Yeah, I know – bleah. Except… maybe not.
OK, let’s get the health stuff out of the way. There are a LOT of claims about what drinking vinegar will do for you. The claims are surpassed only by those made of eating garlic. Like garlic and a few other old wives health tales, there appears to be a bit of truth in the whole.
There are no full, comprehensive studies. However, some small studies have shown that drinking a small amount of vinegar with every meal helps people with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Insulin levels are reduced (less waste because more is used) – and this happened even in non-diabetics/pre-diabetics. Blood sugar levels were lower, again in all groups. In more than one test the diabetics and pre-diabetics who drank some every meal for a month lost weight. This only happened in some cases for the non-diabetics. Bottom line, 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a glass of water per meal “aids digestion” (as the wives tale goes).
Note I’m not going to explain why. I don’t know. I see a lot of claims, but no tests to back up those claims.
Another supported claim is that it reduces acid reflux — heartburn. This isn’t quite as definitive, and it appears it depends on whether the stomach is producing too much or too little acid. Too little and the extra acid from the vinegar makes sure you don’t have fermenting food in the stomach. Too much and, well, it appears this doesn’t help at all. (On the other hand, a little baking soda appetizer seems to help a bit in this case.)
There are a host of other claims. Many will insist this is only good for ‘natural’ vinegar – vinegar that’s unpasteurized, undistilled, and unfiltered. Since at least one of the studies I mention above used pasteurized distilled apple vinegar that’s questionable, but regardless we have definitive studies saying vinegar helps with digestion. But… who wants to drink vinegar? You’d be surprised.
A couple of years ago the New York Times rediscovered a 19th century beverage – the shrub. Shrubs can be both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The key, however, is that a major portion is vinegar. In almost all cases it’s vinegar in which fruit has been muddled and macerated. Sorry — mashed and soaked for a long time. If you’re willing to go looking, you can discover that this principle is VERY old. Recipes for sikanjabin (various spellings) can be found in a 13th century Andalusian cookbook — along with the classic lemonade 1-1-6 recipe. The thing is, they’re something without quite the bite of just vinegar water. They also happen to be rather refreshing, and even better they’re a great appetite stimulant aka aperitif (liquid appetizer).
The general guideline is one part vinegar, two to four parts sweetener, three to eight parts other liquid. If you’ve made a fruit vinegar it’s going to be part of the sweetener and a little of the other liquid.
For example, the simplest is a slight variation on the lemonade principle. Use an apple cider vinegar, and this goes one part vinegar, two parts sugar, and four to five parts water. I will note that the Andalusian cookbook mentioned calls this sinkanjabin, and uses hot water.
For one that’s not so daunting though at the same time more difficult, start by making a fruit vinegar – I’ll use strawberries in this case. Rough chop strawberries, then barely cover them in red wine vinegar. If you want the extra step, run them through the food processor. Let them soak for four to eight hours – yes, you try going longer if you wish. Strain the liquid. Measure, and stir in twice the amount in honey. Now you have two drink options. Option one, non-alcoholic, is one part syrup and three parts ginger ale or club soda (each is good). Option two is to replace one part of ale or soda with a part of rum – dark or light depending on your taste. (Adjust amount of rum based on your tolerance and taste, of course. This is just a guideline.)
The classic in this is raspberry shrub. Again, barely cover the cleaned raspberries with vinegar – raspberry vinegar if you can find it though almost any will work. (For various reasons I’m hesitant to use white and balsamic for this.) Let it soak till the berries have paled – a good visual clue that the flavor is in the vinegar. Strain, and use the liquid plus sugar as we did the strawberry vinegar above. Vodka works as an alcohol, obviously. An appropriate fruit brandy is also a delight in the mix.
Yes, I just gave some rather general guidelines. The thing is, if you do a bit of work it quits being a challenge to drink some vinegar with every meal. The study said two tablespoons of vinegar per meal, which is an easy drink with or before the meal. Refreshing, tasty, and healthy – what’s not to like?