February 18, 2023
From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/tj-robinson-vinegar-episode/
[00:00:51] Podcast Sponsors
[00:05:26] Podcast Intro
[00:08:10] Introduction to Vinegar
[00:18:08] Guest Intro
[00:23:10] How TJ Robinson got interested in vinegar
[00:28:06] How to find a good vinegar producer
[00:33:20] Podcast Sponsors
[00:39:14] cont. How to find a good vinegar producer
[00:40:07] How many kinds of vinegar are there?
[00:46:46] Opening a tasting box – Banyuls vinegar
[00:57:27] Pear balsamic vinegar
[01:08:10] Condimento di Aceto Balsamico di Modena
[00:18:01] Calamansi vinegar
[01:24:42] Vinegar: Part of Your Culinary Arsenal
[01:27:43] Shine Sedona
[01:30:23] End of Podcast
Ben: My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.
TJ: It's as simple as drizzling it over prosciutto, goat cheese or figs as a first course. You could pour it over vanilla ice cream with strawberries for dessert. It's limitless. It's kind of like with the olive oil, you choose your adventure, you choose your fun. But basically, whatever you're cooking, this takes it to the next level. That's the goal and kind of get to reinvigorated in the kitchen.
Ben: Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.
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Hey, so I've talked before on the podcast about how I get these olive oils like artisanal olive oils, they're called from this place called the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club, sent to me on a quarterly basis. And, they're really great. I use them to dress up my entire diet. And, it's really good unadulterated olive oil. I liked them so much. I did a podcast with their founder TJ Robinson called the Olive Oil Hunter. It's a pretty badass name or badass moniker. And so, we had a fantastic discussion and then two months ago, I get this package from TJ and I thought it was olive oils I opened it, it wasn't, it was vinegars. These four different sensational vinegars hand-picked by TJ and they were acidic and sweet and tart and in this whole variety of different kind of versions. I didn't even realize so many different versions of vinegar existed, but there's a pair balsamic vinegar, and a calamansi gourmet vinegar, and this Condimento Balsamico de Modena vinegar, which I think is another form of a balsamic vinegar, Vinaigre de Banyuls. I don't know if I'm pronouncing that correctly, but this one was just super bright and tart and Italian vinegar. And, I enjoyed them immensely and later found out that TJ kind of similar to what he's done with the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club is now doing a vinegar club.
So anyways, I decided that I want to interview TJ about vinegars like how to use them, what kind of recipes to use vinegar in, the versatility of vinegar, how to do like your own marinades and glazes and sauces. And, I have just really enjoyed the process of learning vinegar. But, the thing is there are health aspects of vinegar that I think more people should know about and I started dive into it to prepare to interview TJ and thought, “Holy cow, there's so much here.” So, what I thought would be fun was for me to give you a background on the medicinal uses, particularly the anti-glycemic effects of vinegar but a lot more for vinegar before I actually get TJ on and take a deep dive into a lot more of the culinary aspects of vinegar. So, the shownotes for everything that you're going to hear, my own descriptions for you and background of vinegar all the way down to my fasting discussion with TJ, you're going to find at BenGreenfieldLife.com/VinegarPodcast. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/VinegarPodcast. So, here we go.
First of all, TJ is going to share a little bit more about how the vinegars are made at the specific farms that we talk about. But, “vinegar,” that actually comes from a French word “vinaigre,” that means sour wine. And, you can make vinegar from pretty much anything you can ferment. So, you can make from wine, molasses, dates, apples, pears, grapes, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, freaking whey, coconut, honey, you name it. So, it's initially yeasts will ferment any of the food sugars in any of those products I mentioned to alcohol. But then, what they do is they add bacteria, it's called acetic acid bacteria. That converts the alcohol to, of all things, acetic acid. And, commercial vinegar is made by either a fast or a slow fermentation process. So, for the fast fermentation process, that liquid gets oxygenated by agitating it and then the bacterial culture is submerged and that allows for the rapid fermentation. Then, for the slow vinegar method, which is usually used for things like wine vinegars, that's where they grow the acetic acid bacteria on the surface of the liquid and the fermentation takes weeks or sometimes months. But, that longer fermentation period allows for the accumulation of this non-toxic slime. That's basically yeast and acetic acid bacteria. And, it's known as the mother. You might have seen the mother before if you've had kombucha. That's a popular vinegar-drinking compound, a fermented compound, and it has this mother in it and that's the yeast and the acetic acid bacteria.
So, a lot of manufacturers of vinegars will filter and pasteurize the final vinegar product before bottling it to prevent the mother from forming because a lot of people don't like that almost gooey booger-like substance in their vinegar, but that's where it comes from. So, most of the cool properties of vinegar arise from the presence of that acetic acid, that organic acids, responsible for the tart flavor and the pungent kind of biting odor of vinegars. But, acetic acid is not itself vinegar, okay? You can't just dilute acetic acid and call it vinegar because vinegar also has vitamins and minerals and minerals salts and amino acids and polyphenols like caffeic acid and catechin and other health compounds you might have heard of, and even non-volatile organic acids like tartaric acid, citric acid, and malic acid, and lactic acid.
Now, there's a whole bunch of different kinds of vinegars too and TJ will get into this with us, but you've got basically herbal vinegars. That's like wine vinegars or white distilled vinegars. And, they'll typically season those with things like garlic or basil or tarragon or cinnamon or clove or nutmeg. Then, there's fruit vinegars, which are wine and white vinegars that they'll sweeten with fruit juice to give you a sweet sour taste. And then, you've got balsamic vinegars. And, that would be in Italy, they'll make that from grapes, which gets harvested super late, fermented slowly, and then age in different kinds of wood. You might, with Asian vinegars, be familiar with rice wine vinegar. That's made in Asia or coconut vinegar made in India or the Philippines or date vinegars are very popular in the Middle East. But, all these are just examples of ways that you can take this acetic acid and modify it to create vinegar.
Some of the medicinal uses, some of the things I want you to know about before we get into the culinary aspects with TJ So, first of all, vinegar has a really good effect for fighting infection. This dates all the way back to Hippocrates back in 400 to 300 BC, the Father of Modern Medicine who would actually recommend vinegar for cleaning things like ulcers and sores. And, it's used all the way up to physicians in modern day in many cases, for example, they would formulate what's called oxymel, which is this popular ancient medicine. And, that was used for coughs and still works very well for coughs. It's just a mix of honey and you typically mix four parts honey with one part vinegar and that's an amazing cough syrup that you can just make at home if you don't have the time to go buy the overpriced cough drops at the whole paycheck. So, that's one way that you can use vinegar in addition to using it topically, but it's also used as a household disinfectant. We use it a lot to clean our kitchen and our bathrooms at the Greenfield house. Unlike bleach solutions, it doesn't really cause as much damage. You can even swish with it in the mouth for an anti-infective type of treatment in the mouth. You can use it for insect stings, for jellyfish stings, for nail fungus, for head lice, for warts. There are so many topical applications for vinegar. It's one of those things that's just–oil of oregano is one thing that's always in the Greenfield medicine cabinet. Vinegar is also a big component of our home medicine cabinet.
Now, the topical effects of vinegar are not the only medicinal effect. It also has some really powerful cardiovascular effects. A lot of people are familiar with taking a shot of vinegar before you have a meal to keep blood pressure or blood sugar low. And, that works, but vinegar also lowers blood pressure. You can actually consume vinegar on a regular basis, and they've done studies on this and found reductions in what's called renin activity and aldosterone concentration leading into a direct drop in blood pressure and management or support of healthy blood pressure with the regular consumption of vinegar. It may also affect the calcium absorption in the colon. That could be why it's having an effect as well on blood pressure, but they have reported a lower risk for fatal ischemic heart disease among participants in this huge nurse's health study who had oil and vinegar salad dressing frequently. Obviously, there's a lot of other crap you can get in salad dressing, but the idea of just taking–and, TJ will probably talk about this, I'm guessing. But, extra virgin olive oil with just some of his artisanal vinegars, mixing that together and having that on the counter with some sourdough bread or some salad, for example, amazing for its cardiovascular and blood pressure lowering effect.
