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For many of us, a meal really isn’t complete without sauces and seasoning and a good splash of vinegar. Maybe that is a sign of a bland meal, or maybe people have just become so accustomed to dressing their dinners in their favourite flavors.
The main point of this though, is using vinegar in our food. It is one of those foods that you either love or you hate. You can smell it a mile off, but there is no denying it packs a punch and really does bring out the tastes of certain foods.
Alongside bringing out the flavor in our food, it also helps to preserve food. You can pickle just about anything in vinegar – onions, eggs, cabbage, cucumbers, you name it!
Not only does vinegar add some extra flavor and help create some tasty preservatives, but certain vinegars are said to have incredible health benefits. A shot of apple cider vinegar each morning has become the latest trend.
Not only does it clear out our systems, but it also works as a cleaning product around the house. It really is an all-round ingredient.
Today I am going to focus specifically on tarragon vinegar. Tarragon vinegar is becoming increasingly popular and it’s about time we find out why! I am going to investigate what makes tarragon vinegar stand out above all other vinegars, and whether or not there is a suitable, more accessible alternative for tarragon vinegar.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Tarragon Vinegar?
- 2 What Are the Uses of Tarragon Vinegar?
- 3 Benefits of Tarragon Vinegar
- 4 Substitutes for Tarragon Vinegar
- 5 How to Make Tarragon Vinegar
- 6 Final Thoughts
What is Tarragon Vinegar?
So, to start us off, it would be quite useful to actually understand what tarragon vinegar is and where it comes from.
Tarragon vinegar is best known for its aniseed flavor. It has a balanced combination of both sweetness and bitterness – the perfect complement for fish, chicken, and vegetables.
Tarragon vinegar is a white vinegar that has been infused with tarragon – hence the name. tarragon itself is a fresh herb that originated from the sunflower family. It is widely used for flavoring foods, but also used in fragrance and medicinal purposes.
Tarragon has a strong liquorice flavor due to its organic compound called estragole. Estragole is the same compound that gives fennel and anise their distinct flavor, so you probably have a better idea of the kind of flavor that tarragon vinegar possesses.
Tarragon originates in Central Asia and Europe, particularly in countries including Siberia and Southern Russia. However, in the late medieval period it began to grow in popularity within French and Italian cuisine, and now the herb is grown all over but particularly popular in France.
Tarragon appears to have an extremely pure taste, however it is quite hard to grow. It needs a sunny, sheltered position with fertile, well-drained soil. Tarragon does not reliably flower or produce seed, and so it is predominantly grown from cuttings. If you were to grow your own, it is best to buy small plants or cuttings from somewhere as opposed to growing from seed.
White vinegar is infused with tarragon and that is how the product is made.
What Are the Uses of Tarragon Vinegar?
Tarragon vinegar is popular for a number of uses. It has a herby flavor but still managed to have a mild kick to it compared to certain other vinegars. Vinegar itself holds quite a strong flavor, but the addition of tarragon can add a unique, earthy flavor that can really add something special to your dishes.
Whilst its preferred use is to use as a flavored acid for cooking, in place of other vinegars, a lot of people use tarragon vinegar as a vegetable wash. Washing vegetables with white vinegar is a safe way to ensure your veggies are completely clean. If you switch this to tarragon vinegar, you are still getting that cleanliness, but the tarragon leaves a slight taste to your vegetables as well. This taste will disappear with any heavy cooking, but if the vegetables are being eaten raw in a salad, or are lightly cooked or steamed, the tarragon flavor will still shine through.
Not only is it great for cleaning your vegetables, but tarragon vinegar can work as a great cleaning product for your kitchen surfaces. Whilst other distilled vinegars can do the same job, they often leave behind quite a strong stench. Swapping your regular vinegar with tarragon vinegar means that it is not only great for scrubbing things down, but the tarragon smell helps to hide any vinegar aromas and will also remain once the vinegar scents have disappeared, leaving a light perfume aroma in the room.
Finally, tarragon vinegar can work well in your cooking or as a tarragon dressing. As mentioned, the flavor adds an extra kick to your food. Creating vinaigrettes for your salads can work great, but the aniseed flavor can also be a lovely addition if you are cooking with meat, fish, vegetables as mentioned, and also eggs. Tarragon vinegar can work in almost any dish that calls for other types of vinegar.
Benefits of Tarragon Vinegar
Tarragon vinegar packs a lot of nutritional benefits, whilst containing extremely low calories and carbs. Tarragon itself packs a lot of manganese, iron, and potassium, and this is also reflected through the vinegar.
Not only does it have a great nutritional profile, but plants of the artemisia group (fennel, anise, tarragon) have been proven to help as a remedy for poor sleep. Whilst this is probably more impactful from fresh tarragon, having it in your vinegar is an extra way to reap these benefits.
Tarragon vinegar is extremely versatile and easy to incorporate into many meals. Buying a bottle for one recipe will probably come in very handy with many others, so it is a useful ingredient to have in the cupboard.
Substitutes for Tarragon Vinegar
White Wine Vinegar
The best substitute for tarragon vinegar is white wine vinegar. It is extremely easy to get a hold of in comparison to tarragon vinegar, and actually happens to be the key component in tarragon vinegar. Combining white wine vinegar with fresh or dried tarragon will give the exact same result as if you were to use tarragon vinegar itself.
