What Is Cane Vinegar and What are Its Uses?

Cane vinegar is obtained from sugar cane. It's widely used in Philippine cuisine. Learn all about it here!
What Is Cane Vinegar and What are Its Uses?
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 02 October, 2022

Vinegar is here to stay, and despite being discovered more than 10,000 years ago, it’s still one of the most widely used condiments. Among its many varieties, cane vinegar is one of the most appreciated in Philippine cuisine and in the islands where sugar cane is grown.

The most interesting thing about cane vinegar and other similar kinds of vinegar is that, as a condiment, it can be used in cooking to make exquisite preparations, such as the famous vinaigrettes. So, read on to learn about its sensory characteristics, the way it’s prepared, and its main applications. You’ll probably want to go out and buy a new type of vinegar for your pantry afterward!

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What is vinegar, and what is its origin?

Vinegar, comes from the Latin term vinum acre, which means “sour wine.” It’s acetic acid diluted in water. It’s a liquid with a sour taste and comes from the ancestral fermentation of wine and its by-products.

It can also be obtained from other fermentative sources, such as sugar cane. The latter contains 3 to 5% acetic acid and small amounts of tartaric acid and citric acid.

As for its origin, it’s believed to have arisen as an accident when alcoholic beverages, especially wine, began to be produced. It’s likely that these were soured by the action of microorganisms called acetobacteria. There’s also evidence that Hippocrates used vinegar as a medicine.

In addition to wine, other raw materials for making vinegar are malted barley, apple juice, orange, bananas, honey, and plums. Practically any raw material containing sugar or starches that can be degraded to their simple forms can be made into vinegar.

In the case of cane vinegar, the use is common in the Philippines, where it’s also called sukang iloko, since the region where it is produced is Ilocos. Another commercial name for this vinegar is sukang maasim, which translates as “acid vinegar.”

A bottle of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is formed by fermentation of the fruit, which breaks down its more complex sugars into simple ones. The process is similar to other kinds of vinegar.

The nutritional value of vinegar

Vinegar, whatever its source, contains no calories. A portion of 100 milliliters has only four calories. Its contribution of sugars, proteins, and fat is also practically nil.

The sugar is transformed into acetic acid, so it disappears from the final product. The greatest proportion is water, almost 98%. Its most important minerals are potassium, phosphorus, sodium, and magnesium. However, they do not significantly cover a person’s daily requirements.

From sugar cane to vinegar

Vinegar is the product of two successive fermentations. In the first, yeasts convert sugar into alcohol and a gas called carbon dioxide (CO2). This is alcoholic fermentation, which occurs without the presence of oxygen.

In the second fermentation or acetification, bacteria of the Acetobacter group oxidize the alcohol to acetic acid. In addition, there’s a production of many intermediate compounds that are responsible for the final characteristics.

A raw material that’s rich in sugars for yeast is sugar cane. This is a type of grass (Saccharum officinarum L.) that’s native to New Guinea and has spread to almost all tropical and subtropical regions.

The cane is harvested and crushed to extract the juice, which contains simple carbohydrates, from which white sugar, brown sugar, and molasses are made. Vinegar is also obtained from the sugarcane juice. For this, it’s simmered until a syrup is obtained, which is then subjected to fermentation to transform it into alcohol.

To obtain cane vinegar, the alcohol is oxidized by Acetobacter to acetic acid while maintaining control of the pH, total acidity, and the fermenting bacteria count. In this way, a young vinegar is obtained, which is then bottled for maturation and clarification before filtering, pasteurizing, and bottling.

This vinegar has a mild, light, and spicy flavor, as it’s less sour than the distilled ones. The quality is variable, and its color ranges from dark yellow to golden brown.

Uses of cane vinegar

In general, kinds of vinegar are used to make marinades, pickles, and preserves. They are also a complement to sauces and dressings, such as mustard and other cold sauces.

Cane vinegar has the particular trait that, as a mild and less sour variety of vinegar than the others, it can be used in cooking to balance flavors. Thus, it’s often used as a complement to hummus, lemon flan, in sweet and sour sauces, and to prepare pickled herring.

Some popular Filipino dishes are the adobo based on pork and chicken, which is simmered in cane vinegar, bay leaf, spices, and garlic. Another is braised pork leg or paksiw na pata, which is prepared with several cups of this type of vinegar. It’s also part of marinades and for tenderizing meats without significantly modifying the flavor.

Its lightness, combined with a spicy sensation, allows it to be used without the food acquiring a strong sour taste. Thus, it can also be prepared for fruit salads.

a bowl of fruit with cane vinegar
When cane vinegar is added to fruit salads, it doesn’t have a sour taste, as would be the case with other kinds of vinegar.

A recipe based on cane vinegar

One of the most popular dishes with cane vinegar is the famous Filipino chicken in adobo. For this preparation, the chicken is marinated in cane vinegar, accompanied by soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. Here’s what you need to make it:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Bay leaf and chives
  • 50 milliliters of water
  • 25 grams of onion
  • 25 milliliters of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of soybean oil
  • 25 milliliters of cane vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns

Preparation

  1. In a bowl, add the cane vinegar to the chicken, along with the soy sauce, garlic, pepper, bay leaf, and scallion. Cover and marinate for 1/2 hour in the refrigerator. After this time, drain the chicken and reserve the marinade.
  2. Heat the oil and brown the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the marinade and bring to a boil over high heat for 5 minutes. Then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.

You can serve this dish with rice. This way, you’ll have a great ethnic dish, and you can taste the goodness of cane vinegar!

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