Pickling: Choosing a Vinegar

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Jeff Roffman)

As summer winds down, we’ve been pickling a lot, preserving as much of the season’s fresh produce as we can. But as a somewhat novice pickler, we’ve found ourself wondering: What’s the best vinegar to use?

We recently made a batch of pickled wax beans using a recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables that called for cider vinegar. We were excited to try it and reached for our bottle of Trader Joe’s organic, unfiltered cider vinegar that we’ve come to love in vinaigrettes.

But when we tasted the beans, we found the fruit flavor to be a little overwhelming and wished we’d used something a little cleaner. Perhaps the more traditional filtered variety would have yielded a less apple-heavy result. The lesson here was a terribly obvious one: the flavor of the vinegar is going to come through in the finished product, in a big way.

As we browsed more recipes and tried out a few of them, we realized that plain old white vinegar is a popular choice. We’ve found that it allows the flavors of other ingredients to shine, instead of overpowering them, whether it’s garlic, onion, dill, coriander, pepper or something more exotic.

It’s really all about personal preference. But for us, as we continue our pickle quest, we’ll save our fancy flavored vinegar for other recipes and reach for the big (and ridiculously cheap) bottle of the white stuff.

Are you pickling this holiday weekend? What kind of vinegar will you be using?