Now, vinegar also has anti-tumor activities. They've noted tumor regression in rodent models who have pre-existing cancer, particularly colon cancer who frequently consume a vinegar medium. Now, I have not talked to anyone who's ever done a vinegar enema. That might burn a little bit. I'm not saying to put up the butt, but regular consumption of these bacterial or fermented vinegars seems to help the colon especially when it also has dietary fiber produce more short-chain fatty acids and more butyrate, which allows for better cell differentiation and better health in the colonic flora. Vinegars are also a really, really good source of polyphenols, which I mentioned earlier. And, that might also be why vinegar is associated with this strong anti-cancer effect that you'd also associate with things like fruits and vegetables and wine and coffee and chocolate. And, because those are so commonly used in the prevention of cancers as well as cardiovascular disease, I think that vinegar can be added to that list of foods for the polyphenol aspects of vinegar for disease risk lowering for a lot of different chronic diseases.
So, next is the blood sugar control. Works like gangbusters. I mean, obviously there's lots of expensive supplements out there like berberine, my company Kion, we make Kion Lean, which has bitter melon extract in it and some other vinegar-like compounds that can help to lower blood sugar after a meal. Metformin is another popular one. Dihydroberberine is another popular one. But frankly, if you've already got vinegar in your cabinet, you have a pretty cheap solution. I know it's not the tastiest, but you have a pretty cheap solution that you can literally grab a shot glass from your cocktail cabinet, put the vinegar in it, shoot that back any time before you have carbohydrates. And, I wear continuous blood glucose monitor so I can speak to the effectiveness of this, it really does lower blood sugar. And, the reason that they think that is is the acetic acid apparently helps the metabolizing of a lot of different forms of sugar like sucrase and lactase and maltase. And so, essentially, it's acting as a blood glucose disposal agent by affecting the enzymes that help to digest these carbohydrates. I mean, that's why it's kind of cool. You could take bread, dip it in vinegar medium and lower the ability of that bread to be able to raise your blood glucose. which would also, of course, cause you to become fuller in a faster period of time and would also lower a lot of the potential health effects of having chronically elevated blood glucose. So, the glycemic effect of vinegar is pretty cool too. And again, it's literally as simple as just taking a shot right before you have a meal. And, in most cases, apple cider vinegar seems to be very effective for that. But, some of TJ's vinegar like his pear vinegar, I can get a similar effect with. And, I think it tastes a lot better and I suspect the polyphenol content might be higher.
Now, of course, talking about the medical aspects of vinegar when it comes to lowering blood pressure, lowering cancer risk, having an anti-glycemic effects, being used for cleaning, being used for topical infections or funguses, et cetera, that's all cool. But, the flavor profile and the way that you can use vinegar from a culinary standpoint is also fantastic. Not all vinegar is created equal. I can't wait for you to hear from TJ about these vinegars that he's now, just like the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club, allowing for you to have delivered to your house on a quarterly basis. And, it's right up there with one of my favorite culinary shipments now when I get TJ's vinegar and when I get my Colima salt and when I get TJ's olive oil, these are all things that just make life freaking better from a culinary standpoint.
Alright, folks. Well, as promised, we're moving on to the actual interview with my culinary expert on this podcast TJ Robinson. Like I mentioned, he's known as the Olive Oil Hunter but I have now come to know him as I suppose the Vinegar Hunter too. I don't know if that rolls off the tongue quite as well, but TJ is actually known for his palette. I mean, he's judged in Italian olive oil tasting competitions. He's been importing this rare Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil that's super flavorful and healthful extra virgin olive oil for years now. And, like I mentioned, I've been a customer for, gosh, I think almost 10 years now with the olive oils. And, of course, the only sad part is when we run out, which we occasionally do because we go through a lot of olive oil as a family, we got to go to the grocery store and buy olive oil, it's a night and day difference as far as the pungent and the flavor and the aroma and everything else. So, we're kind of spoiled with olive oil.
But, anyways, I'm going to link to if you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/VinegarPodcast, an article as well as a podcast on the whole olive oil thing because we're not going to focus on olive oil today as I know you've already gathered. We're going to focus on vinegar because TJ knows a lot about vinegar and he's just been blowing the socks off my palate. I'm just going to make up that metaphor with these vinegars that he's been sending.
So, everything that you hear–if you're interested in getting this vinegar, we set up a URL for, it's GreenfieldPantry.com. That gets you the four-bottle set of vinegar. You don't need a membership or anything like that. And, it's a fantastic deal they set up over there, so GreenfieldPantry.com. And, all the shownotes are going to be at BenGreenfieldLife.com/VinegarPodcast.
So, TJ, first of all, welcome back to the show. And, second of all, what happened, you just get bored with olive oil here?
TJ: That's hilarious. No, I did not get bored. I'm really happy to be back. I can't thank you enough for all your support of the Olive Oil Club. Olive oil is one of those things that really goes hand-in-hand with vinegar. It's a match made in heaven.
Ben: Yeah. Well, duh, for anybody who's had the bread on the table with the dipping bowl and the vinegar and the olive oil, it's kind of like turkeys and cranberry. If the vinegar is not there, it's still pretty good, but for me, the vinegar, the olive oil, and then if it's a really, really great day, there's also a little bit of raw honey and a little bit of salt out. And, I can literally just sit down to my wife's fermented sourdough bread and just crush it with that alone.
TJ: Absolutely. Those items you've collected, you've got amazing fat. And, we know that fat adds a lot of flavor and also texture to our food and health benefits. There's acid, which really could be anything from lemon juice to, you mentioned, cranberries with turkey. Cranberries acid, think acid, we're thinking about a category here that vinegar falls in and under. And also, great salt, you mentioned that, you love great salt in the intro, which you did a fantastic job in the intro. You really laid the groundwork and did a lot of the heavy lifting.
But, really getting into it and why I got interested in vinegar, I travel a lot. I'm into cultures, I'm into cuisines. My work for as the Olive Oil Hunter, which I've been doing for a few decades now, takes me to amazing regions where not only grapes are grown but also olives, olives and grapes. So, both are planted there and then other fruits as well. So, essentially, I'm in these areas exploring the cuisine and the culture. And, a lot of times, when vinaigrettes are made, whether people are deglazing pans or whether they're marinating or tossing or pickling or drizzling or finishing a dish, there's usually a local vinegar on the table. And, when I say local, these are barrel-aged vinegars. These aren't run-of-the-mill like cider vinegar which isn't barrel-aged or a distilled white vinegar, which we're pretty familiar with those. But, there's a lot of exciting things happening in the vinegar world right now. Vinegar is kind of having a moment and it's super exciting.
Ben: Vinegar is having a moment. That only comes from someone who's immersed in the culinary world would you hear that.
Okay. So, when we've talked about olive oil in the past, I think you kind of scared me and a lot of other listeners when we talked about all the adulteration of olive oil and five-star Napa Valley restaurants are cutting it half and half with canola oil and how the olive oil you buy from the stores, a lot of times rancid or old or at least nothing near the flavor of a good artisanal olive oil.
Now, talk to me about vinegar. Is it kind of a similar deal where when you buy vinegar at the store, sometimes you're not getting what you think you're getting or are there things you need to consider when it comes to real as opposed to whatever you call fake or adulterated vinegar?
TJ: Basically, there are lots of shortcuts you can make. Whenever you're focused on quantity over quality or industrial production, it equals an inferior product. So, there's a lot of things that can happen in vinegar that is, for example, balsamic is one of those names that's on a label that automatically makes people pull more money out of their wallet. If you see that on a label, a lot of times, you have to really read the back label because they can add caramel color or molasses to make it look like a thick rich balsamic. So, there are some fake balsamics on the market. So, that's slippery, you got to be a label reader. Obviously, we're talking about barrel-aged vinegars and that's what I'm really focused on. And, some producers, they take shortcuts and they actually soak wood chips in the vinegar instead of actually aging it in real wooden barrels. I'm obviously not a fan of added extracts or added flavors. We want to look for all-natural flavors, which we get from amazing fruit. So, we focus on the fruit.
Ben: Like I mentioned in the introduction, the word “vinegar” comes from French word sour and wine, but it can be more than just grapes, right?
