Return to the Harvest Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Wrong Vinegar

Posted by KSprairie Zone 5 (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 9, 11 at 18:55

Hi everyone. I am a new member and really appreciate the great information you all share. I made a batch of dgkritch's Dill Relish (Jul 3, 08 post) today. It looks beautiful! However, I didn't realize until after I was all finished that the recipe actually called for white WINE vinegar, not the plain white vinegar (5%) that I used. Please, no eye-rolling! Not sure how I missed that. Anyway, I tasted a bit that was left-over - YIKES! I could taste the sugar but the vinegar was overpowering! Can anyone say from experience whether or not the white wine vinegar would balance this out and make much difference? I don't want to make another batch if the white wine vinegar doesn't make for a more mild flavor. On top of my mistake, I think my taste buds aren't acclimated to the higher concentrations of vinegar that are now recommended. I learned canning from my mom and of course her and my grandmother's recipes didn't use nearly the amount of vinegar that is now recommended.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Wrong Vinegar

Originally your grandmother's recipes probably used a much stronger vinegar, so in terms of authenticity, with today's 5% the higher concentrations of vinegar probably result in a flavor closer to what people 100 years ago were accustomed to. Using weaker vinegars is a fairly recent innovation.

Getting back to your question, the white wine vinegar will in all likelihood result in a milder finish than the distilled. Cider vinegar would also be milder and sweeter. Old-timers generally preferred apple cider vinegar for that reason, though sometimes with a lighter pickle they used white vinegar for a brighter color.

However, part of your problem is that freshly pickled items are generally really sharp and lip-puckering. They really need to sit on the shelf at least 6 weeks for the flavors to blend before opening, so you're not really giving the recipe a fair chance. Over time juices leach out of the veggies and mix with the brine resulting in a milder, smoother finish.


RE: Wrong Vinegar

Agree that Grandma's vinegar was much stronger than ours today. Often 3x as strong at 15%. :) But it probably was cider vinegar rather than white and cider has a much milder taste, more mellow and softer. So it is preferred by many if the color change it makes in the food is acceptable to you.

Like Carol said wine vinegars, both white and red, are less sharp than plain white vinegar. How much of a taste difference it makes varies from mouth to mouth. My old taste buds can't really taste much difference at all.

And as Carol also said, the main point is taste of the relish today and taste of it 6 weeks from now are very different things regardless of which vinegar you used. Have patience and give your relish time to mellow-out.


PS: and welcome to the forum!!

RE: Wrong Vinegar

Carol and Dave,
Thank you for responding with the great advice and information. I wasn't aware of the changes in vinegar over the years. That's interesting stuff! Thanks also for the welcome!

I don't remember for sure where I read this, but the author of a similar recipe stated that relish can be popped in the fridge after cooled from the water bath and tried the next day. I guess that's what freaked me out when I tasted the left-overs! I shouldn't have been so hasty. When I make my Mom's dill pickle recipe, we always let them sit for a minimum of 6 weeks before opening. It makes sense that relish is the same.

I will certainly give my relish the shelf time it needs to mellow and not fret that I may have ruined a batch! :) I think the next batch I make, I'll use the cider vinegar so I can compare the two. If there's a third batch, I'll try the white wine vinegar. It will be interesting to see if I can detect any difference.

I was also wondering about the sugar in the recipe: Is the sugar added to just cut the sharpness of vinegar or is there some other purpose? I couldn't find any relish recipes that didn't have sugar in them. (I would have just used my family dill pickle recipe and increased the amount of vinegar to a safe level, but I can’t locate it and the cucs are ready!) If I find the relish too sweet (1/3 cup sugar added to 8lbs cucs, 1 Qt vinegar), do you think I can I cut back or even omit the sugar with no adverse affects?

One more question if anyone has the patience... Is there a standard guide/book that you use to determine if a recipe has enough acid and the correct balance or high/low acid vegetables or fruits to make it safe for the water bath process? If so, can you tell me where to find it? I see a lot of people asking if this or that recipe is safe with the addition of more vegetables, herbs, etc. and I wondered if your source was a book or experience, or both!
Thanks so much!

RE: Wrong Vinegar

To work backwards with your questions, there is no standard guide book. Basically the "standard" is the result of science and testing. There are a number of general "rules" about what can be safely processed and what cannot, but you will often see recipes from highly-regarded sources like the NCHFP that seem to "break" the rules.

For example, there are safe-tested recipes for peppers marinated in oil and for citrus curd with eggs. Generally both of those contradict recommendations, but in laboratory settings, products with sufficient acidity were developed which made risk-free recipes possible. Obviously that can't be achieved in a home setting.

There are sources that provide general guidelines. The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning is available online for free and the opening section, Principles of Home Canning is helpful.

The NCHFP (National Center for Home Food Preservation) offers a free online self-paced course which also provides training in the basic principles.

