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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2008 / 20 Adar I 5768

Vinegar: Sour Grapes or Sweet Success?

By Rabbi Tzvi Rosen


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Vinegar is one of nature's most unique and versatile products. Folklore maintains that vinegar was discovered quite by accident, when wine was inadvertently left to sour. This resulted in the first batch of full-bodied wine vinegar. Indeed, the word vinegar is derived from the French word vinagere, which means sour wine. Euphemistically, the Talmud refers to a ne'er do well son of a righteous father as a "vinegar, son of wine."

Folklore aside, vinegar was well known in the time of Tanach (Scripture). The Torah forbids a Nazarite to drink wine vinegar or eat other grape and wine products. In Psalms, Kind David asked to drink vinegar. In the Book of Ruth, Boaz's workers dipped their bread in vinegar.

The Hebrew term for vinegar, chometz (pronounced ch-oh-metz), is very much akin to the word chametz (pronounced ch-aw-maitz), leavened bread products. This etymological similarity underscores a close similarity between the production of vinegar and the leavening of bread. The chemical process that allows wine to "sour" into vinegar, and effects the leavening of flour and water, is known as fermentation. Fermentation is a natural conversion process by which yeast, a fungus found in nature, converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In wine or bread, the natural sugar found in malted grains such as barley or corn, or in fruit juices such as grape juice or apple cider, undergo this chemical transformation.

To create vinegar, a second fermentation process has to take place. In this process, bacteria converts the alcohol into acetic acid, the sour element of vinegar. There are two methods used for vinegar fermentation: the traditional vat method, and the high volume acetobactor generator process.

In traditional vinegar fermentation, the alcoholic liquid - usually wine - is placed in specially made oak barrel casks with plenty of air holes to allow for ample aeration. The alcohol in the wine is slowly converted into acetic acid until the proper level is reached. Once this takes place, the vinegar is ready. A classic Italian favorite, balsamic vinegar, is an excellent example of a traditionally aged vinegar. Whereas regular wine vinegar takes one or two years to ferment, the grape (juice) of balsamic vinegar requires 12 years to age.

The long balsamic vinegar process requires great care to produce. The grapes have to be carefully crushed and are aged in special chestnut or mulberry barrels, where fermentation and oxidation occur simultaneously. As the vinegar ages and evaporates, the vinegar is transferred to smaller cherry and mulberry barrels for further conversion. After 12 years, the balsamic vinegar is thick, full-bodied and almost condiment-like in consistency. Authentic balsamic requires at least 12 years of aging; however, some of the mother balsamics used in this process are much older. In Modena, Italy, mother balsamic vinegars can be traced back 400 years. Due to the complex task of tracing balsamic vinegar through the matrix of time, authentic kosher balsamic would be nearly impossible to trace.

A prized bottle of authentic balsamic vinegar can cost in excess of $75.00 for a 3 1/2 oz. bottle! Today, the mass produced balsamic vinegar sold in the United States is not authentic balsamic. In reality, it is regular vinegar with balsamic wine flavoring and coloring that captures the taste and appearance of authentic balsamic. The cheapest imitations are hardly aged; medium grades are aged two years, a fraction of the time balsamic vinegar is aged. Of course, this is reflected in the price tag.

Modern day vinegar companies use the acetobactor generator system to convert large amounts of vinegar quickly and efficiently. These generators range in size from 6,000 to 18,000 gallons. The word acetobactor is a contraction of two Italian words: Aceto (vinegar) and bactor (bacteria). Bactor refers to the bacteria used in these generators to convert the alcohol into acetic acid. In lieu of fermentation, 190 proof alcohol is brought in from outside sources to be converted. The generators are filled with a solution of water, alcohol and vinegar from previous processing, bacteria, bacteria food nutrients, and beechwood shavings. The generator is kept at a constant 85F. The alcohol circulates through the generator and is converted into acetic acid. After being drawn off from the generator, the vinegar is filtered and standardized with water to its desired strength.

The strength of the vinegar, known as grain, is determined by the percent of acetic acid in the blend. 40 grain vinegar means that there is 4% acidity, 50 grain means that there is 5% acidity, etc. These are typically consumer strength vinegars. Industrial strength vinegar can go upwards to 200 grain acidity. Industrial strength vinegar is generally 12% acidity, or 120 grain. The raw materials used for the fermentation process play a fundamental role in the taste, color and fragrance of the vinegar variety. White distilled vinegar is made from petroleum or grains, such as corn and wheat; it is clear and tastes bitter. Apple cider vinegar is much more mellow and has an amber color; red wine vinegar has a much deeper red color.