TJ: Absolutely, absolutely. We've got last year in this collection I had an amazing apple balsamic. This year, I have a pear balsamic from Austria that's just incredible.
Ben: Yeah, the pear stuff's amazing, by the way. I made an Australian barramundi fish last night with the pear vinegar and olive oil. It's so good.
TJ: Oh, man, that sounds incredible. Well, it's got this level of sweetness to it and then also this acid that's really been nurtured over time in a barrel that's really just lets evaporation happen. Basically, there's a whole world of vinegar that's opening up. I'm a southerner and I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. When I was a kid, they're on my kitchen table, was typically a bottle of vinegar. We use that for mostly on our greens. My grandmother made amazing collard greens, so we would put that on there as a natural flavor enhancer to also cut down some of the fat that was in there because you cook them in a lot of fatback. She would make chow chow relish for topping our beans. So, there's pickling that vinegars are used for and then also every summer, we would pick our chili peppers and make homemade hot sauce, which if you think about hot sauce, the number one ingredient in hot sauce is vinegar.
TJ: So, vinegar has this way of opening your palate. So, it's a really interesting product that we can explore. And then, in culinary school–so, I kind of grew up with those humble beginnings and just, like a lot of people my age, probably just enjoyed apple cider or white distilled. But then, I started to move on in my culinary journey through culinary school and also through traveling around the world and really getting exposed to these artisanal vinegars, these barrel-aged vinegar.
So, speaking of the South, there's a company in Virginia that's doing ramp vinegar now.
Ben: Ramp, you mean like the greens, the ramps?
TJ: Yeah, ramps. Yes, ramp-infused vinegar. So, there's some really interesting products that are coming on the market. But, whenever this happens, Ben, like olive oil when everybody's getting excited about it, that's the time when the cheap junk tries to enter the market, the crappy stuff, and demand the same prices as the good stuff. So, this is the time where you really have to get your listeners educated on reading labels and that sort of thing. So, we'll definitely go more into that.
But, on the road, as I told you, I was exploring all these cuisines. And, these are the vinegars I was putting in my suitcase and bringing back to America. These were the vinegars when I was visiting the Christmas market in Germany and I found this amazing pear balsamic. I got a bottle, I put it in my suitcase. Years later, fast forward a few years later, now I'm working with that producer to actually produce it for members of my olive oil club. So, yeah, it's kind of full, just kind of come around full circle at this point.
Ben: Okay. So, I'm just curious. For you logistically, how do you find what do you call it a farm or a vinegar producer? How do you actually hunt them down? Is it just kind of knowing the right people?
TJ: I like to use this word that I've kind of coined, “Vinegar Vintner” because making a beautiful barrel-aged vinegar is like creating a very fine wine. So, it's a lot of tasting. Olive oil producers, since they do go hand-in-hand, recommend local vinegar producers. Also, I talk to local chefs, I meet foodie friends. Whether I'm in Australia or Chile or in Europe, I'm always exploring. Are there things that you like to shop for when you're on the road or are there foodie gifts that you're like, “Oh, I'm always after the pistachio nuts or something like that”?
Ben: Not necessarily, but there's places I go. If I'm in Hawaii, usually coffee or macadamia nuts, if I'm in Japan, I like the little–I think they're just little gluten bombs, but those chewy little candies that they have in the Japanese candy stores. And then, also I like some of the soy sauce type of marinades over in Japan. A lot of times when I travel, I also will just kind of dig into whatever the local place is known for. Like you mentioned, Asheville, North Carolina, total foodie city. And, for me, sometimes, I'll go get in line at, what's that, biscuits and gravy place down there, for example.
TJ: Yeah, biscuit heads.
Ben: Yeah, biscuit heads. I'll go stand in line for an ungodly amount of time to try biscuits and gravy. And then, I'll buy gift cards for people to those type of spots. So, yeah, I usually come back from any vacation with increasing frequency. It's hunting down whatever a cool local food is and bringing it back. Chocolate's another one that I'll do a lot of. But, yeah, absolutely. For me, food pairs perfectly with travel.
TJ: Yeah, travel, adventure, cuisines. And, any time I travel, I like to go in the grocery store. That to me, I can go in grocery stores and I can really understand culture–
Ben: You're like Sam Walton.
TJ: Exactly. I want to understand what parts of an animal are these folks eating. I really can understand a lot. There's also a lot of global awards. There's specialty food competitions around the world. So, I kind of geek out on this with spreadsheets. I track the global award winners of specialty food competitions in the vinegar category. I also travel. I bring them home. For the consumer, it's obviously not as easy. There are a few basic education points that I would like to share. We talked about fully reading the label. We talked about staying away from all artificial colors and extracts because I don't like taking a cheap vinegar and then adding some type of extract to it. And then, throwing it in a fancy bottle with a fancy label. So, there's some of that going on. We don't want to stay away from that. You always want to look for a country of origin or a region of origin.
Ben: So, similar to wine or olive oil.
TJ: Exactly, exactly. You want to understand the concept of terroir. Terroir refers to the micro climate, the soil. It's really understanding what that area imparts, what's special about that and what that imparts in the final product. Is it barrel-aged? It may say barrel-aged for five years, et cetera. So, look for barrel-aged if that's the style of vinegar you're shopping for. Was it produced on a single estate, a single estate versus mass company out there, big brand? Also related to balsamic and when we taste this balsamic, we can really dive into that. But, you want to purchase a real authentic Italian balsamic from Modena, Italy, for Modena, Italy, which is a region called–and, it's a city in Amelia Romania, which is probably one of the best eating regions in Italy. It's got the trifecta of amazing ingredients. We have Parma ham, you have balsamic vinegar, and you have Parmigiano-Reggiano, all produced right there and in that area of Amelia Romania on top of Lambrusco, great, great wine. So, there's some really good stuff to look for.
And so, remembering that concept of where it's from, there are what are called controlled designations of origin. Those are referred to, like in France, it would be called an AOC, or in Italy, DOC or DOP. Those are areas that are protected by the European Union. Kind of like champagne, you can't just make a California sparkling wine and label it champagne. No, there are international laws that actually protect certain products in the European Union, which is super cool. And then, was it made with a quality fruit? Because like olive oil, you're starting with olives as a fruit, vinegar also has to start with a high-quality fruit.
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Just imagine a hotel surrounded by nature, vineyards, and gardens, this forest classified as a historical garden in a very special country at a hotel located in the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. Imagine this place has a state-of-the-art spot, 2,200 square meters, 10 treatment rooms, an indoor pool with underwater sound and chromotherapy. Imagine a kitchen team that brings to the table not just delicious food at this place but values environmental sustainability and wellness and local sensitivity and global sensibility. Imagine being able to be bathed in luxury and being able to be local, to buy a local and to eat local, not caged off of some fancy tourist but it's a part of the community and part of the torar of the region.
Well, that's exactly what you experience in Portugal at their Six Senses luxury retreat. And, I'm going to be there for a special event that you can read up on at BenGreenfieldLife.com/SixSenses. It's called the Boundless Retreat. And, at BenGreenfieldLife.com/SixSenses, you can see everything we're doing. Every day starts with a healthy farmhouse breakfast, morning movement session with me, you get access to three different 60-minute spa treatments that you can choose from throughout the day, indoor pool and vitality suites, meditation, sound healing, an alchemy bar with Kokedama and yogurts and pickles and sprouts workshops, retreat meals all made from locally sourced organic produce, Q&As and sing-along sessions with me. This is going to be an amazing remarkable once in a lifetime experience. You get four nights full board accommodation in a deluxe room there at the facility. And, this thing, as you can imagine, is going to fill up fast. It's in Portugal at the Six Senses retreat in Portugal.
Again, all the details are at BenGreenfieldLife.com/SixSenses. And, the dates are February 27th through March 3rd, 2023, February 27th through March 3rd, 2023. I hope to see you there.
So, these additives, by the way, are we talking about–I know coloring, the caramel coloring is an issue; a lot of people have a poor reaction to that. And then, thickeners can cause some gut issues in people. What about GMO ingredients? Do they add a lot of GMO type of ingredients to some of the vinegars as far as a vinegar additive?
