For as long as I have been helping people with their food intolerances, vinegar has been divided into two categories: fruit-based and grain-based.
Fruit based vinegars include: apple cider vinegar, red and white wine vinegars, balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, etc.
Grain based vinegars include: malt vinegar, rice vinegar, white vinegar, and distilled vinegar.
Technically, vinegar can be made from anything that can be fermented (any alcohol exposed to acetic acid bacteria), so we generally see them made from grains or fruits - just like we typically see alcoholic drinks made from grains or fruits.
When ingredient lists show “vinegar”, we always assume that means it’s an inexpensive grain-based distilled vinegar, because the fruit-based ones are specified as they’re more expensive and have more distinct flavor profiles.
Heinz distilled white vinegar is made from corn, for example.
In recent years, artisanal vinegars have been coming into the market which are made from other food sources. A company called Acid League makes one called Garden Heat, which is made from: Carrot Juice, Celery Juice, Tomato Juice, Jalapeño Juice, and Living Bacterial Culture. I’ve cooked with it in the past, using it for people who want to avoid fruit and grains.
In the last couple of weeks we have become aware that vinegar made with a different base is showing up in products: sugar.
I first noticed this at the online store, Thrive Market, which has products in which the ingredient list includes “cane vinegar”.
Recently, at the Salmon Creek Clinic, Dr. Zeff evaluated Organicville Ketchup and Wild Harvest Mustard for a patient. Both of these products list their vinegar as “Organic Vinegar”, so I expected that they were grain-based. Dr. Zeff said that they didn’t have grain, which made no sense to me.
I reached out to both companies, asking what their vinegar is made from. Organicville responded by saying that they source from corn, sugar beets, and sugar cane (basically, whatever they can get). Presumably, the batch evaluated by Dr. Zeff must have had sugar vinegar instead of corn vinegar. Wild Harvest said that they also use sugar cane vinegar in their mustard.
This complicates things.
Now, when “vinegar” is on the ingredient labels, we won’t know for sure whether the product has grain or sugar in it without asking the company directly.
So, if you are avoiding sugar as your primary intolerance or as part of a combination, be wary of ingredients listing “vinegar”.
However, if you are avoiding corn or grain, this could open up more food product options for you!
As always, continue reading ingredient labels. And feel free to shoot me an email with food product questions. I will do my best to get you answers!