What is it?
Raw, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar is a ''live'' food, rich with enzymes and potassium. It's the healthiest vinegar you can put in your body, according to health foodists and faddists, as it undergoes a two-stage fermentation process that converts the fruit sugars to acetic acid. The result is a deliciously tart-sweet vinegar with around 5 per cent acidity.
Where did it come from?
Hippocrates was using apple cider vinegar to cleanse and heal back in 400BC. Since then, mashing apples into a slurry and leaving them to ferment has resulted in a vinegar that's part folk remedy and part magic, it is claimed. One study claims that two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar slows down the release of sugar into the blood. It is also said to boost the immune system, stop the build-up of fat in our bodies, and make our skin glow. All that, and it makes your kitchen benches sparkle, too.
In Sydney, Josie Rickards says customers of the family's two Wholefoods House stores love their Bragg's apple cider vinegar. ''They use it for cooking, and drink it as a tonic,'' she says. In Melbourne, Barry Coffee & Food head chef Stephen Svensen uses apple cider vinegar in the hollandaise for eggs benedict on slow-braised free-range ham hock and potato hash in his quest for ''edgy superfood''. ''The vinegar makes a real point of difference,'' he says. ''The record so far is selling 97 of these one Saturday morning.''
What's the mother?
That cobweb-like clump you see floating in cloudy, unfiltered vinegar (such as the world-famous Bragg's brand) is the vinegar ''mother'' - the good stuff - so don't toss it. Look for apple cider vinegar that is raw, unpasteurised and unfiltered to fully reap the benefits.
Why do I care?
Because it tastes like a crisp, tart, early-season green apple.
How do I use it?
Add it to coleslaw, wholegrain salads, beans and warm roasted vegetables, or use in pickles and chutneys. Or drink it - one to two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of lightly sweetened hot or cold water taken before meals is said to boost the digestive system.
APPLE, CELERY AND WALNUT SALAD
Apple cider vinegar makes this crisp, crunchy and creamy salad a refreshing sidekick to a simple grill.
2 celery stalks and leaves
2 tbsp walnuts
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive or coconut oil
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp raw honey
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
sea salt and black pepper
1 green apple, unpeeled
1 crisp red apple, unpeeled
big handful watercress sprigs
1. String the celery and finely slice, then roughly chop the celery leaves. Heat the walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a hot, dry pan until they smell toasty.
2. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, yoghurt, honey, garlic, capers, sea salt and pepper in a bowl.
3. To julienne the apples, slice off the cheeks, discard the cores, then slice each cheek into half-moons and slice again, lengthwise, into matchsticks.
4. Combine the apple, celery and leaves and watercress and lightly toss. Drizzle with the apple cider vinaigrette, scatter with toasted walnuts and seeds, and serve.
Serves 4 as salad
Barry Coffee & Food, 85 High Street, Northcote, 03 9481 7623
House, 3/9 Danks Street, Waterloo, 02 9319 4459 and 112 Queen Street, Woollahra, 02 9363 9879