Like a lot of people, I thought there were limited “flavors” of vinegar: white wine, red wine, apple cider, balsamic and white distilled. The latter I used for household cleaning or to put in our HVAC system to keep it cleared out. Michael opened my eyes to an a world of vinegar that I never knew existed, thanks to his book and a variety of vinegar shipments he had sent to our house.
I don’t throw words like “life changing” around loosely.
But then I came across Michael Harlan Turkel’s Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar and it did, in fact, change my cooking life.
To promote his book, we held a small vinegar tasting party, which may not sound awesome but people who attended were stunned by variety of quality and the flavors. There were high-end wine vinegar by O Med, balsamic from Lucini (one of my favorite olive oil makers) and crazy varieties made from figs and candy canes from MadHouse Vinegar makers.
Acid is a key part of cooking. Often if a dish is flat or bland tasting, the best way to spice up the flavor is to spritz on some citrus or, as I do more often now, incorporate some vinegar. Like so many things in cooking, this isn’t new. When I wrote my third book, I was surprised how often a recipe ended with adding a splash of vinegar, even into stews and beans soups. In something heavy and rich, it helps to balance out the flavor.
Our conversation was deeply enlightening and included a crazy on-air vinegar tasting. MHT is deeply knowledgeable and well traveled, so we touch on a wide variety of subjects beyond vinegar, notably beer.
For this episode, I chose to make Sea Foam Candy, a confection from my Midwest childhood that I rarely see as an adult. It’s fun to make, as the combination of sugar, vinegar and baking soda feels like part science project, part cooking. You’ll find the basic recipe below and the full description here.
Sea Foam Candy
- Large pot (6 quarts or larger) with lid
- Candy thermometer
- Heatproof spatula
- Baking sheet
- Silicon baking mat or parchment
- 2 1/2 cups sugar (450g)
- 3 tablespoons honey or corn syrup
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar (60ml)
- 1 cup water (240g)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup tempered milk, dark or white chocolate
- 2 tablespoons lavender flowers, aleppo chili or fennel seeds (optional)
- Before you begin, line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment. Get a set of oven mitts, a whisk and a heatproof spatula and have them ready.
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, cider vinegar and water in a deep pot. (In other words, everything but the baking soda.) Place the pot over high heat and cover. The lid is essential as its keep the sugar from crystalizing on the side of the pot.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. As the water evaporates, you’ll hear the boiling get louder, like rain moving in close from a distance.
- Lift the lid and affix your candy thermometer to the side of the pot and then recover with a lid so you can watch the temperature. Continue to boil until the temperature reaches 290F/145C.
- Carefully whisk in the baking soda and let the mixture bubble up to allow air bubbles to form. Using oven mitts, grab the pan and immediately pour it out on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle your toppings over the top quickly and let it cool for 20 minutes or more. Once cooled, break the candy into pieces.
Sea foam candy photo by Kathleen Flinn. This page contains affiliate links.
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