WINNER OF THE JANE GRIGSON TRUST AWARD, 2018
Published March 2019 by Bloomsbury Absolute
The above line, from Florence White’s classic 1930’s cookbook, Good Things in England is what first led me down the rabbit hole of vinegar discovery.
It piqued my interest because at that time – maybe ten years ago after first reading it as I sit here writing this – flower vinegars were not often found. It got me thinking that in the many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cookbooks I am happy to have in my collection, there are plenty of vinegar recipes. But in later books, all that stops, and vinegar (in British cookbooks, anyway) is referred to much more generically. That in turn got me wondering about just what we were missing.
The answer has turned out to be: we were missing a lot.
My vinegar collection has since grown in size and diversity and is now fundamental to how I cook. I know it isn’t just me who has got more into vinegar. It has been exciting to feel wider interest in vinegars growing at the same time as my own. The range of vinegars generally available to buy is expanding rapidly. It is not hard now to find fruit, herb, sherry, cider, malt, rice, balsamic and many types of red and white wine vinegars – from Rioja through to champagne – on store shelves.
I wonder how much the upsurge in interest in vinegar is the result of consumer tastes swinging away from sweet towards sour? How much is it to do with our widening interest in the provenance of food, with us wanting to know more about an ingredient and how it is made? Maybe it is on the back of the trend for fermenting, which is at the very heart of vinegar-making. With such an interest in gut health and fermented foods, is now the perfect time for a fresh look at the benefits of vinegar, too?
Most exciting of all to me as a cook is that I feel there is a growing interest in vinegars because of the role of acidity in cooking. 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.
In this book you will find the stories behind world vinegars, interwoven with recipes for using them. What I want these recipes to show is how the vinegars can be used interchangeably for varying impact and deliciousness. There is a flow between the vinegars, in their respective colour, density, acidity, flavour, aroma and culinary use. I would absolutely hate it if anyone thought a recipe could not be made because they did not have the ‘right’ vinegar. There are always options. And not only the options I give. As vinegar understanding grows, so does the confidence and awareness of switching vinegars round.
My hope with this book is that as you read about each vinegar, you will feel as if you have it in your hand – and then you will want to go out and find it so you can use it in your cooking. I honestly don’t expect everyone to have a vinegar cupboard, but I’d like to think this book might get you pondering a vinegar shelf at least...