Are you a fan of fish and chips? Do you love to douse your chips in vinegar?
Well, what if we told you that the “vinegar” you’re using might not actually be vinegar at all?
That’s right, we’re talking about non-brewed condiment – a popular substitute for malt vinegar in fish-and-chip shops across the UK and Ireland.
But how does it compare to the real thing? Is it just as good, or is there a noticeable difference in taste?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at non-brewed condiment and malt vinegar, and explore whether they’re really the same thing.
So grab a cuppa and get ready to learn something new!
Is Non Brewed Condiment The Same As Malt Vinegar?
Non-brewed condiment, also known as NBC, is a malt vinegar substitute that’s made with water, acetic acid, flavourings, and often caramel colouring. It’s a much cheaper and quicker alternative to traditional vinegars, which are made by fermenting alcohol.
Malt vinegar, on the other hand, is made by fermenting malted barley and mixing it with acetic acid bacteria and air. This process takes longer and is more expensive than making NBC.
So, are they the same thing? The short answer is no.
While both non-brewed condiment and malt vinegar have a tangy flavour, there are noticeable differences in taste and aroma. Malt vinegar has a sweeter, nuttier flavour with a warm caramel colour thanks to the fermented barley. It also has a more complex taste profile due to the various acids and esters produced during fermentation.
Non-brewed condiment, on the other hand, is made with pure acetic acid diluted with water and brown food colouring added to give it the appearance of vinegar. It lacks the depth of flavour and complexity of malt vinegar.
What Is Non-brewed Condiment?
Non-brewed condiment is a vinegar substitute that’s commonly used in fish-and-chip shops in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It’s made by mixing acetic acid with water, flavourings, and often caramel colouring. The acetic acid used in NBC is clear, so food colouring is added to give it the appearance of traditional vinegar. Some brands will also use sugar, caramel, or artificial flavouring to intensify the vinegar-like taste.
Unlike traditional vinegars, which are made by fermenting alcohol, non-brewed condiment is made through a much quicker and cheaper process. This makes it an attractive option for fish-and-chip shops looking to cut costs.
However, there are strict rules regarding NBC. It cannot be labelled as vinegar or even put in traditional vinegar bottles if it’s being sold or put out on counters in fish-and-chip shops. Despite these regulations, many fish-and-chip shops still label NBC as vinegar and serve it in traditional vinegar bottles.
While NBC may be a cheaper alternative to traditional vinegars, it lacks the depth of flavour and complexity of malt vinegar. So, if you’re a fan of the nutty, warm flavour of malt vinegar, you may want to stick with the real thing rather than settling for a substitute.
How Is Malt Vinegar Made?
To make malt vinegar, the process starts with germinating grains of barley in water so that they start to sprout. The grains are then dried to create malt. This malt is brewed into ale and then fermented a second time to create vinegar. The vinegar is then aged, similar to the process for making brandy or whiskey, and tasted at various periods until it reaches the right level of flavour.
During the fermentation process of making malt vinegar, acetic acid bacteria convert the alcohol in the ale into acetic acid. This process takes several weeks and results in a tangy, slightly sweet vinegar with a warm caramel colour.
The final taste of malt vinegar depends on the type of barley used to make the malt, as well as the specific strain of acetic acid bacteria used during fermentation. The resulting vinegar can have a range of flavours, from fruity and sour to nutty and sweet.
Distilled malt vinegar is a further refined version of malt vinegar that is clear and more acidic in taste. It’s made by distilling malt vinegar and then diluting it with water to achieve the desired acidity level.
Differences In Taste Between Non-brewed Condiment And Malt Vinegar
The differences in taste between non-brewed condiment and malt vinegar are quite noticeable. Non-brewed condiment has a sharp, tangy taste due to the acetic acid, but lacks the sweetness and nuttiness of malt vinegar. It also has a more one-dimensional taste profile, without the range of acids and esters found in malt vinegar.
Malt vinegar, on the other hand, has a more complex flavour profile due to the fermentation process. It has a sweeter, nuttier taste with a warm caramel colour that comes from the fermented barley. The various acids and esters produced during fermentation also add to its flavour complexity.
In terms of aroma, malt vinegar has a sour, fruity yeasty smell due to the maltose used as a food source for the acetic acid bacteria. Non-brewed condiment lacks this aroma and has a more chemical-like smell.
Nutritional Differences Between Non-brewed Condiment And Malt Vinegar
When it comes to nutritional differences, non-brewed condiment and malt vinegar are quite similar. Both are low in calories and contain no fat, cholesterol, or protein. However, malt vinegar has a slightly higher sugar content due to the fermentation process of the barley. It also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, and iron.
In terms of health benefits, both vinegars have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes, helping to keep blood sugar levels under control. They may also aid in digestion and help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Which One Should You Choose For Your Fish And Chips?
When it comes to choosing between non-brewed condiment and malt vinegar for your fish and chips, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. If you prefer a sweeter, nuttier flavour with a warm caramel colour, then malt vinegar is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a more affordable and halal option that still provides a tangy flavour, then non-brewed condiment may be the better choice.
It’s important to note that some fish and chip shops may use non-brewed condiment instead of vinegar without disclosing this information to customers. If you’re a vinegar purist and want to ensure that you’re getting the real deal, it’s best to ask the staff at the shop what type of vinegar they use.
Ultimately, whether you choose non-brewed condiment or malt vinegar for your fish and chips, both options will provide a tangy flavour that complements the dish well.