Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Role of Vinegar in Canning

Which Vinegar to use in Canning

The Role of Vinegar

If you have been looking into the process of canning your own food, you've undoubtedly noticed a lot of talk about safe canning.  Some of the most-asked canning questions relate to the correct use of vinegar.

Vinegar is used in many preserving recipes where the fruit or vegetable is packed into a vinegar solution which can also contain salt, sugar, water or spices.

Pressure Canning Check List - Printable

Vinegar and Acidity

In today's home canning, the accepted rule of thumb for safe vinegar to water solution is that the vinegar should be of at least 5% acidity.  So the vinegar you choose to use should be at least 5% acidity.

In addition, the vinegar ratio in that mix should be a minimum of 50%. So that is, 50% of 5% acid vinegar to 50% water.

While you can raise the vinegar to 60% and lower the water to 40%,  you cannot do the opposite!

It is very important that you strictly follow the recipe as far as the amount of vinegar called for. If the recipe calls for 100% vinegar, you must use 100% vinegar. You can’t replace any of it with water.

If a recipe calls for a pickling mixture of vinegar and water, it’s okay to replace some or all of the water with vinegar.

Said another way, it is very important that you do not change the proportions of vinegar, food, and water in the tested recipe that you are using. Changing the proportion of vinegar, i.e. using too little vinegar, can change the acidity level which can result in an unsafe product.

On the other hand, adding too much vinegar can greatly alter the flavor of the final product.

Kinds of Vinegar Used in Food Preservation

White vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, and rice vinegar all work well. You can use those kinds of vinegar alone or in combination.

Specific Vinegar Types

The two types of vinegar most commonly included in canning recipes are white vinegar and apple cider vinegar.

White vinegar

White vinegar is also known as distilled vinegar. It is fermented distilled alcohol which usually has a 5-8% acidity. White kinds of vinegar are ideal for preserving the light colors of fruits and vegetables.

Apple cider vinegar (aka cider vinegar)

A pickling vinegar favorite for many food canners and vinegar that can be substituted for white vinegar of the same acidity.

It is fermented apple cider with usually 5-6% acidity. It has a mellow, fruity flavor that blends well with spices. 

Cider vinegar is packed with more flavor than white vinegar.  Because of its yellow to golden color, though, it will darken most vegetables and fruits.

"Specialty" Vinegars

The following vinegars are sometimes used in canning recipes that have been research tested to be safe.

White wine vinegar

A fermented white wine which is also known as white grape vinegar. It's commonly found with 5-6% acidity.

Red wine vinegar

This is fermented red wine also known as red grape vinegar commonly found with 5-6% acidity.

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is an aged vinegar with a dark red color. Its flavor is rich and sweet. There are many different variations of balsamic vinegar.

White balsamic vinegar

This vinegar can be used in place of balsamic vinegar where you don't want the color of the foods being preserved affected. It is the same pressed white grape juice as balsamic vinegar combined with white wine vinegar. It is processed in a way that stops the color from darkening.

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar is a type of vinegar made from fermented rice which ranges in color from colorless to pale yellow. It's a staple ingredient in many Asian dishes.

Compared to white distilled vinegar, rice vinegar is less acidic with a delicate, mild, and somewhat sweet flavor. It's commonly used in marinades and salad dressings, and for pickling vegetables.

Malt vinegar

Malt vinegar is a grain-based vinegar made from malting barley. It has a milder and sweeter taste than white vinegar. Malt vinegar was the traditional pickling vinegar for many years.

Common Questions

Can I substitute vinegars in recipes?

Yes, as long as the one you use has 5% acidity.

Can I use homemade vinegar

This is not recommended for canning because the acidity level may not be constant or at 5% or more. If the acidity is not constant then the growth of botulinum bacteria could occur.

Is there any other use for vinegar in the canning process

Vinegar is also used to prevent water deposits or a cloudy film from forming on the outside of the glass jars during canning.  Two tablespoons of vinegar added to the pressure canner or water bath canner helps prevent this film.


If you've been considering starting to pressure can or water bath can food for your family, now is the perfect time to start.


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