KOSHER VINEGAR MANUFACTURING
As is the case with any manufactured product, there are basic kashrus issues that must be addressed when producing kosher vinegar. In the traditional method of vinegar fermentation, the obvious requirement is that the wine be kosher and mevushel, pasteurized or made by Torah observant workers. Any additional ingredients must be kosher, as well. Furthermore, the casks used to ferment kosher vinegar may not have been previously used to ferment non-kosher vinegar or wines.

In the acetobactor generator process, a wide array of alcohols can be used for the conversion process. These alcohols may be derived from a variety of sources. It is possible that the alcohol is imported from foreign countries. If the country of origin is a heavy producer of wine or grapes, there is a reasonable assumption that the imported alcohol could be derived from grapes. In that case, if the vinegar company uses grape-derived alcohol as their base product, all the subsequent vinegar productions generated from this grape alcohol would be non-kosher! The repercussions of using non-kosher alcohol would be devastating. As previously mentioned, vinegar is considered a davar charif product that is very sharp and pungent. Since a davar charif will not be nullified in a mixture of a 1 to 60 ratio, all of the product's condiments or sauces that were flavored or mixed with the non-kosher vinegar may also be forbidden.

Of similar concern, some foreign countries such as New Zealand, a large producer of milk products, produce alcohol from fermented whey. If the company imported whey alcohol, the vinegar produced from whey alcohol would be dairy!

KOSHER FOR PASSOVER CONCERNS
Pesach, of course, presents a new host of kosher issues. All of the fermentation ingredients have to be kosher for Pesach. Typically, apple cider or petroleum derived alcohol or wine alcohol are used for Kosher for Passover vinegar. If the grain alcohol source comes from barley, rye, oat, wheat or spelt, the grain alcohol would also be considered leaven. However, if the grain alcohol is derived from leguminous sources such as corn, rice or milo (a corn derivative), the vinegar is not considered leaven but is considered kitniyos, a leguminous product. This vinegar would not be permitted for use by Ashkenazic Jews on Pesach. It may be used by Sefardic Jews, who eat kitniyos products on Passover, if the other ingredients such as the nutrients are Kosher for Passover, as well.

VINEGAR EELS
The last step of vinegar production is filtration through diatomaceous earth and/or mechanical filters to remove any impurities. Vinegar filtration is needed to remove unwelcome residents of vinegar production, known as vinegar eels.

What are vinegar eels? Vinegar eels are tiny worms that live in vinegar. They are usually found in vinegar barrels and feed off the bacteria that produce the vinegar. Vinegar eels are slender and grow to a length of 1/16" to 3/8". Filtration would generally alleviate any chashash of vinegar eels.

GLACIAL ACETIC ACID
Today, a product known as glacial acetic acid is used in industrial food production. What is meant by this term? Are glacial acetic acid and vinegar synonymous, and are there kashrus concerns?

Acetic acid is vinegar's sour component. Acetic acid can be concentrated into different strengths. When the acetic acid is concentrated to a strength of 12% or 120 grain level, the acetic acid will freeze at 16.7C (62F). Acetic acid that possesses this property is commonly known as glacial acetic acid. The term "glacial" indicates a product that reaches this high freezing point.

Does the term "acetic acid" imply that this is derived from vinegar? In the United States, the answer is NO! It is a known fact that in the United States, industrial acetic acid can be derived through chemical engineering more efficiently and economically than a vinegar derivation. Typically, acetic acid is derived through a chemical reaction of methanol (a petroleum derivative) and carbon monoxide, or through oxidation methods of synthetic acetaldehyde. In the United States, glacial acetic acid generally refers to acetic acid that is chemically engineered and would not present kosher concerns.

It is indeed amazing to uncover the Divine's wonders, and how they manifest themselves in so many commonplace areas. Just as vinegar enhances food, it also enhances our appreciation of G-d's bounty and the gifts provided by nature.

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Rabbi Tzvi Rosen is Star-K Kashrus Administrator; Editor, Kashrus Kurrents, where this originally appeared.

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