TJ: I'm not aware of GMO. I'm aware of artificial color and artificial flavors. So, if someone buys, let's say, a strawberry vinegar, it may have a strawberry extract in it, not real strawberries or made with real strawberry. So, I stay away from all the chemical-produced stuff and I try to go natural old world time basically where times involved and passion and care and love, not the cheap route.
Ben: Okay. Alright, got it.
So, as far as the actual different kinds of vinegars that are in the shipment that I got. I mean, a lot of people, I'm aware of white vinegar which we use a lot for cleaning but never mix that with bleach, by the way, that creates almost a chloroform type of reaction, so be careful with that or hydrogen peroxide. But, vinegar is great for cleaning. We use white vinegar a lot for cleaning.
And then, I've always been a fan of balsamic vinegar, have always just used it in a very amateurous fashion, drizzling over fish or on salads or whatever, and then typically an apple cider vinegar for either making, like I do, a clay mask once a week and I'll mix the clay mask with the apple cider vinegar. My wife will use apple cider vinegar for a lot of her beauty treatments. And then, of course, that can be used medicinally or even like I mentioned in the introduction, to take a shot of prior to a meal to lower the glycemic index of the meal. So, you got white vinegar and balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar. I think those are probably the top three that a lot of people know about. But, how many different kinds of vinegar are there?
TJ: There are a lot. Basically, anything that you be fermented, you can then as long as you could make alcohol out of something, you could literally do the second step of fermentation on and get acetic acid.
Ben: Okay. This the second step is when the acetic acid bacteria will transform the alcohol into acetic acid, and that's what makes the vinegar. That's the secondary fermentation process.
TJ: Yes, that's the mother. So, think of a mother as kind of a sourdough starter. I know you're a big fan of sourdough and you're probably going to be passing down to your children the sourdough starter that you guys have made. And, your sourdough probably has a story behind it coming from someone down the line. But, the mother is this protected–really, it's just cellulose, but it is a great bacteria. And, this mother over time adapts and is used to increase flavor in the product. So, the mother for each specific vinegar is very important to the final flavor.
So, yes, that is something that's protected in this process. And basically, the mother eats the alcohol that was in the fermented product. And then, that creates the bacteria which creates acetic acid at different levels, right? Because some of these vinegars that we're going to be tasting have higher levels of sugar in them but also have higher levels of acid in them. So, the two kind of balance each other out and kind of give you that sweet tart taste that is so sought after. It's interesting, you could have different vinegars at different percentages. And, that's really cool in your kitchen, you want to have assortment of things that are really tart all the way to the very extreme end, which is viscous and sweet.
Ben: Yeah, I actually want to get into how you would choose which one to use because that's something I'm still trying to decode. And, maybe when we get into tasting each of these vinegars, you can share what you might use each one for because I'm actually really looking forward to this. I have this big box on my desk and it's got four different vinegars in it. And, I'm a member of the olive oil club and you just randomly started sending me this vinegar. But, had I signed up for the actual membership, would this be something I'd get, whatever, three months or so, these shipment of four bottles?
TJ: One, it's not a club, it's a one-time-a-year collection.
TJ: So, this summer, I did a European road trip, a buddy of mine has a German small Mercedes German motorhome and we did a road trip from Barcelona up into France across into Italy, then Austria, then Germany. And, I curated this four-bottle set. And, I did this so my club members would have a collection because vinegar can age and gets better with age. It's not like olive oil where I need to deliver it quarterly. I can deliver one set per year of four bottles and my members will have a whole culinary arsenal. Think of it as with colors of paint and that they can use in their cooking.
So, that's what I try to do when I made the four-bottle set. I tried to have for embracingly acidic, to fruit, to very sweet. So, it's kind of one of those things that basically arms you for a full year ahead of vinegars because we don't use as much vinegar as we do olive oil. Most people use–let's say you're doing a vinaigrette. A vinaigrette is typically three parts oil to one part vinegar. So, you don't go through it as quickly.
Ben: Speak for yourself, I'm going through it pretty fast.
TJ: That's good. That's good. I'll hook you up. I'll hook you up. So, I curate X number of sets and I've never released them before outside of my club members. So, I've only offered them in the past to my club members, but you were so over the moon about them that this year on my trip, I secured extra bottles to offer to your listeners. So, that's what I did this year. So, you're the only one outside the club that can get access to it. The club's allotment that I had purchased for them is actually sold out at this point. So, yeah, we've got yours on reserve, so it's very exciting. But, that's the deal.
Ben: Sweet. Alright. So, lots of versatility here. I know it can be used for deglazing and marinating. I mean, we put on ice cream once based on your suggestion. So, we'll get into how you use each of these different kinds of vinegar shortly as we start into the tasting. But, one thing I wanted to mention people is like the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club, you've got this really fantastic print out, there's a 20-page printout. It's got about a dozen different recipes in it. It's got some of the science behind the vinegars. And then, what I really love maybe it's just because I'm a nerd when it comes to this stuff, I sit down and I read the story. You have a two-page story behind each farm and pictures of you meeting with the different vintners and the pictures of the barrels and the area where it's grown. So, it's really fun to get the printout along with it. I would encourage people to try this out once if you get a chance.
So, what I've got on my desk here, TJ, just to paint a picture for you is I've got this box. I haven't even taken these out of the box yet because I have a fresh box. You'd send me a box two months ago and I tried it, but this latest box arrived for the tasting that we're doing today. So, this is all in the box. I've got one, two, three. I've got four shot glasses, so I'm going to take these out of the box here.
Ben: So, I've got my four shot glasses and I think you have what an Austrian, a German, an Italian, and–what's the last one?
Ben: A French.
TJ: The French one.
Ben: Yeah. So, where do we start, man? I've never done this vinegar tasting before.
TJ: Yeah. So, where you start, you need a little water because these are acidic. It's a little different than tasting olive oil, so a little water would be great–
Ben: I've got some of that. I wish I had wine but it's too early.
TJ: Yeah, it's too early to interfere with this. So, we're going to focus first on the Banyuls vinegar because it's the most acidic in the lineup, the Banyuls. Yes, the Banyuls. So, that's the French one.
Ben: Okay. And, tell me about this one. How did you find this one?
TJ: Probably 15 years ago, I was at a market in the south of France, a tailgate farmers market and there was a Banyuls producer there. And, I tasted Banyuls vinegar–and, I'm pretty familiar with red wine vinegars across the board. But then, there are very special red wine vinegars. And, this would classify as a very special red wine vinegar. It's not just red wine vinegar. So, I tasted Banyuls. And, when I was cooking, and this has been for the last decade, let's say, let's say I was making a French style salad that was with frisée and had crispy bacon lardons and a poached egg on top and some croutons. Well, all those are fatty heavy items. I would use a very acidic vinegar. And, my go-to vinegar for that purpose was the Banyuls. It's got a lot of flavor for red wine vinegar. So, I've been using it for a while.
Ben: Okay. Alright, got it. What do we do first? I've got the bottle in front of me. I got shot glass here.
TJ: Yes. In your shot glass, place maybe a teaspoon because we don't need to go nuts. And, what we're going to do, we're going to kind of move it closer to our nose. We're not going to get it really, really close. We're just kind of warm ourselves up.
Ben: Okay, got it.
TJ: And, we're going to start smelling this vinegar, which you perceive the acid, of course, in your nose and you start to see this. For me, when you taste this, you smell earthiness and a little sweetness. Just smelling at this point. These grapes were aged in barrels, outdoors for about three years for the wine-making part of the process. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage site for how these vineyards were planted. They've been planted on these terrace slopes where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. And, they get very little rainfall there and the soil is a schist type of soil. These roots from these grapevines really have to work super hard in all these cracks and crevices to get water and survive the heat of summer and very little rainfall.
So, there's some struggle that happens in the grape production. And typically, one of the main items of this area is Banyuls wine, which is a fortified wine or a sweeter dessert-style wine. We may get some hints of sweetness but it's not going to be a sweet vinegar compared to the balsamic. But, that's just a little bit of a backstory on this.
Ben: And, how long does a vinegar like this age for in the oak barrels?
