White vinegar is also commonly called white distilled vinegar or distilled white vinegar and most likely originated in early 19th-century Germany.
The method used to make it is commonly referred to as the quick process. The production method for white vinegar is much faster than those for wine and cider vinegars made with the Orleans method, which was a long slow process involving wooden casks.
The process was further enhanced by Louis Pasteur’s discoveries about the bacterial activity behind the production of acetic acid. The new quick and reliable process allowed the industrialization of vinegar-making. It resulted in the eventual demise of Orleans vinegar since it allowed vinegar to be made far more cheaply.
Most white vinegar is made from grain though it can be made with potato or even beets. White vinegar in the United States was originally made with alcohol from fermented molasses. The pure ethanol was distilled from the molasses before being converted to vinegar, hence the word distilled in white distilled vinegar.
These days, white distilled vinegar is no longer distilled. The Hoechst-Wacker Process (also called the Wacker Process) developed after World War II made vinegar production even cheaper than it was when its ethanol was distilled from molasses. It involved making white vinegar from ethanol that came from natural gas. Once this process was discovered, U.S. producers began using it to make white vinegar.
Today, the ethanol used in U.S. white vinegar production can come from any of a variety of sources as long as it is fermented naturally using bacteria. Corn and wheat are common providers of the ethanol used to make white vinegar.
White vinegar flavor profile
White vinegar is prized for its clean flavor profile, which it gets from acetic acid. Its flavor is acidic, with no other added flavors.
You can use it to balance sweetness and to cut through the fattiness of certain dishes. The simple flavor profile makes it starkly different from wine and cider vinegars that depend on other notes for their distinctive tastes and aromas.
Health benefits of white vinegar
Like most vinegars, the limited nutritional value is one of white vinegar’s downsides. It does not contain many nutrients, but it does include:
- Acetic acid: The key ingredient in all vinegars, acetic acid is responsible for most of white vinegar’s health benefits.
- Minerals: White vinegar contains trace amounts of important minerals like manganese, calcium, and magnesium.
By adding white vinegar to your diet, you may be able to treat or prevent conditions like:
- High blood sugar: Studies show that white vinegar can lower blood sugar, which may be beneficial for preventing type 2 diabetes.
- High blood pressure: A study on mice has shown that the acetic acid in white vinegar can reduce blood pressure.
White vinegar is most widely recommended for pickling. The simplicity of its flavor profile means that it contributes nothing to pickle brine but acidity. Its clear color keeps it from discoloring vegetables.
White vinegar is essential for sauces and marinades as well. For example, it is a key ingredient in many Thai marinades. In a marinade, white vinegar provides flavor but also acts as a meat tenderizer by softening muscle fibers. White vinegar is the vinegar of choice in Alabama’s famous white barbecue sauce.
White vinegar can also be combined with baking soda to provide leavening in baked goods via a reaction that releases carbon dioxide.