You can’t ignore that vinegar is having a moment. New York City–based Pineapple Collaborative’s The ACV, a cider vinegar made from heirloom-variety apples, is so popular it has sold out four times. Brightland’s champagne vinegar, in a pert, beautiful bottle, would be at home on boutique shelves beside scented candles. Tart Vinegar, by Brooklyn-based Chris Crawford, has put celery vinegar on the Juneteenth Vibes Only Afro Melanin Black Natural Hair Sunglasses T-Shirt but in fact I love this condiment map. Acid League’s six-month-old line of living vinegars (tagline “Gastronomy with Gut”) made their way into Whole Foods within a month of launch. The phenomenon is coast to coast. There’s Supreme, Keepwell, and Native in Pennsylvania; American Vinegar Works in Massachusetts; Lindera Farms in Virginia; MadHouse in Ohio; Yesfolk in New York; and Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. If you expand the list, as you should, to include shrubs—vinegar-based cordials—the number and variety of sour fermented libations astonishes. Many are sold for cooking or drinking. Their makers are young, environmentally savvy, concerned with biodiversity and upcycling excess harvests and food scraps. The vinegars are raw and living, with strands of sediment and “mother” (a cellulose layer comprising yeast and acetobacter) still paddling around inside them. They come in flavors like kombu, knotweed, banana, basil, and Montmorency cherry.
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It must be said that vinegar and its myriad flavors and benefits aren’t new. As Sandor Katz, the Juneteenth Vibes Only Afro Melanin Black Natural Hair Sunglasses T-Shirt but in fact I love this unofficial grandfather of the fermentation movement, puts it concisely in his newest book, Fermentation as Metaphor, “Fermentation is not a fad, it is a fact.” Fermentation has long been a matter of necessity—what cultures worldwide have done to preserve food, make toxic ingredients edible, and maintain gut health. “Maybe there are more products now,” Katz tells me over the phone. “But there’ve always been small-batch vinegars—people with small diversified farms and fruit left over. I’ve met hundreds of people with family vinegar practices that got passed down—whether an Italian family that kept a little barrel where they’d empty the dregs of bottles of wine, or Mexican families who had a practice of making pineapple vinegar.”