TJ: Yes. So, three years in the first part of the process out under the sun in a barrel. And, that's the wine-making process. And then, it's brought inside, the mother is added, and then it's brought into a French oak barrel, a small French oak barrel where it sits for an additional three years somewhere around there. Every batch is different depending on where that barrel is stacked kind of in the rick house. If it's higher in the house where you get more heat and winemaking call it the angels share, the evaporation that happens. The angels take more. If it's on the lower part of the barrel room, the vinegar cellar, you won't get as much evaporation. So, there is not a hard and fast rule. That's why you have to have experts involved like Jauffrey who's the winemaker at this estate. He actually barrel selects. And then, of course, I was there as well. So, it's a really fun process.
So, let's take a little bit of this vinegar, whatever you're comfortable with, I don't want you to cough or choke. So, just start really, really small, but we're talking about the nose. I get hints of brown butter on the nose. I get a little rose water.
Ben: A little kind of fennel licoricey type of aroma, too.
TJ: Yes, absolutely. Plums, maybe some vanilla. Think about vanilla bean that kind of.
Ben: Yeah. Maybe just a little bit smoky.
TJ: Yes, absolutely. And, that could come from the toasted oak in the barrels too because that really imparts some flavor because they sit in there for so much time. So, let's take a little tiny sip of it.
TJ: My palette's awake now. It's like my palette's awake.
Ben: I know we're recording this at 11:00 a.m., and the last meal I had was just my morning little superfood smoothie. So, this is a shift, this is definitely a little bit more savory. Wow.
TJ: Yes, yes. So, on the palette, it's acidic yet there's a hint of sweetness. There's a fresh with notes of fennel, ginger, currants, toasted walnuts, and raisins is what I had in my report. And really, I get a little taste of a brown butter or Sherry vinegar. My palette kind of gleans there.
TJ: So, I use this one in rich dishes where I balance out fattiness. So, items like an antipasto salad, let's say antipasto salad where it's got provolone, it's got sliced prosciutto, it's got salami, pepperoni, all that sort of stuff in a big hearty salad. Well, in that kind of salad, I have a lot of fatty ingredients going on. This is the ideal vinegar. It's going to cut directly through that fat and make that salad just so flavorful. I mean, it's been what a minute since we tasted this and it's still going on. There's a little party going on in my taste buds. It's pretty incredible.
Ben: Oh, yeah. Yeah, it just keeps growing in the mouth.
Now, the fact that it would pair really well with a fatty meal, and one of the things that I like to make especially this time of year in the winter is a traditional a French beef bourguignon stew where I'll brown the cuts of stew meat in the bottom of a Dutch pot typically with butter or bacon fat. But, you could use something like this to kind of deglaze the pot or the pan beforehand to get all those caramelized bits in the bottom and make a little bit of a sauce.
TJ: You are exactly on the path. I would totally do this with beef bourguignon.
TJ: It's a great substitute for red wine, but also you can do the same thing would say the goal is, the pair, my wife makes some pork chops, for example. So, you would sear some pork chops.
Ben: Oh, my gosh. I have two beautiful bone-in pork chops in the freezer. Keep going, keep going.
TJ: Alright, I'm going to set that up for you. We'll get back to that when we talk about Gölles because I want to tell you more about that. But, let's go a little bit further on this, Banyuls.
So, this one, I also use for quick pickling. So, quick pickling is if you find onions and garlic really strong in your salad, have some family members that are like, “It's too overpowering for my salad.” Then what I do, I take a little of this vinegar that I'm going to be using to make my vinaigrette and I chop, finely chop, you could use shallots, you could use onion, you could use garlic and you macerate those ingredients in a little vinegar. You do a vinegar soak on them. And so, basically, it's pre-blooming, those ingredients in the vinegar. And then, later in the process, you would add your other ingredients, maybe some mustard and then your olive oil.
Ben: How long would I leave something like the chopped-up onions or the garlic inside of vinegar like this?
TJ: Depending on how big they are, I mean, you could go as little as 15 minutes and I don't know, as long as maybe an hour.
Ben: Okay. It's not that long.
TJ: No, not that long, but basically you're imparting the flavor, you're letting those flavors bloom in advance prior to adding your olive oil, mustard, herbs, et cetera.
TJ: So, this one for me is a quick pickling vinegar. It's got enough acidity to be able to pull that off. Some of these other ones, it's a little tougher to do that with and, like you said, deglazing. We talked about a wonderful lyonnaise-style salad with the crispy bacon and lardon. We talked about greens. You love salad. Obviously, you could use that for that. Anything that would use Roquefort cheese or blue cheese would go beautifully with this. You could use it for a warm potato salad.
In your intro, you talked about the levels of carbohydrate.
Ben: Right, the anti-glycemic effect. Yeah.
TJ: Yeah, anti — Yeah. So, you're the science guy. But, it's very interesting in a lot of cultures that vinegar is paired, for example, in a warm potato salad. In Germany, they would pair that with vinegar. So, you've got your acid there that's paired with potatoes or obviously grilled vegetables. You could use it on cooked kale and other greens.
Ben: It'd be pretty good on an egg salad, too.
TJ: Yes, absolutely. Excellent marinade sauces, deglaze a pan. It will brighten braises or stews and make quick pickled onions or other vegetables. So, that was my list I had for you.
Ben: So, that's the Banyuls. I love it. Okay. Alright, cool. This is awesome. Let's do the next one.
TJ: So, next up, Ben, we're going to try the pear balsamic vinegar. So, this product, giving you a little history on this, this is one I discovered many years ago at the Christmas markets in Germany. I was tasting specialty food products there and I found this vinegar producer who had an amazing line of vinegar. And, I was, “Balsamic?” I'm skeptical. “It's from Austria, not Italy. What's going on?” Well, I started to dig a little deeper. And, this producer actually was a schnapps producer. He was very familiar with making incredible Austrian brandies and whiskeys and that sort of thing. And, he would use incredible fruit from his own vineyards, heirloom varieties of fruit, whether it was apple or pear or cherry to make incredible schnapps. He vacationed in Modena, Italy. He tasted balsamic vinegar there made from grapes. And, he had this aha moment. He's like, “I can do this at home. I have a bunch of apples, amazing heirloom apples that I can use this process, this balsamic process to make an incredible apple balsamic.”
So, his first product was apple balsamic, which was in last year's collection. And, this year's collection, it's the pear balsamic. But, just to give you a little context on that one. So, this one is more drinkable. I'll say it's more drinkable than the first one. The acid is more integrated.
Ben: Definitely smells sweeter.
TJ: Yeah. Let's just take a smell of this one. So, fruit-based vinegar. You smell the pear in there right away.
Ben: Oh, yeah.
TJ: It's just got scent of roasted pears. It's got notes of malt and caramel. It's got sweet berry jam figs, I think chestnut honey, which is a very earthy honey, and also roasted chestnuts on the nose.
Ben: Compared to the Banyuls, it's definitely less acidic. When we're talking about acidity, I think what is like a 4 to 7% range that you find in these vinegars?
TJ: Yes, yes.
Ben: And so, would this one be close to 4?
TJ: This one, because it's paired with the 5% acidity in this, 5%. Banyuls is 6%, yes. And so, let's talk a little bit about how this is made. This producer Gölles, he made this trip. He's got these amazing old-world varieties. He boils down pear juice as the first step.
TJ: And then, he actually ferments the pear juice. And then, after that, introduces his mother, and then he places it in barrels. And, it's barrel-aged for many years. You don't want to overage a pear balsamic because the pear flavor starts to dissipate. So, his apple balsamic was an 8 to 10-year in barrel. This is closer to four to six years in barrel for this one. Just read the label. So, we were going to look for that really nice pear flavor. I'm going to go ahead and take a sip. I can't wait any longer. So, I'm going to take a little sip of this one.
Ben: Yeah. Oh, my gosh, I'm already thinking of putting this one on a vanilla ice cream. Wouldn't that be good?
TJ: Man, that's good.
TJ: So, there's a slight earthiness, reminiscent of vanilla pipe tobacco. I get this vanilla pipe tobacco. I also get hints of cinnamon and grapefruit zest. I also taste stewed pears. I get delicate notes of vanilla, dried plums, caramel. There's the caramel starting to come.
