Vinegars to use when canning

Explanation of the differences between types of vinegar, and which vinegars are suitable for canning ...

Vinegars are used in many preserving recipes, especially pickles, where the fruit or vegetable is packed into a vinegar solution (often with salt, sugar and/or water and spices added to the vinegar). It is very important not to change the proportions of vinegar, food and water in the recipe, as the acidity level may change and result in an unsafe product. Too little vinegar means the acidity level would be unsafe, whereas adding too much vinegar can alter the flavour of the final product greatly.

Vinegars of 5 percent acidity (50 grain) or more are recommended for food preserving. Most recipes will state either white vinegar or cider vinegar. White vinegars are ideal for preserving light colours of fruits and vegetables (ie cauliflower), wherease cider vinegars (my preference) is packed with more flavour and adds that little bit extra element to your preserves. You can substitute vinegars in recipes as long as the one you use is 5% acidity - if you are unsure of the acidity level please check the label or enquire with the company before use.

Homemade vinegar is not recommended for canning, as the acidity level may not be constant or at 5% or more. If the acidity is not constant then the growth of botulinum bacteria could occur.

Red wine vinegar - fermented red wine. Also known as red grape vinegar. Usually 5-6% acidity.
White wine vinegar - fermented white wine. Also known as white grape vinegar. Usually 5-6% acidity.
Apple cider vinegar - fermented apple cider, yellow to golden colour. Usually 5-6% acidity. This is my favourite vinegar to pickle with.
Balsamic vinegar -  certain types of white grapes are pressed into juice, then boiled down into a syrup and fermented, often aged 12-25 years before use. Has a dark red colour, with a rich, almost sweet flavour.
White balsamic vinegar - using the same pressed white grape juice as balsamic vinegar, but combined with white wine vinegar and then heated on a lower temperature to form the syrup, to stop the colour darkening. Used in place of balsamic vinegar where you don't want the colour of the preserves affected. 
White vinegar - aslso known as distilled vinegar, white vinegar is fermented distilled alcohol. Usually has a 5-8% acidity.
Malt vinegar - made from malted barley, which is brewed into ale then fermented to make malt vinegar. Brown in colour and my family's favourite for adding on top of fish and chips! You can buy brown malt vinegar, spiced malt vinegar (ideal for pickling) and white malt vinegar.

  • It is very important not to change the proportions of vinegar, food and water in a recipe, as the acidity level may change and result in an unsafe product.
  • Vinegars of 5 percent acidity (50 grain) or more are recommended for food preserving - check the label or ask the company before use if you are unsure.

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