Dear Eric: I'm making a recipe that calls for apple-cider vinegar. I went to Thrifty Foods to get some and all they had was cider vinegar. I asked someone stocking the shelves and he didn't know if they were the same, so he went to get someone else to answer my question, but no one was quite sure. Are apple-cider vinegar and cider vinegar the same and can I substitute cider vinegar in my recipe?
PS: Can you also tell me about some of the types of apple-cider vinegar available?
Dear Sarah: The product you refer to is Compliments brand cider vinegar. Compliments is a Thrifty Foods in-store brand sold at supermarkets owned or supplied by the Sobeys chain.
I can understand the uncertainty as to whether or not it was made from apples. Nowhere on the packaging is that indicated. On certain types of basic, mass-produced vinegars, apparently no ingredient list is required.
You could call the company phone number noted on the bottle, but beyond its apple-juice-coloured appearance, a clue that it is, indeed, made from apples comes from culinary reference books and cookbooks. In both sources, you'll see apple-cider vinegar and cider vinegar both used to describe vinegar made from fermented apple cider. In other words, cider vinegar and apple-cider vinegar are the same thing.
While the Compliments product was called cider vinegar, all five of the other brands I found were labelled apple-cider vinegar, making it clear what it was made from. Cider can be made from pears or peaches, but I've never seen commercial vinegar made from them.
There was quite a variance in price among the apple-cider vinegars I found. For example, those produced in large quantities, such as Heinz, Compliments and Allen's, sold for just over $3 a litre. These types of apple cider vinegars are budget-friendly and good to use in a range of recipes, from salads to pickles.
Heinz was the only one for which I could find a description. On the website, heinzvinegar.com, the company notes the product is made with apples and water and is guaranteed to have the acidity required for successful canning.
Omega Nutrition Organic Apple Cider Vinegar costs $6.99 for just under a litre.
The website omeganutrition.com says it's made the "old-fashioned" way, by allowing the natural fermentation process to occur to full-strength (five per cent acidity) without chemicals, additives, preservatives or water. In this unfiltered, unpasteurized product, you'll find natural sediment, which the company says contains trace minerals, beneficial bacteria and enzymes.
Beyond use in the kitchen, they say vinegar with those qualities has long been regarded as a versatile folk remedy. If you check the Internet, you'll see apple-cider vinegar recommended for all sorts of things, including better digestion and skin and hair care.
Two other types of apple-cider vinegar I found could be classed as "gourmet" - vinegars you would use in modest amounts to add flavour to a range of creations.
One was Maille Apple Cider Vinegar, for which I paid $6.49 for a half-litre bottle. This French product is described as a sweet and fruity vinegar made from high-quality cider created from Normandy apples. This product has a 20 per cent content of apple-juice concentrate, which gives it a very pronounced apple taste. Maille says it's a delicious complement to raw vegetables, poultry, fish and shellfish, and even desserts. It can also be added to poaching liquids.
The other "gourmet" vinegar I purchased was Spinnakers Apple Cider Vinegar, produced by and sold at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub in Victoria, 308 Catherine St.
It's made with apples harvested by the LifeCycles Fruit Tree Project (lifecyclesproject.ca). This group's volunteers harvest apples and other fruit that would otherwise go to waste from privately owned trees, then share the harvest among homeowners, volunteers, food banks and community organizations.
A portion of the harvest is set aside to make products such as Spinnakers Apple Cider Vinegar. A 200millilitre bottle sells for $8.95 and proceeds from sales help defray costs of the Fruit Tree Project.
It's a wonderful vinegar that can be used as described for the Maille product. I used it in the pork recipe at right.
To submit a question on a cooking issue, send an email to Eric at eakis@timescolonist. com, or write to Ask Eric, Times Colonist, 2621 Douglas St., V8T 4M2
PORK MEDALLIONS WITH SWEET AND SOUR APPLE-CIDER VINEGAR SAUCE
Small, boneless pork chops are used as the "medallions" in this saucy creation accented with sliced apples, apple-cider vinegar and brown sugar.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 10 minutes
Makes: 2 servings
4 (3-to 4-oz.) boneless pork loin chops
? salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small apple, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
2 Tbsp Spinnakers or other apple-cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth mixed with 2 tsp all-purpose flour
Place the oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Sprinkle and rub pork with salt, pepper, sage and paprika.
Cook pork 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through, but still a little pink in the middle. Transfer pork to a plate.
Add the apples to the skillet and cook and stir 1 minute.
Add the vinegar and brown sugar and cook until sugar is melted.
Add the stock/flour mixture, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens, about 3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Return pork to the skillet and heat through a minute or so.
Set 2 pieces of pork on each of 2 plates, top with sauce and serve.
EVENT PAIRS SEAFOOD WITH BEER
The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney will host a fun event called Sea Food Drink Beer on Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. Driftwood Brewery's fine portfolio of beers will be paired with fresh fish, shellfish and more from B.C. waters. There will also be cooking demonstrations, raffle prizes and presentations from the brewer and Island Chef Collaborative president Dwane MacIsaac.
Camosun College hospitality-management students are running this event with support from several local sponsors.
Tickets for this 19 and older event are $40 and can be purchased at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre or online at ticketrocket.org. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the centre, a non-profit community aquarium focused on educating and promoting awareness of local ocean ecosystems.
ERIC AKIS TO TEACH AT THE LONDON CHEF
On Nov. 8, from 6 to 9 p.m., I'll be teaching a cooking class at the London Chef, 953 Fort St. I'll share stories, tips and recipes from my new and seventh book, Everyone Can Cook Everything (Whitecap Books, $35). The book is a photo-rich, 400pages-plus hardcover volume and a compilation of recipes from my first six books.
The dishes I'll prepare and sample at the London Chef include fig and olive tapenade, autumn vegetable soup with toasted hazelnuts, Cornish hen with raspberry ginger glaze, and rum-glazed fresh pineapple rings. The class costs $95 per person and each participant will leave with a signed copy of the new book. To register or for more information, visit londonchef.com or call 250-5901865.
Eric Akis is the author of the just-published, hardcover book Everyone Can Cook Everything. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.