of white rice vinegar and sugar. Let the sugar dissolve slowly; don’t stir. Let stand in a cool place with the lid loosely covering. The mixture will produce a natural gas during the first couple of weeks, so if you tighten the lid, you’ll end up with fruit vinegar on your ceiling when the jar explodes. But don’t worry, there will be no bacteria growth, because of the vinegar.
After a week, stir with a clean wooden spoon or tighten the lid and shake the jar to dissolve the remaining sugar. NOTE: If your jar has a metal ring top, place a piece of wax paper or parchment between the top of the jar and the lid to prevent the vinegar from oxidizing the metal.
At this point, you may close the lid of the jar, but check frequently to be sure the lid isn’t puffing up. This would indicate that the mixture is still giving off gas. Loosen the lid again if this happens.
The aging process will infuse the vinegar with the flavours of the fruit. It can take up to 3 months before your fruit vinegar is ready. This aging can take place in a cool place in your home or in the refrigerator. The refrigerator might slightly slow the process of infusing the flavour.
Shake the jar whenever you think of it, as it helps the fruit break up and give up its flavour.
Taste the mixture after 4 weeks to determine its strength. Taste again at 8 weeks and so on, so you have an idea of the progress of the flavour development.
Some recipes recommend removing any fruit solids from the vinegar once your taste level has been achieved—it’s your choice.
When the fruit vinegar has attained the desired strength, add a little to a glass and dilute with 5 times as much water or sparkling water. Add honey, other fruit juices, herbs (mint is lovely), and or ice to taste.
With the lid tightly closed and kept in the fridge, this mixture will last for quite some time.