The Vinegar Cupboard: Meet Vinegar’s Greatest Ambassador Angela Clutton

Food writer, historian and chef Angela Clutton may be vinegar’s greatest ambassador. Her book, The Vinegar Cupboard, released this month, champions the incredible versatility and capabilities of our favourite ingredient.

Not just for pickles or chips, Angela’s book shows how a dash of delicious vinegar can transform sauces, marinades, dressings, casseroles, breads and desserts. Vinegar’s long culinary history as an ingredient, condiment and preservative is also deftly explored, along with its health uses and benefits.

The Vinegar Cupboard: Recipes and history of an everyday ingredient has already picked up a coveted award as well as high praise from fellow food writers. The Chair of judges for the Jane Grigson Trust Award applauded the way it “rescues this essential yet often under-rated ingredient from the back of the kitchen cupboard,” while Ken Hom declared “this book belongs on every professional chef’s and any serious cook’s library.” 

We caught up with Angela to find out more about her inspirational book and the vinegars in her cupboard.  

What makes vinegar such an essential kitchen staple? 

Its sheer versatility. I love that something we all tend to think of as ordinary can actually be so extraordinary. Beyond the usual pickles and dressings, we can actually think of using vinegar for so much else: marinades, to enhance roasts, making sauces, for baking….  

What recipes will people find in The Vinegar Cupboard? 

There are about 80 recipes that cover the breadth of vinegar styles and all you can do with it. From a Greek-influenced octopus salad using red wine vinegar to using cider vinegar to bake a loaf of soda bread, or quick-pickled balsamic apples to accompany game. 

Can readers use different vinegars for your recipes if they don’t have the specified one?  

Every recipe comes with variations of vinegars that can be used to make it. I would absolutely hate it if someone felt they couldn’t make a dish because they didn’t have the ‘right’ vinegar. The idea is to get an understanding of how different vinegars can be interchangeable.  

The primrose vinegar referenced in The Vinegar Cupboard sounds wonderful! What other vinegars did people make at home in Britain? 

Think about things like cucumber vinegar, gooseberry vinegar, raspberry vinegar, plum vinegar – don’t they all sound just gorgeous?! 

Why did home vinegar-making decline in Britain? 

It’s a combination of factors, many of which echo changes in food production and consumption more broadly. Shifting social priorities caused a move away from taking the time to make things at home. There was also a decline in the amount of food we grow and a move towards buying things ready-made to save time and money.  

Why do you think there is now fresh interest in quality vinegars?  

I think it chimes with a broader move towards interest in the provenance and quality of food, allied with increasing interest in how we can use vinegar to greater effect in the kitchen.  

Which vinegars should everyone keep in their vinegar cupboard? And which should they add if they have a little more room? 

With just a red wine vinegar and a cider vinegar you can do pretty much most things! But there’s a lot to be said for making space for a sherry vinegar in there too.  

What do you advise people when selecting vinegars? 

I think just bear in mind what you want to do with the vinegar! General pickling and marinating don’t necessarily need the very best or most complex of vinegars but if you want to use a vinegar as a finishing touch then it pays to get one with real depth of flavour.  

Do you have any advice for storing vinegars?

Keep them tightly sealed and away from light. And not for too long – vinegars are for using!  

What are the latest additions to your cupboard (homemade or bought)?

Tricky question! I recently got a very lovely thyme-infused red wine vinegar that I am really looking forward to trying out.  

The Vinegar Cupboard: Recipes and history of an everyday ingredient by Angela Clutton was published by Bloomsbury Absolute on 7 March 2019.