All-Purpose Vinegar

Feedloader (Clickability)

I rang in the new year to the...odor of vinegar. Some friends' New Year's Day party was winding down and the couple began cleaning. "Mom, could you PLEASE not spray vinegar on the kitchen counters while I still have guests here?" their 21-year-old daughter asked. I silently thanked her because as much as I know that vinegar is an economical, natural household product, I can't abide the smell.

But I'm learning. First came the problem of white salt stains on my boots. Last year I had removed stains with an expensive blue substance called "salt stain remover," which smelled exactly like vinegar. I couldn’t find it, so I substituted balsamic vinegar of Modena, which is deep brown­­ (the boots are chocolate brown). A few swipes of vinegar across the stains with a clean cotton cloth and the salt was gone.

Then I got an e-mail from my sister: "Ice-proof your windows with vinegar! Frost on its way? Just fill a spray bottle with three parts vinegar to one part water and spritz it on all your car windows at night. In the morning, they'll be clear of icy mess." The same e-mail said to spray cooking oil on the rubber seals around car doors to prevent car doors from freezing.

Later, I found hundreds more uses of vinegar on the web site of the Vinegar Institute. I also learned that my balsamic vinegar of Modena was probably only commercial grade, not “traditional.” The real balsamic vinegar of Modena is made by a labor-intensive and time-consuming process regulated by the Italian government.

All these encounters with vinegar reminded me that several years ago I made a beautifully rosy cranberry vinegar to give away at the holidays. Here are the directions:

Heat one quart white distilled vinegar, two cups of fresh or frozen cranberries and a half cup of sugar or honey in a saucepan until the mixture boils and the cranberries burst. Simmer for five minutes. Strain through a sieve; when cool, pour into decorative bottles. Place a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves and a handful of whole cranberries in each bottle.

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.