Vinegar: Does It Have a Shelf Life?

Whilst cleaning the pantry, we realized that we have nine different vinegars in our collection, including a couple that haven't seen the light of day for years. And we started to wonder, does vinegar ever go bad?

Vinegar is a fermented product to begin with, and the good news is that it has an "almost indefinite" shelf life. According to the Vinegar Institute:

Because of its acid nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. And, while some changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence.

In addition to cloudiness or sediment, vinegar may develop a slimy substance called a "mother," which may look and sound scary but it is actually harmless. As its name suggests, the mother can even be used to make a new batch of vinegar.

So, we can keep those bottles of vinegar in the pantry for another year, or longer. But we also think it's time to stop hoarding and start enjoying all those wonderful varieties! Balsamic, sherry, apple cider, rice wine, malt... Do you have any favorite uses or recipe suggestions for us?

More vinegar posts from The Kitchn archives:
Drinking Vinegar: Have You Ever Made a Shrub?
Good Product: Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe's
Good Question: What Is This Slime In My Vinegar?
In Praise of Cherry Vinegar and Simple Summer Salads
Pickling: Choosing a Vinegar
What's the Deal With: White Balsamic Vinegar?

(Image: Flickr member Markyboy81 licensed under Creative Commons)