The Versatility of Vinegar
From cooking to cleaning to healing, vinegar is considered one of the most flexible ingredients when it comes to its usage. An ancient liquid dating as far back as 10,000 years, vinegar has not changed much from its origin. Named after its sour taste, vinegar comes in a variety of flavors and has a wide array of uses.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him [PBUH]) said, “What an excellent condiment vinegar is” (Tirmidhi). He also stated that the house that has vinegar would not suffer poverty (Tirmidhi). These two statements alone are reason enough to bring home a tall bottle of vinegar right away. However, if you’re not accustomed to using vinegar, how practical is it to have around your house?
For starters, vinegar has many medicinal qualities like easing digestive issues, improving blood sugar levels, and protecting your heart health. With so many health benefits, downing a vinegar/water solution daily might contribute to a healthier you.
Dr. Khadija Jamal enjoys using vinegar as part of her stir-fry sauce. She mixes it in with soy sauce, sugar, and some basic seasonings including black pepper, ginger, and garlic. “With my work schedule, I don’t get much time to make elaborate meals,” shares the South Hampton, New Hampshire, resident. “I like quick, easy meals but without having to sacrifice flavor. Vinegar perks up the taste of anything sautéed, be it prawns, noodles, or vegetables such as eggplant or mushrooms.”
Aside from sauces, vinegar can also be used to marinate foods or even to cleanse meats and vegetables, as research shows it helps kill bacteria. For Canadian mother of two, Eman Manigat, vinegar is a staple ingredient in her food preparations. “As Haitians, our food is a blend of French, Spanish, and African cuisines, and one thing we are very particular about [is] there not being any stench in our cooked meat,” shares the IT Specialist. “To get rid of that natural smell raw meat carries, the meat is soaked in vinegar and salt, preferably overnight. Then before washing, I scrub the now-softened meat or fish with more vinegar and some cut-up quarters of fresh lemon or lime. This reduces the meat’s odor significantly.”
Manigat says both her mother and mother-in-law are great Haitian food cooks, and she has learned a lot from their expertise. “I had to step up my game for my husband and kids,” she jokes. “Seriously, though, preparing home-cooked meals is important to me as I was raised with this tradition. Haitian food takes time, especially its preparation, in which vinegar has a big part. All that effort comes out when you taste the food, and you can enjoy the love that went into making it.”
For some, like Raghad Alsayed, a teacher from Winnipeg, Canada, vinegar is more than just an ingredient; it’s part of a tradition.
“One Syrian practice I miss so much is the gifting of fresh vinegar,” Alsayed, who moved to Canada from Damascus four years ago, reminisces. “In the fall harvest season, we would receive homemade organic apple [cider] vinegar from friends who owned orchards. I have yet to find anything even close to that here [in Canada].”
Something as simple as making salad dressing with vinegar makes Alsayed nostalgic; her fattoush salad is a favorite amongst her friends.
“Vinegar is commonly used in Syria, and I think it’s stronger and more concentrated there,” she notes. “When you would open a bottle, its pungent smell would go straight up your nose. There was no questioning its freshness,” Alsayed recalls with a smile.
Pickling is a family tradition Jenn C. of Michigan practices with vinegar. Tired of wilted and bitter-tasting jarred vegetables at the store, Jenn decided to pickle her own produce. “I wanted to sustain the freshness and flavors of my vegetables,” says the mother of four. “Pickling is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to do that without artificial flavors or preservatives.”
Jenn’s favorite pickled vegetable is turnips. “I like the ones with the pink coloring,” she says. “To bring in that beautiful pink color, I add some beets. After a week or so of sitting in vinegar, the color of the beets seeps into the turnip.”
You can see how vinegar is a loved and appreciated household sunnah (way of the Prophet [PBUH]) that is worth incorporating into your life. It may be ancient, but there are still so many modern-day uses for this versatile liquid.
Tayyaba Syed is an award-winning author and journalist whose work has been featured on numerous publications including NPR. She recently co-authored her first children’s book. She lives with her husband and three children in Illinois.