The publication of The Vinegar Cupboard could not be more timely. This staple ingredient is experiencing something of a culinary revival as the result of an upsurge of interest in fermentation, good gut health and the use of acidity in cooking.
The book, penned by food writer and historian Angela Clutton, is a bible of the history and science behind the kitchen staple. The variety of vinegars are immense and Clutton covers them all, from the ubiquitous balsamic, wine, cider, fruit and malt vinegars to the more unusual whey, sugar cane and maple varieties.
The first section of the book provides readers with everything they need to know about the history, making and myriad uses of vinegar. Particularly fascinating is the section in which flavour wheels outline the characteristics of different vinegars, providing a useful guide to which variety will work best in a specific dish, depending on the level of acidity, sweetness, pepperiness and so on.
The addition of a splash of vinegar to finish a dish is renowned, and the section on how best to achieve this and which ones to use will be helpful for any cook. As Clutton says: “I hope that by demonstrating the many great ways in which vinegars can be used to balance and bring flavour, The Vinegar Cupboard will enable even more modern cooks to make the most of this ancient ingredient.”
A collection of 70 savoury and sweet recipes are split between the different types of vinegars. For instance, pot-roasted brisket with balsamic and honey is featured alongside baked apples with balsamic, outlining just how versatile vinegar can be. Meanwhile, in the sherry, wine and cider vinegar section, the dishes ranges from octopus with red wine vinegar to cinder toffee.
A thorough index and a glossary of vinegar producers makes the book a comprehensive and authoritative compendium, so it’s no surprise it scooped the prestigious Jane Grigson Trust Award in 2018, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wishes to expand their knowledge of this fascinating ingredient.
The Vinegar Cupboard by Angela Clutton (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26)
• Try the recipe for octopus in red wine vinegar from the book here