In a large bowl, with an electric mixer cream the butter, add the sugar, and beat the mixture until fluffy. Beat in the egg, the molasses, and the vinegar.
Into another bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt and stir the mixture into the butter mixture, a little at a time. The dough will be soft. Divide the dough into fourths, dust it with flour, and wrap each piece in waxed paper. Flatten the dough slightly and chill it for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out the dough, 1 piece at a time, 1/4-inch thick on a floured surface and cut out cookies with a 4-inch gingerbread man cutter dipped in flour. Transfer the cookies with a spatula to buttered baking sheets, arranging them 2-inches apart, and bake them in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until no imprint remains when they are touched lightly with the fingertip. Transfer the cookies with the spatula to racks and let them cool. Make cookies with the dough scraps in the same manner. If desired, pipe the sugar icing decoratively on the cookie using a pastry bag fitted with a small decorative tip. Let the cookies stand for 20 minutes, or until the icing is set.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, and 2 teaspoons water until the mixture is frothy, beat in the sugar, a little at a time, and beat the mixture until it holds stiff peaks. Beat in the food coloring, if desired.
Decorate baked cookies with the icing using a spatula or a pastry bag fitted with s small decorative tip and let the cookies stand for 20 minutes, or until the icing is set.
Yield: enough icing for about 50 (4-inch) cookies
*RAW EGG WARNING
Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.
Recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine