Vinegar...The History


















Peoples from many lands of the world have used vinegar in many different ways, for thousands of years.

Around 5000 BC the Babylonians were using the fruit of the date palm to make wine and vinegar to be used as food and a preservative or pickling agent.







Vinegar residues were found in urns from ancient Egypt and have been traced to 3000 BC.

The first written history of vinegar in China dates to 1200 BC.

1000 BC… In ancient Rome different types of vinegar were made from wine, dates, figs and other fruits and placed in bowls for the dunking of bread.

The making of rice vinegar in China goes back 3000 years.

During biblical times, vinegar was used to flavor foods, drunk as an energizing drink, and used as a medicine. It’s mentioned in both the old and new testaments. In the Book of Ruth (Ruth 2:14), after working hard gleaning barley in the fields, Ruth was invited by Boaz to eat bread and dip it in vinegar.








In ancient Greece, around 400 BC, Hippocrates, who is considered the father of modern medicine, prescribed apple cider vinegar mixed with honey for a variety of ailments, including coughs and colds.







Vinegar was used by the Carthaginian general Hannibal when he crossed the Alps with elephants to invade Italy in 218 BC. It was poured over hot boulders to crumble them, to allow his troops to march through.

The Japanese samurai believed drinking a rice vinegar drink would boost their strength and they drank it regularly.

Vinegar throughout history has been useful to everyday soldiers. Diluted vinegar has been used as a strengthening and an energizing tonic by the military throughout the ages. Roman soldiers called this refreshing drink posca. They used it regularly like the Japanese samurai. The addition of vinegar to their drinking water had the additional benefit of killing any infectious agents that might have been present.







In early Middle Eastern writings vinegar is mentioned as being used for medicinal purposes ranging from a digestive aid, an expectorant and even a clotting agent. It was also used to dress wounds. Besides its medicinal uses it was valued as a condiment.

Around 40 BC Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, dissolved costly pearls in vinegar so that she might win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal. The wager was with Mark Antony.







In the Bible vinegar is mentioned as many times as wine. In the New Testament a sponge soaked in vinegar was held to the parched lips of Jesus to help ease his thirst when he was hanging on the cross

During the Black Plague, from 1347 to 1771 doctors rubbed vinegar infused with essential oils and herbs all-over their bodies, when tending to the contagious sick. They also used it inside their cloaks to inhale for their protection. Legend states that four convicted thieves, who attended the sick, survived by daily drinking large amounts of vinegar infused with garlic. Today vinegar steeped in garlic is sold as Four Thieves Vinegar.







During the Middle Ages vinegar, along with an abrasive material such as sand, was used to clean and polish flexible mail armor used at that time.

In 1394, a group of French vintners or winemakers developed a continuous method for making vinegar, which is called the Orleans method. In this method, oak barrels were used as fermentation vessels and the vinegar was siphoned off through a spigot at the bottom of the barrel. Approximately 15 percent of the vinegar was left behind, which contained the mother of vinegar and its concentrated bacteria floating on top. A new batch of cider or wine was then carefully added to the barrel, which was quick started by the remaining vinegar.

The French vintners formed a guild of master vinegar makers. By using the Orleans method, they were better able to supply the profitable vinegar market.

Throughout history the antiseptic nature of vinegar has been used to clean and disinfect the wounds of soldiers and; therefore, speed up wound healing. Apple cider vinegar was used to this effect during the American Civil War and as late as World War I.







It’s reported that Louis XIII of France (1601-1643) paid 1.3 million francs for the vinegar his army used to cool the cannons during just one of his many battles. Vinegar, when applied to the hot iron cannons, cooled them and also helped clean the surface metal while inhibiting rust formation.

During the Middle Ages vinegar was well known to the European alchemists of the time. By pouring it over lead, they made a sweet tasting substance called sugar of lead. It was used well into the 19th century to smooth and sweeten a harsh cider. But lead acetate is also very poisonous and it caused the death of many European cider drinkers. This is why vinegar should never be stored in metallic containers made from iron, copper, lead, or lead crystal.

The vinegar industry in Europe flourished during the Renaissance. Many flavored vinegars were made with assorted herbs, spices, fruits and even flowers.







Vinegar has been the mainstay of many folk recipes, which have been handed down for generation after generation.

By the eighteenth century there were over one hundred varieties of infused vinegars available.







In the 18th century vinegar-soaked sponges were held to the nose to offset the foal odor of raw sewage and the lack of indoor plumbing. Small silver boxes called vinaigrettes were used to carry these sponges. They were also stored in special compartments in the heads of walking canes.








Milestones in the History of Vinegar

Year Event Result Of The Event
794-1185 Samurai warriors of Japan used vinegar as a tonic They believed the vinegar tonic gave them power and strength
1735-1826 John Adams, the second president of the United States drank apple cider every morning for breakfast This showed how the components of apple cider vinegar may support longer life
1909 Dr Jarvis began studying herbal medicines and folk remedies after he started practicing medicine He helped to treat people with apple cider vinegar for a variety of ailments
1912 Dr Alexis Carrel began an experiment the successfully kept cells of an embryo chicken heart alive for 30 years This showed the importance of apple cider vinegar in health and longevity
1920s Apple cider vinegar was made and drunk more than any other fruit juice in the US This implied that apple cider vinegar provides vim and vigor
1958 The book Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health was published The book chronicled the apple cider vinegar remedies studied by Dr Jarvis
1968 The Vinegar Institute began on January 17th This helped vinegar producers protect their rights
1973 Balsamic vinegar from the provinces of Modena and ReggioEmilia was introduced to America by Marcella Hazen, a cooking teacher and author This showed Americans there are other kinds of vinegar besides apple cider vinegar
1990s Self-help books such as Apple Cider Vinegar: Miracle Health System This helped people to live healthier lives
1999 The International Vinegar Museum was opened on June 4th in Roslyn, South Dakota This informs people about the benefits of vinegar





Twenty-first century industry uses vinegar in a range of different ways; vinegar is used to reduce microorganisms in slaughter houses and poultry plants to the cleaning of equipment in the construction industry.






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