TJ: The dark cherries, hazelnuts, orange marmalade, and macadamia nuts. So, those are what I said as the tasting notes on the palette. We were talking about pork before, these pork chops you have in the fridge. So, here's what I would do. I would sear my pork chops however you normally do that in a pan.
Ben: I find with these thick pork chops–I have the big pastured pork chops from U.S. Wellness Meats. I really like their pork. I sous vide it at about 140 degrees or so. Usually, about two and a half hours, and then I do my sear. But typically, when I sous vide it, I'll have a little marinade in the sous vide bag. And so, I'm even doing that before I get it out to the sear. But, suppose I've sous-vide it, then what would you do for the sear?
TJ: You could probably use a little of this in the sous vide because it breaks down the protein and it'll actually tenderize the meat. Vinegar, you can actually use to tenderize meat.
Ben: In the past, I've used for that sous vide bag one of my favorites is a little apple cider vinegar with a Dijon mustard. But, I think this would be way better than the apple cider.
TJ: This will take it off the charts. Okay. So, when you're done searing it, take your pork chops out of the pan, add a little grainy mustard or Dijon mustard, whatever you have, then add a splash, remove it from the heat, add a good heavy splash of the pear balsamic vinegar, and then let it reduce with the fatty richness of the pork. It's just going to make an incredible sauce. When you have really incredible ingredients, you don't need a million ingredients, it's pretty spectacular.
TJ: Let's say you have some fresh thyme around, maybe pluck some fresh thyme at the end to put in the sauce. But, that's all you need. And, a lot of people throw the best part of the dish away. They remove the food and they don't deglaze the pan. That's called fond, F-O-N-D. And, that fond is where your flavor is. So, anytime you're cooking a protein, remove the protein, add a splash of great vinegar, add a splash of wine, work it with a spatula, and you've got an instant sauce right on your hands with a lot of flavor.
Ben: Yeah, because you're getting all the caramelized bits in the bottom and then that's the fond. And then, when you add the vinegar, that gives you your sauce.
By the way, my wife and my sons are gone tomorrow night. I've got somebody coming over to do a little cranial sacral therapy on the back of my head for some tightness, and I'm literally going to go upstairs after that and have my own little pork chop party all by myself in my kitchen. It's going to be amazing. You've got my Friday night planned out for me, man. I'm looking forward to this.
TJ: I love it. I love it. Well, you got an incredible ingredient. It's going to be pretty spectacular.
This one over bitter greens is fantastic. Like I said, stewed collards, that sort of thing. Mustard greens, that sweetness of the pear with mustard greens, just a quick sauté of baby mustard greens, or even the super mix. We will do a quick sauté on SuperMix. And then–
Ben: Wait, what's SuperMix?
TJ: SuperMix is it's called Supergreens. I should have used the word Supergreens. There's a package of greens in the grocery store. It's usually near the salad spring mix and it's called Supergreens. It's like baby kale–
Ben: I think I know what you're talking about, yeah.
TJ: It's a real quick side dish, right? If you're looking for a one-minute side dish, heat a pan, throw in your Supergreens with some olive oil, a little salt and then just kind of move them around, just gently cook them. You don't want to cook them until they are completely wilted and then just finish it with a little bit of incredible pear vinegar or balsamic or calamansi depending on the dish. And, you're going to have a pretty spectacular side in less than five minutes.
Ben: Yeah. By the way, I'm going to up-level your Supergreens recommendation because I have a lettuce grow out in my garage, which is a whole vertical vegetable growing unit. And so, I order my seedlings from that. And, in the winter, I can have 20 different varietals of fresh greens. So, right now, I've got shiso leaf, I've got some thyme, some rosemary, lettuce, kale, butter lettuce. And so, I can go out there and just grab a whole collection of that and use that in this Supergreens recipe. So, you ever seen one of those, those big vertical indoor grow systems?
TJ: They're very cool, they're very cool. I'm very jealous. I travel too much. I usually am on the road for olive oil about over 200 days of the year. So, I got home to meditate and eat those greens. But, I'm sure some family members would help me out like shiso, really you're growing your own shiso? I'm so jealous.
Have you ever heard of a shrub cocktail before? Are you familiar with shrubs at all?
TJ: Basically, a shrub for your listeners that don't know is a vinegar-based cocktail. And typically, it is a macerated fruit. So, step one would be taking some blueberries, some fresh blueberries or frozen blueberries and mixing them with some sugar and letting those macerate for, I don't know, 24 hours. And, you can add simple syrup to it. Basically, you're making a sweetened fruit juice. That's step one. Step two is you add vinegar such as this pear balsamic, which is incredible when you add it to blueberries. And then, you strain it at the end. And then, you use that with seltzer and crust ice and maybe a few crushed blueberries or fresh blueberries that's a garnish and maybe mint. It's an incredible non-alcoholic cocktail.
Ben: And, for before a meal, again for the glycemic lowering component, that's something I'll often do is, well, if I'm out at a restaurant, I'll order bitters over soda water or tonic water with a little bit of ice and a squeeze of lemon. And so, you get that glycemic lowering effect, but this is great. I'm going to try a shrub recipe. I haven't actually made a shrub cocktail at home, but you're right, I have all these fantastic vinegars now, so why not?
TJ: Now's your moment.
TJ: And, the pear balsamic, you just can take a splash of seltzer. If you don't want to go through the shrub process, just get a nice seltzer, nice sparkling water, and add the pear balsamic to it. It's a wonderful aperitif. It's just really, really impressive.
Ben: Lazy man's cocktail. I like it.
TJ: That's right, that's right. I do the same with the calamansi and we'll get to that one in a minute. But, the next one we're going to taste is the Condimento al Aceto Balsamico di Modena.
Ben: This is the balsamic.
TJ: This is the real deal Italian balsamic.
TJ: So, let me set this up for you because there's a lot of fakes as we talked about in balsamic. It's a very complicated topic. Even me, as someone who's been to the region multiple times, Megan and I, we actually visited this producer and found his incredible barrel-aged balsamics on our honeymoon. We did a road trip in one of my favorite foodie spots in the world is Modena, Italy, for the reasons we've talked about. This producer makes an incredible balsamic.
So, there are different categories of balsamic. The most expensive comes in a very tiny bottle. It is basically boiled down grape must, which is grape juice that they reduced and then it's added to what's called a battery of barrels. A battery of barrels is maybe 10 barrels of different sizes. Maybe the first one holds 20 gallons, the last one maybe holds a liter.
When you are born in that area into a family, typically a battery of barrels is started for your family for future generations. So, people in this area, Emilia-Romagna Modena are very particular when it comes to vinegar. And, the vinegar that's produced in this very small system, this closed cast system with the sequence of barrels of different types of wood, cherry, oak, chestnut, because they impart different flavors, essentially the process that happens is aging takes a lot of years. It's 12 to 24 years to get a tiny bottle of vinegar and it sells for 200 bucks a bottle. So, it can be really expensive. So, it's too extravagant to use in vinaigrette in your kitchen. It's too extravagant to really just use as kind of an everyday vinegar, which you could, the one I've produced. Alright. So, that's what's called DOP is that level that we were talking about, about 200 bucks for a very, very small bottle. You typically use it on strawberries, you would use it on risotto, that sort of thing. So, that's step one.
And then, on the other end of the spectrum is IGP. And, IGP is another classification. And, there are producer organizations in these regions that actually classify your products depending on the quality. So, if I wanted to produce a DOP vinegar, I have to send a sample to the panel who has to certify and say, “Yes, you're approved, you can sell that.” So, that was not accessible to my club members. So, I stayed away from that. I went with kind of a hybrid, which is called condimento. You'll notice the word “condimento” on the top of the bottle.
Ben: Yeah, I saw that.
TJ: This condimento category, so there's DOP, there's IGP, and then there's condimento. Condimento gives the producers the flexibility to try to make a vinegar that has a very similar flavor and texture to a really amazing DOP without taking 12 to 24 years or longer.