Also, if you live where there is a strong Extension Service network, there are still some few agencies that offer training in the Master Food Preserver program. But due to cutbacks, those programs are much scarcer than they used to be. It's ironic that just as there's a revived interest in home food preservation (both as an economy measure and as a slow foods/whole foods craft) the availability of such training is much more limited.

Some cosmopolitan centers also offer classes in home food preservation or specific areas like pickling or jam-making during the summer season. I live near Portland where the interest is very high and all kinds of classes and seminars are on offer privately and through stores like New Seasons. The trick is determining which are reliable.

There are also books, some of which do provide basic information on principles of preservation and food safety as well as recipes. Beverly Alfeld has two books - one on sweet preserves and one on pickles and relishes - which are practically college courses in the information they provide. Linda Ziedrich also offers a good amount of background in her books on sweet preserves and pickles, though less than Alfeld. She also has a website.

Basically, for most it's a combination of training, self-education and experience. If you are aware, keep asking questions and take advantage of trustworthy sources online and in print, you will get there.

To answer your other question, yes you can reduce the sugar in the relish, even eliminate it completely. Old recipes tend to be heavily sugared, again to compensate for the 10% or 15% vinegars they originally called for. It's not a safety issue to cut back. However, sugar also affects mouth feel (high levels of sugar in the syrup essentially "candy" the veggie chunks), color retention and texture. A relish without sugar will tend to be "flabby" though you could compensate with pickle crisp.

What I would recommend is you scale your recipe down and make a very small test batch as originally written and let it rest on the shelf at least six weeks. Then try it and draw your conclusions about how you want to adjust next time.

My biggest lesson was with a corn relish I made. I cooked it and was so turned off by the sharp smell and flavor I hesitated to even bother to go ahead with canning. My original impulse was the compost pile. But I decided I'd gone that far I might was well finish. When I opened a jar after Thanksgiving I was so glad I'd given the recipe a shot. It was delicious and is now one of our standby recipes.


Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Guide 2009 Revised Edition

RE: Wrong Vinegar

Great info from Carol and I think she answers all your questions.

I'll only add that the "standard" for those new to canning is to stick with tested and approved recipes. That means the BBB, Ball Complete Book, So Easy to Preserve, and a very few others. And the NCHFP website plus and No weirdo websites that claim to have canning recipes, no glitzy so-called canning books, no making up your own recipes, and no old family recipes.

Beyond that it is acquired knowledge, classroom training when possible, and experience that teaches how far out onto the ice you can step without falling through. pH is vital to understand when it comes to safety and learning the pH of the foods in question is the first step.

Is there a standard guide/book that you use to determine if a recipe has enough acid and the correct balance or high/low acid vegetables or fruits to make it safe for the water bath process?

What is safe for BWB canning is already well defined so if BWB canning is what you are interested in then you are limited to high acid foods - fruits (with a couple of exceptions), jams and jellies, pickles and relishes, and tomatoes with acid added. Beyond that you are into pressure canning and that is a whole different world.

Explore NCHFP. It is a wealth of information for beginners.


Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP

RE: Wrong Vinegar

Thank you so much for all that great information. Each time I look through the USDA home canning guide, I pick up some useful information that I had previously overlooked. I had thought there must be some hard and fast rules that one should follow in regards to acidity and vegetable combinations, but I was having a hard time wading through the information to find it. I had looked through the NCHFP site and some Extension sites and didn't find exactly what I was looking for so I was thinking maybe I was missing something obvious. I will definitely check out the books that you mentioned. They sound like great resources.

Our local extension agent was going to put together a home canning clinic early this spring, but it never came about. There were a lot of people from my church who had requested it since it had been years since we'd canned. We all felt like we could use a refresher before we jumped in and started preserving our home-grown produce. I know I could have! So now I'm reading and reading and trying not to forget anything. I tend to second-guess myself and I wonder - did I get all the air bubbles out of the jars? Was the water boiling rapidly enough the entire time? Etc. I haven't had any trouble with jars sealing and everything is looking OK so far, so I'm going to remain optimistic.

Thanks for the tips on sugar. I am glad to know its function. Sounds like I need to do some small test batches as you suggest. Maybe by next growing season I will have determined what amount of sugar will get us closest to our desired dill relish that is tart with strong dill/garlic flavors but not mushy or "flabby". Mushy and flabby are to be avoided!

You've been a great help. Thank you!

canning information

Thank you for your additions. I keep going through the NCHFP as I have spare time and plan to acquire books mentioned by both you and Carol. I think I will have plenty of reading material for this winter as I look forward to next spring planting.

I don't own a pressure canner yet. I think I'll wait until I am more comfortable with BWB canning before I make that jump. In a few years, hopefully. :)

RE: Wrong Vinegar

Elle Topp's book " Small Batch Preserving" is very helpful to me because you can do small quantities of something and make sure you even like it before wasting all your produce and time on something you and your family hate. She also has some great, creative and well tested recipes.

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Harvest Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here