The term "vinegar" comes from a French word "vinaigre," which means "sour wine." Vinegar is a sour liquid that can be used for cooking, seasoning, preserving foods, and in the case of white vinegar it can also be used as a household cleaning product. White vinegar can be made from distilled alcohol that has been oxidized or made by a process using grain. It can also be made from other things, such as corn, potatoes and apples.
White vinegar is often distilled. Distillation is a process that removes the impurities from the substance. Of all the varieties of vinegars, distilled white vinegar is perhaps one of the cheapest. It has a strong smell and a heavily sour, unpleasant taste. Unlike its designer cousins, white vinegar is a basic vinegar without a hint of added flavor (such as the raspberry wine vinegar). Because of its low price, it is readily used for more than simply adding flavor to recipes.
White vinegar is an extremely versatile substance that has a wide range of uses. It can be used medicinally as well as in cooking, cleaning and in the garden. White vinegar can soothe bug bites and sunburns and cure athlete's feet. In the garden, it can kill weeds and slugs and neutralize garden lime. As a cleaning substance, it can remove calcium deposits on fixtures and glass and get rid of mildew and foul odors. In the kitchen, it can be an ingredient in dressings, tenderize meats, flavor recipes and help preserve foods.
White vinegar is just one type of vinegar. There are many other varieties, such as malt, wine, apple cider, rice, fruit, balsamic, cane, coconut, palm, raisin or flavored vinegars. Since vinegar can be made from many substances that contain sugar, it is difficult to determine how many types of vinegars are available throughout the world.
Vinegar has been used for over 10,000 years. In ancient times, the Babylonians used vinegar to pickle and preserve foods. Vinegar was reportedly a beverage consumed by Caesar's armies. Over the years, many civilizations have used vinegar for medicinal purposes. It was used to protect the skin during the outbreak of the bubonic plague, and medics in World War I used it to treat wounds.