Here is a little idea that came into my mind when I made myself some Fish & Chips today….
The concept of having your fish and/or chips with vinegar may sound appalling to central Eurpean palates, but ever since I tried it for the first time almost 30 years ago now (anyone remember Harry’s Fish Bar underneath Charing Cross in London before the revamp?) I have fallen in love with this simple treat.
The British Isles’ vinegar of choice is malt vinegar which is practically unknown beyond the Channel. But since Britain is not exactly known as a major producer of grapes, the clever people there have turned to make their vinegar from beer instead of wine. It has its own special aroma that indeed harmonizes quite well with Britain’s national dish.
The malt vinegar you find at Tesco or Sainsbury’s is cheap, industrially made stuff that does its job but leaves you wondering if there isn’t any room for improvement.
Living close to Italy’s northernmost city, also known as Munich, I am a huge fan of balsamic vinegar. Of course most of what you get in supermarkets is a bastardized mass market product. But the real thing – Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena – is a liquid that can deliver as much delight to your palate as a good whisky. At prices that put many single malts to shame…
Essentially, balsamic vinegar is made by aging a reduced unfermented grape must in oak casks with a little vinegar added to get things started. To make things even more interesting, there can also be a period of alcoholic fermentation before the cask maturation.
Why not transfer the concept from grapes to malted barley in a whisky distillery? Cook some wort in your still for a while, add some commercial malt vinegar if you are doing it for the first time and store the casks in your warehouse. Refill bourbon barrels or sherry butt? Virgin oak or maybe even refill Laphroaig quarter casks for a smoky variety? I can’t wait to try the result.