Today’s guest post comes from Free Range Mama who blogs at My Green Healthy Family. Free Range Mama is a home-cooking, organically-growing, chicken-raising, goat-milking, clay-throwing, food-preserving, sustainably-living, line-drying, eco-friendly mom of three.
The other day I was interested in finding out how vinegar is made. Distilled white vinegar, to be precise. I use it for cleaning, pickling, and cooking. I usually buy a large, plastic container of it and since I am trying to avoid the use of plastic when food is involved, I wondered if I could make it myself. I always, ALWAYS thought vinegar was made from food. Potatoes, apples… I didn’t really know but I never guessed that vinegar can and may be made from petroleum products. Wikipedia proves this:
Vinegar is made from the fermentation of a variety of sources mainly containing carbohydrates and sugars. Ethanol is first produced as a result of fermentation of sugars, ethanol is then oxidized to acetic acid by the acetic acid bacteria (AAB). The ethanol may be derived from many different sources, including wine, cider, beer, or fermented fruit juice, or it may be made synthetically from natural gas and petroleum derivatives.
Blech! I chose to use vinegar as a cleaning agent because it didn’t contain chemicals. It was “all natural”. I certainly wouldn’t choose to cook or pickle with products made from petroleum!
Now to check our labels. I just bought a large container of Allen’s Vinegar to use for pickling. Nowhere on the container does it say what its origin was. I looked up their website and found the same thing. They advertise how vinegar enhances natural taste of vegetables and so on, but they do not say that they are made from beer, cider, wine, or fruit. I have emailed them but have yet to receive a response. Heinz Vinegar website states the following:
The All Natural National Brand Vinegar
Heinz® Distilled White and Apple Cider Vinegars are guaranteed to only be made from sun ripened corn or apples
Thumbs up for Heinz!
Researching this topic proved to be extremely difficult. There is very little information about whether or not the vinegar you buy on the shelf is from a natural or synthetic source. We have proof that it is legal to make and sell synthetic distilled white vinegar for consumption. Grist quotes the following from the FDA:
Synthetic ethyl alcohol may be used as a food ingredient or in the manufacturing of vinegar or other chemicals for food use, within limitations … Any labeling reference to synthetic alcohol as “grain alcohol” or “neutral grain spirits” is considered false and misleading.
Buyer beware. If the company doesn’t advertise what the origin is, it might not be from food. Check your label and your website before you clean your bath tub, pickle your precious, organic vegetables, or use in your home cooking. I am ditching this plastic jug of petroleum by-products. Blech! Who knew?!
By the way, I am still looking for a good vinegar recipe…
Note: We are talking about distilled white vinegar not apple cider vinegar, red or white wine vinegar etc.