Vinegar is a common staple in the U.S. household because it is such a versatile product. Vinegar is used to heal an array of ailments and to clean without toxic chemicals. Vinegars come in various tpes, but they are all essentially made the same way: through fermentation. Cider vinegar and distilled vinegars are two types of common vinegars, but they are fermented from different starting materials.
What is Vinegar
Vinegar is a solution that contains acetic acid. The amount of acetic acid in vinegar determines its acidic strength, but vinegar itself should not be confused with diluted acetic acid, warns the United States Food and Drug Administration. It is a shelf-stable product that is long lasting because the acids are self-preserving.
How it is Made
Making vinegar is simple. By using the natural sugars in fruit or starches in some vegetables, it is possible to ferment them into vinegar. It requires a two-step process--alcoholic fermentation and acid fermentation. In the first step, yeasts break down the sugar or starch into an alcohol product. The following step uses a microorganism, called an acetobaceter, to completely ferment the alcohol to acetic acid. The result is vinegar.
Cider vinegar is made from juices of apples and has an acidity in the range of 5 to 6 percent. Apple cider was a preferred drink in early U.S. history because there was an abundance of apples. Being a byproduct of apple cider, cider vinegar was used to preserve foods before refrigeration was invented.
Distilled, or white vinegar, is produced from the second fermentation of dilute distilled alcohol. The alcohol could be made from grain or the starch from corn, potatoes, rice and barley. Distilled vinegar is usually less acidic than cider vinegars and range from 4 to 7 percent acidity.
Both cider and distilled vinegars can be used for the same purposes. In the kitchen, people typically prefer using cider vinegars for salad dressings and sauces because it has a lighter taste than white vinegar. Diluted, both vinegars can be used as cleaning agents around the house because the acidity is strong enough to be a disinfectant and to clean grease. Claims have been made that ingesting vinegar can support weight loss, control diabetes and prevent osteoporosis, but not enough scientific evidence exists to support these claims.