Without the herb, white wine vinegar still works as a close substitute and its acidic flavor is extremely similar. White wine vinegar has a fruitier flavor than other vinegars, and so it works as a great substitute if you are using the vinegar to create a salad vinaigrettes.
To use white wine vinegar in place of tarragon, you simply swap it in and keep the ratios the same.
Champagne vinegar is very similar to white wine vinegar and so it would also work as a great alternative. It tends to be slightly sweeter than white wine vinegar, and so it doesn’t quite have the same acidic punch.
It does go fantastically on a salad or with seafood, but when paired with stronger flavors such as red meat, it is harder for the champagne flavor to shine through and so it may not be the best substitute if you are using vinegar for flavorful meals.
To use champagne vinegar in place of tarragon vinegar, simply swap it in like for like.
Malt vinegar is the best substitute for tarragon vinegar if you are cooking fish. It is made using barley grains as opposed to wine, and the final result is a sweet, citrus flavor with a dark brown color. The sweet flavor is similar to tarragon vinegar, however it does have a lemon flavor to it which works well with seafood but may not work so well as a substitute for other meals.
The color of malt vinegar can alter the color of your food, so if swapping your tarragon vinegar for malt vinegar you should keep this in mind if you are seeking a certain appearance to your food.
Again, use this as a one-to-one ratio if substituting, unless your malt vinegar is very aged. In this instance, use one tablespoon of malt for every two tablespoons of tarragon.
Sherry vinegar is similar to white wine vinegar, but has a much milder taste. This means that it works well with foods like chicken, as it does not completely hijack the flavor of the meat.
Whilst it has more of a nutty, caramel flavor which is different to tarragon vinegar, it does still bring a unique flavor and so if this is the element of tarragon vinegar that you enjoy, then sherry vinegar works as a fantastic substitute if you want your food to stand out.
Again, swapping sherry for the same amount will work.
Apple Cider Vinegar
One of the nation’s favorites, apple cider vinegar is drastically growing in popularity due to its health benefits and distinct flavor. If you enjoy vinegar, then you will love apple cider vinegar as it packs a very strong, acidic flavor.
The apples provide quite a sweet flavor which can work as a great substitute for tarragon, especially if you are using it to cook pork or beef. The apple flavor compliments meat very well and also has a strong enough kick for it to still stand out in the meal.
A lot of the time, people will combine apple cider vinegar with tarragon herbs as the flavors complement each other well.
The strong flavor means that it can be a lot more harsh than tarragon vinegar. Start by replacing one tablespoon of tarragon with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and you can add more if necessary.
Lemon juice is the only non-vinegar substitute that can work in place of tarragon vinegar. The citric taste works much like malt and apple cider vinegar, and can be a great replacement for fish and poultry.
Combining lemon juice with fresh tarragon can create a really great dressing for your food and provides a strong flavor without actually using any vinegar at all.
Lemon stands out a lot more than tarragon vinegar once it has been cooked so it is best to use half a teaspoon of lemon juice for every tablespoon of tarragon vinegar.
Rice vinegar probably has the mildest flavor of all substitutes. When cooking with rice vinegar, people often season the vinegar with herbs and so it is a great base for mixing fresh tarragon without the tarragon being overpowered.
Rice vinegar can work as a substitute with just about any meal, but it is important to bear in mind that its flavor is a lot weaker, and therefore it would not be a good substitute for any recipes that require the vinegar to be a key factor to the flavor of the meal.
Due to its tame taste, you should use 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar in place of one tablespoon of tarragon vinegar.
How to Make Tarragon Vinegar
If none of the above substitutes satisfy your needs, you can make your own batch of tarragon vinegar if you aren’t able to find any in the shops. Making your own vinegar can also be a great way to make use of any leftover herbs that you may have and don’t want to waste.
All you need is some sprigs of fresh tarragon and some white wine vinegar. Alternatively you can use rice vinegar or a cider vinegar, but white wine is probably the closest to shop-bought tarragon vinegar. You can also use dried tarragon but it has a much stronger flavor and doesn’t infuse the vinegar the same way that fresh tarragon does.
Simply bring your vinegar to the boil in a small saucepan. Crush the herbs to help release the flavor and then add them to a jar. Let the vinegar cool slightly and when it is still warm, pour it into the jar over the herbs. Place the lid on the jar while it is still heated, and you should leave this for about 2 weeks to really bring out the flavor.
You can choose how much tarragon to use, and it may take a few tries to get it to your desired flavor. The longer you leave it to steep, the stronger the flavor will become.
Once it reaches your desired flavor, strain it into another bottle or jar and it is good to go! You can add another sprig of tarragon if you want it to look nice, however this will not do much for the flavor at this point.
Tarragon vinegar has a very unique flavor and fragrance and can be extremely beneficial not only in cooking, but also for cleaning and for health purposes.
The main difference between tarragon vinegar and regular vinegar, is that it is infused with tarragon which gives it a fennel-like flavor and a distinct essence.
Almost all vinegars can be used in place of tarragon, however they do not have that unique flavor and you should be mindful of whichever substitute you pick based on whatever you are using the vinegar for.
Stick to more citric flavored vinegars if you are cooking with poultry or fish, and go for a stronger substitute, such as apple cider, if you are booking with pork or red meat.
It is possible to make your own tarragon vinegar at home, but if not then have no fear because plenty of other vinegars will work in place, and if you have some fresh or dried tarragon then you can throw this in as well to get that unique flavor!