TJ: So, that's why I chose to use a condimento because in my kitchen, I like to use balsamic as a sweetener in vinaigrette. I would typically do a blend. If I were making a vinaigrette for a salad, I would blend a little bit of the balsamic with a little bit of the Banyuls because I want that acidity but I also want that sweetness in there as well. So, when I have my olive oil and my salt, I've just got this incredible trifecta for my greens. So, that's what I would do.
Ben: You're so impatient you don't want to wait 25 years for the IGP.
TJ: Yeah. I mean, you would be too coveted, right? It'd be one of those things you'd leave in your pantry and not touch.
Ben: Too fine to drink.
TJ: Yeah, it's too fine. It's too fine. So, this was the perfect medium and I just had to find the right producer that would help me get to the flavor profile that I wanted to get, which meant leaving it in barrels longer, meant using a mixture of barrels. I've got cherry. I've got chestnut. These varieties of fruit wood in these barrels add to the complexity of flavor. As the evaporation happens inside the barrel, you get this viscosity that happens and the rounding of flavor and the integration of the grape must, which is pretty thick, and the vinegar working together.
So, let's take a smell of this one. You'll notice right away how thick and viscous it is. It was made with Lambrusco and Trebbiano grapes. Those are the only two grapes that can be used to make a real Italian balsamic. There's a balance of acidity, sweetness from the grape must, and the woodiness of the barrel aging. This one was in cherry barrels for more than two years and it's very much made like a cuvée or a fine wine, blending a fine wine.
So, let's do a smell test. Oh, my gosh. So good.
Ben: So good.
TJ: It's so good. Alright, I get prunes, I get dried figs, I get sweet dark cherries, especially dried sweet dark cherries. I get dark chocolate. I get hints of vanilla, caramel, and toasted oak. So, I'm getting all these items off the nose. Do you get anything else there or anything stand out to you?
Ben: I definitely get that small dark berry type of aroma from it. Maybe a little bit of a raisin or a honey.
Ben: And, that might just be sweet–
TJ: Yes, absolutely.
Ben: Yeah, I would say a little raisin, a little honey.
TJ: Absolutely. Like a dark honey, a rich dark honey. Yeah, or raisins. I totally get that.
Ben: I mean, I could even drizzle this on oatmeal in the morning. I mean, this is amazing. Because usually, you put things that in oatmeal, you have raisin, little honey. My sons have oatmeal a lot of mornings or some blueberries and so you could totally use something like this even for that.
TJ: I love that idea. This is like a balsamic lollipop or something. I've already raised the head like, hmm, it's like a Tootsie Roll or something. It's like a cherry Tootsie Roll.
Ben: What kind of recipes do you like to use this in?
TJ: So, for me, I love that it's thick, tangy, velvety. I love that all the taste in there from the dark honey to the plums. I think it pairs beautifully with cocktails. We talked about shrubs, making shrubs. For me, like I said, I usually blend it with other vinegars. I don't like my salad super sweet, so I've used a blend of the Banyuls and the balsamic. You are a huge fan of organ meat and wild game.
TJ: This one is incredible with wild boar.
Ben: Wait, with wild what?
TJ: Wild boar or venison. Yes, venison especially. Think about this one as–or lamb. If you were doing a rack of lamb, and that rack of lamb comes out of the oven and you slice it and place it on a platter and you drizzle a little bit of balsamic, think about how that acid is going to just bring that roasted rack of lamb alive.
Ben: It would honestly be really nice on you even, like a lot of times I'll do a thin sliced liver or heart. And, a lot of times I'll dredge it with egg and coconut flour and some spices and then fry it up with a little bit of olive oil, but I could even try almost very similar to a sous vide because I'll do that sometimes with the organ meats. But, I don't know if I'd need to bread it and fry it so much if I had something like this. I might actually see how that pairs like a balsamic, a fine balsamic this with an organ meat. It could actually be pretty good.
TJ: I think it's going to really, really work. For me, it's as simple as drizzling it over prosciutto, goat cheese or figs as a first course. You could pour it over vanilla ice cream with strawberries for dessert. I mean, it's limitless. It's kind of like with the olive oil. You choose your adventure. You choose your fun. But, basically, whatever you're cooking, this takes it to the next level. So, that's the goal and kind of gets you reinvigorated in the kitchen.
Ben: I love this. So, of course, I love balsamic in general, but man, so many places I could go with this one. Wow. And, that's really cool to know that, I mean, you're getting the quality of a multi-hundred-dollar bottle of a DOP. But man, for people who might not be able to afford that or want to see what something like that would taste like and not have the guilt factor over actually consuming it, what you have in your pantry. Wow, I really like this. Man, it's fancy, it's got the lot number on the bottle and everything.
Well, again, when you look at the ingredients, there aren't additives, just as cooked grape–what's grape must?
TJ: So, it's cooked down complete grapes. So, they harvest the grapes, they de-stem them, they put them in a cauldron, and they boil them there. Why'd you use the word “boil,” but they don't boil. It's a very slow process. They want very little evaporation. So, yeah, that's cooked down grape juice essentially but it's the whole fruit, two actual grape varieties; the Lambrusco and the Trebbiano grapes there that's also used in Lambrusco.
Ben: Wow, amazing.
TJ: Alright, so the next one.
Ben: Okay, last one. Here we go.
TJ: Yes. So, okay, this one shake it a little bit, you want to shake it a little bit.
Ben: This is the calamansi.
TJ: Calamansi, calamansi. Now, this one is totally out of left field, okay? So, this, I've been talking about barrel-aged, I've been talking about DOP, I've been talking about winemaking, and all this stuff. Alright, this one is really outside of that field. And, it was very hard for me to include something in my collection that was kind of outside my normal range. But, I fell in love with this vinegar. My wife has been using calamansi, Megan has been using calamansi vinegar in our kitchen for a long time.
Ben: And, calamansi is a fruit?
TJ: Absolutely. Yes, let me give you some background on that. It's a Filipino fruit. This is a fair trade product. It's a calamansi fruit pulp. And, the calamansi fruit itself is kind of a cross between a kumquat and a mandarin. To me, it also has a lot of yuzu kind of flavor. So, you'll taste, I don't know, it's a really interesting style of vinegar. So, this vinegar I call a cocktail-style vinegar, but there's no real barrel aging that takes place. It's amazing vinegar that it started with a brandy vinegar, just a pretty simple brandy vinegar. And then, a calamansi juice is added to create, and a little bit of cane sugar, fair trade cane sugar to kind of round it out a little bit.
Ben: Honestly, don't laugh, but initially, it's almost got this kind of Sprite, Mountain Dew type of soda aroma to it. Probably because like the orange citrusy nature of the calamansi. So, yeah, it almost smells like a soda. Honestly, I could add some of this to just some Pellegrino or Perrier and automatically have a nice little homemade soda, some of that shrub cocktail we were talking about. But, yeah, I get a lot of that. It's very fresh kind of lemon, orange, lime. Yeah, you mentioned yuzu, probably a little bit of that, and then a tangerine.
TJ: Yeah, yeah. No, I totally get it. So, I say on the nose, yuzu, mandarin, orange, lemon, lime, fresh ginger, I smell lemongrass, I get a little lemon verbena or a lemon candle or lime leaf. I kind of get the aroma of lime leaves as well. I say we take a little sip of this one because, like I said, it's a cocktail-style vinegar.
Ben: Oh, my gosh.
TJ: So, let me take a little sip. I can't wait any longer.
Ben: This is so good.
TJ: Wow. There's that burst of sweetness that gives way to a citrusy kind of tingle. You'll taste hints of sour orange, key limes, yuzu, florals like jasmine. You'll get herbal notes like chamomile and lavender. You'll get orange blossom honey, kumquat, and tangerine on the palate. And, that's so good.
Ben: That is really good. I mean, oh man, yeah, just give me some sparkling water and some ice and I could just suck this down all day long. It's amazing. We talked about adding vinegar to olive oil. You ever add it to wine?
TJ: No. I've not tried that.
Ben: Just curious. Almost like a sangria type of thing.
