Living Vinegars Are the Flavor-Packed Ingredient Your Pantry Needs
Acid League’s products are our new favorite low-cal solution to flavorful meals.
When it comes to vinegar, the average grocery store often stocks white, red wine, balsamic and apple cider. The flavors are tried and true – but to stray from the typical lineup requires home cooks to do more than we’re usually prepared for. Infused vinegars, let alone ones made from entirely different sources, add that much more time and effort to an otherwise ready-to-use ingredient. Most of us just take vinegars as they are, beholden to the flavors on shelves.
But Acid League, a new brand that launched at Whole Foods last week, is determined to change that. The company aims to equip cooks with a much wider collection of “craft brewed” vinegars, flavored with blends of cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices and purees, along with a variety of herbs, flowers, wines, teas and more.
I got the first wave of flavors Acid League is bringing to Whole Foods and the moment I tried them, it felt like a whole ocean of possibilities opened up. For the most part, I’d used vinegars as components in vinaigrettes and marinades. Vinegars tend to be super sharp and require a fat to balance out their flavor.
But when I tasted a spoonful of Acid League’s Garden Heat (a fiery, orange-colored vinegar comprised of living bacterial culture and carrot, celery, tomato and jalapeno juices), I could see myself using it to spice up a Bloody Mary, brighten up a stir fry or chili, as a finishing splash on a grilled white fish or even as a standalone “dip” for raw cucumber slices. It’s like a spicier, more sophisticated V8. Like a thinner (in texture), but more full-bodied (in flavor) hot sauce that feels perfectly logical to toss straight into a salad – no olive oil necessary.
Although, that’s not to say that you couldn’t use the vinegars as a base for dressings, hot sauces, condiments or shrubs. In fact, they would make great components to all of these things. But since they come with a fully developed flavor profile of their own, expect that they’ll make any vinegar-based recipe even better. Anywhere an acid – whether it’s vinegar or say, a squeeze of lemon – would go, an Acid League vinegar can go.
In addition to Garden Heat, the release at Whole Foods also includes sweeter flavors Strawberry Rosé and Meyer Lemon Honey – all of which can too fit into various savory dishes, but also work drizzled over desserts, especially a clean scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or, even more simply, mixed into a glass of seltzer or champagne.
As religious apple cider vinegar drinkers might ask, the multi-purpose bottles can also be had by the shot glass. Acid League’s vinegars are “living,” meaning that the product nor any of its components are treated with heat. The liquid is “raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered and oxygenated,” and thus maintain all of the vinegars’ naturally occurring antioxidants (especially phenolic compounds), vitamins and amino acids. In the absence of heat, each bottle’s “mother of vinegar,” a substance similar to the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) used to start the production of kombucha, is left alive and well in each bottle. And yes, it’s perfectly safe to eat.
Plus, due to their pH levels, vinegars have been shown to reduce “bad bacteria” on salad leaves and vegetables.
Wellness properties aside, the bottles don’t contain any added sugars or sodium. Each tablespoon-serving clocks in at just eight calories, while still delivering on serious flavor.
Intrigued? Stock up on the gradient-adorned bottles at Whole Foods now. They’re shelf-stable even after opening, despite the inclusion of fruit and veggie juices. And if you can’t get enough, an even wider collection of “experimental editions” can be found directly on the brand’s website.