Can you settle a pressing disagreement?
Does vinegar ever go bad? When , if ever, does the Veil /Mother become inactive?
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That it had a limited life would be a great disappointment to the producers of balsamic vinegar and quite a few chefs. Vinegar, due to its acidity, is self-preserving.
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
As in ChefOno's example the finest balsamico from Modena could be 85 or more years old. As it ages it gets moved to smaller and barrels. That stuff you apply with an eye dropper. You wouldn't use it in a salad. Maybe a couple of drops on a piece of parmigano.
wine can also get better with age... but an opened bottle of wine doesn't. Anything can be aged and improved under the correctly controlled environment, but I still believe that an opened bottle of vinegar will eventually be unusable. Although I do agree the shelf life is much much longer than most products due to the acidity as ChefOno said.
Bugbitten says the same thing below, but in different words: An open bottle of wine rapidly oxidizes and turns bad. An open bottle of vinegar doesn't go bad because it's already oxidized.
Technically that's an over simplification because there are things that can survive at the level of vinegar's acidity. As a matter of fact, that's how mother can form in a bottle of pasteurized vinegar. But, as previously stated, mother is not an indication of spoilage.
The simple fact is vinegar can last hundreds of years, barrels being passed down from one generation to the next.
I think vinegar will, infact go bad with enough time. I've actually seen it grow mold. That being said, i have vinegar in my kitchen that has been there for at least a year, and I still use it. The rule I have made up for myself is.... If it's still clear, then its good to use. If it starts to get cloudy, I start to get nervous and just dump it.
That cloudiness is what is referred to as "mother" and it's totally harmless. It's formed by the same bacteria that convert alcohol to vinegar. If you don't like its looks, you can simply filter it out (just don't ever look closely at a bottle of unfiltered vinegar -- you'd be totally grossed out).
I've been doing research on this "mother" you all speak about. I've never read up on this stuff. does it change the flavor or your vinegar at all? perhaps I was wrong. Maybe vinegar never goes bad... lol
I have never noticed a change in flavor but, then again, I don't do shots of vinegar. I think it's safe to say any change in flavor is negligible.
I think the answer is to realize that vinegar is "bad" by it's very nature. Better to ask if your vinegar has turned really evil. If it's cloudy you can filter it. It's only bad. If it smells like anything but vinegar, it is evil and must go.
My bottle of rice wine vinegar dates from the Mao administration.
"Administration" is a charitable way to describe The Great Helmsman.
pierino, my charity runneth over. It seems to be trying to ketchup to my sense of humor.