The myriad uses for apple cider vinegar are no secret. It's been used medicinally, in cooking and in food preservation since ancient times.
In America in the 1600s European settlers drank cider vinegar as a tonic - diluted with water to kill off any bacteria present in the water system - or mixed with fruit juice in a brew known as switchel.
Today, it's back in fashion thanks in part to the fermentation craze. Just like all vinegars, pickles and fermented foods, apple cider vinegar contains copious quantities of acetic acid. When added to a high carbohydrate meal, acetic acid has been shown to lower the blood glucose and insulin response. It also increases feelings of satiety and preliminary studies show that it can potentially aid weight loss.
Apple cider vinegar is different from other vinegars as it is made from the fermentation of apple cider. The apples from the cider contain varying quantities of pectin; a natural prebiotic carbohydrate and fermentable fibre that can be beneficial for digestion.
Compared to other vinegars it is minimally processed with no filtration of pasteurisation. Most varieties come with a live mother culture; a dark, cloudy substance formed by the apple residues during the vinegar fermentation process. It is a mix of proteins and bacteria in wild, strand-like chains.
In cooking, apple cider vinegar's zesty, piquant flavour adds a unique tang to vegetable soups, meat marinades and fruit-based desserts. It also makes a nourishing beverage when combined with honey or molasses and diluted with water. Be warned though, because of it's high levels of acetic acid, apple cider vinegar is best taken diluted with food or water. Excessive consumption may cause digestive problems and stomach upset.
Apple cider vinegar can last indefinitely if kept in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. A cellar or food pantry is fine. It doesn't need to be stored in the fridge.
What to buy
Look for brands that are organic, unpasteurised, and contain a 'live mother culture'. They should be kept in a dark, opaque bottle. Brands that are unpasteurised and contain a mother culture available in Australia include Bragg, Mock Red Hill and Melrose.
Five ways with apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar tonic
Combine 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon honey in a half mug full of warm (room temperature) water. Mix well. Fill the mug to the top with boiling water and drink immediately. You can also add freshly grated ginger, molasses or a pinch of dried cinnamon.
2. SALAD DRESSING
Simple: A fool-proof recipe for salad dressing is simply 1 part apple cider vinegar and 3 parts olive oil.
Creamy: Whisk together 2 egg yolks with 1 teaspoon honey to form a smooth paste. Next add 1/2 teaspoon mustard, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 3 teaspoons parmesan cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons yoghurt. Whisk well. Slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil and continue to whisk before pouring over salad.
Cos and bacon salad with apple cider vinegar dressing
1 fresh cos lettuce, cut in half lengthwise
1 quantity creamy ACV salad dressing (you will have leftovers)
A generous handful of finely grated parmesan cheese
2 rashes of bacon
Method: Layer the cos lettuce on top of the bacon. Drizzle the dressing over the lettuces and sprinkle with parmesan. Serve immediately.
Apple cider vinegar marinade for pork or chicken
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon mustard with 1 tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar, sesame seeds, honey, coconut amino acids* and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk well. Pour over chicken or pork and marinate prior to cooking.
* Coconut aminos are sold at most health food stores (they are the amino acids derived from coconuts). If they are not available a good quality soy sauce will suffice.
In a large cooking pot, saute one large, finely chopped leek with a generous dollop of coconut or olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon as it softens and turns golden. Next, add 1 large (700g) celeriac chopped into 1 inch cubes. Mix well with the oil and then add 1 medium sized (700g) cauliflower chopped into florets, together with 1500mls chicken stock and 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme. Cover with a lid and allow to cook until vegetables soften. Remove from the heat and season to taste. Puree mixture with a hand-held blender and stir-through 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. Serve with a topping of finely grated parmesan cheese.
Honey and apple cider vinegar muffins (gluten-free)
1 1/4 cups almond meal
1 1/2 tbsp psyllium husk
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 tbsp white chia seeds
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp good quality honey
1 tsp baking powder (gluten free)
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1 large apple, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes (roughly totalling 1 cup)
1/3 cup softened butter
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the chopped apple on a baking tray and place it in the oven to cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
Remove from the oven and set aside.
Mix together the other ingredients in a food processor with a sharp blade (this will help to keep the consistency of the almond meal as fine as possible). Stir through the chopped apple.
Pour mixture into muffin moulds. Place the muffins in the oven to cook at 180C for 25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.