TJ: Yeah. I was going to say maybe with the calamansi, I could do that with something that's maybe a little sweeter white to kind of balance it. But, yeah, I could totally. So, this one, honestly you could use for any recipe that calls for lemon or lime. I love it in salsa. I love it guacamole. I've made a lemon cake with it. I made lemon curd.
Ben: Oh, yeah.
TJ: I've made entrees like chicken piccata, very simple dish for fast recipes. Salmon, you could do herbs and garlic and this on salmon. I was even thinking about ceviche or crudité.
Ben: You're right, yeah. It would be especially with that citrusy. I have a sashimi-grade fish, all these delivery services I have a hard time keeping track. Sashimi grade fish at a service called Seatopia. I get a sashimi-grade fish delivered to my house once a month. And, a lot of it, of course, it's such high-quality clean fish. You can do a ceviche with it. Yeah, this would be really, really good, a little salt, a little lime, and add some of this vinaigrette to it. Yeah, that's a great idea.
TJ: Yeah, tuna tataki. I've been thinking about mixing it with some soy sauce and making tuna tataki would be great.
All of these vinegars, when you start roasting let's say root vegetables in your kitchen, when you pull that out of the oven and you put it on the side, can you imagine drizzling that with a little bit of one of these balsamics or a little bit of the calamansi and tossing it around in a roasting pan before you give it its final seasoning, final herbs, and putting it in the serving bowl. So, there's this flavors of fat acid and salt. And, you need to learn to balance those things. And, one of the mistakes I see people making most is not tasting while they're cooking. It's very important part of the process is have a spoon. You want to taste things before you place them on your table. So, please take the time and adjust those elements. Does it need extra fresh olive oil? Does it need a little hint of acid? Does it need a little salt? And, in salt land, we could talk there, is it salt of different textures? I'm sure you've used flaky sea salt from Europe or the Colima salt.
Ben: Yeah, I love the Colima.
TJ: They're different. Yeah. Learning to kind of modulate those three items will really just take your cooking to an entirely new level. What's the Japanese green that you're growing?
Ben: The shiso.
TJ: Shiso, shiso. I want you to take some shiso and put it in the bottom of a cocktail glass. I want you to add a little calamansi vinegar to it. I want you to muddle it using a small muddling tool or macerate it, but shiso in cocktails is fantastic.
Ben: Yeah. Well, it's very similar to mint, so you'd almost get a little bit of a mojito effect.
TJ: Exactly. But, calamansi, shiso, can imagine that with a little crushed ice and a little seltzer on top. Oh, my gosh, you're going to be in heaven.
Ben: Oh, I'm going to make my wife one of those tonight. She likes mojitos. I'm going to make her a shiso calamansi mojito. That's a great idea.
TJ: There's just so many cool directions you can go with this. It's really cool to have this in your culinary arsenal. It goes perfectly–my club members were basically begging me, They were writing me all the time, “What vinegar do you recommend?” And, I could not really make a good recommendation. There wasn't one that I could get my support behind. So, I was really happy to be able to collect and basically curate this collection of what I would typically put in my suitcase to bring home from my European road trips. That's kind of what kind of got this whole thing going.
Ben: This is so fun. And, as you guys can hear, it opens you up to this whole new culinary universe. And, I'll put this in the shownotes if you go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/VinegarPodcast or you could just go to GreenfieldPantry.com because TJ made us a special URL is you can get the olive oil if you want to try the olive oils, which I recommend going with the vinegars if your pocketbook permits. But, man, I mean, if you already have tasted olive oils or you find the concept of olive oil kind of old news, this calamansi particularly, man, just try a little bit of it, it's amazing. It's right around a little under $100 to get all four bottles, right?
TJ: Yes, it's four bottles for 98 bucks. It's a one-time thing. It's not a quarterly selection. It's only the one collection. It comes with the pressing report you talked about, which is filled with recipes. All my pictures from the road trips, we talked about, a picture of the producers in the Philippines who actually grow the calamansi fruit for this German producer who makes this incredible calamansi vinegar. It's a fun culinary adventure. We'd love to have you come along.
Ben: Alright, so tomorrow night, it's going to be the pork chop with the pair of balsamic and a little bit of a deglaze after the final sear. And, I'm probably going to do just a real basic onions, garlic, maybe a little bit of squash. And then, it's going to be a shrub-style cocktail or else one of these calamansi mojitos. And, I'll probably drag out a little bit of a coconut vanilla ice cream, put a little balsamic on top of it. And, I think we got dinner planned for tomorrow night. You want to come join hop on a plane?
TJ: I think you do. I would be there. That sounds incredible. Every course has vinegar in it. It's incredible. There's no limits when it comes to this stuff, which is super cool.
Ben: Awesome, man. Well, this has been a pleasure. I have to say this is the first time I've drank this much vinegar at my desk in the morning. I have no regrets at all. This is amazing. So again, folks, I'm going to put all the links at GreenfieldPantry.com or also at BenGreenfieldLife.com/VinegarPodcast. You can leave your comments, your questions, your feedback over there.
And, TJ, thank you once again for taking my palette for a wild roller coaster ride and for going out and hunting all this stuff down.
TJ: It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for your support. It means so much.
Alright, you may have heard the rumblings about this event as actually happening. So, get out your calendar, March 10th through the 12th, March 10th through the 12th, 2023, of course, I am doing a big event in the hot spot of Sedona, Arizona. If you haven't been to Sedona, it's amazing. The hiking is amazing. The food is amazing. The energy is amazing. And, my friend, two-time former podcast guest and an amazing expert in breathwork and self-discovery, in movement, and all the cool things that happen as far as body, mind, spirit connection down there in Sedona is putting on an event, her grand opening event at this place called SHINE in Sedona. And, I'm going to be there giving a keynote talk, teaching you all about breathwork, and biohacking.
But, that's not all, she has so many experts coming in. We have a freaking KAKAO ceremony. If you've ever done a KAKAO ceremony, it's drinking really good chocolate in a very ceremonial way. You're going to love it. They got mind-body reset sessions using quantum energetic technologies, infrared rays, negative ion therapy, crystals, these special mats that you lay on as you do special forms of breath work. They've got a heart expansion coaching session where you actually learn using neurofeedback technology, how to guide and modulate your nervous system. The list goes on and on, but what's cool is there's even a VIP dinner with me. I'm bringing my entire family to Sedona and we are going to cook you a Greenfield-style home dinner right at a private location. It's a VIP part of this experience. Not only that, but my sister is going to be playing live music there. So, the whole thing's just going to be amazing.
Anyways, if you want to get in, we're only opening up the dinner to 25 guests and SHINE has limited space, so tickets are very limited for this. They're going to go fast. And again, it's coming up quick, March 10th through the 12th. You can fly into Phoenix if you need to get to the area. If you're already in Phoenix or the Sedona area, you know where you're going. So, here's the address, bengreenfieldlife.com/SHINESedona. That's bengreenfieldlife.com/SHINESedona. You can get in. You can grab your ticket. There's different ticket levels. There's the tickets for the VIP dinner experience. You can even attend virtually at a fraction of the cost if you can't make it there live even though there's a lot of cool things happening, of course, if you are there live. So, one more time, bengreenfieldlife.com/ShineSedona. If you don't know how to spell Sedona, just go google that, SHINESedona. I hope to see you there. Alright.
More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be, and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.
My guest on this podcast, TJ Robinson, aka “The Olive Oil Hunter ®” is well known as one of the world's most respected authorities on all things olive oil.
Known for his “platinum palate,” he is one of the few Americans invited to serve as a judge in prestigious Italian olive oil tasting competitions.
He is dedicated to importing rare fresh-pressed olive oil, the most flavorful and most healthful extra virgin olive oil on the planet, until now virtually impossible to obtain year-round in the US. All his oils are independently lab-tested and certified for 100% purity.
Regarding olive oil, TJ helped to write the article “Answers To Your Top 8 Burning Questions About Olive Oil Revealed (& How To Avoid The Most Common, Dangerous Olive Oil Mistakes)” and also joined me for the epic olive oil podcast “What Olive Oil Should Taste Like, The Scary Truth About Olive Oil, Can You Cook With Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Much More!”
But what most people “don't” know about TJ is that he knows a ton about vinegar and spices too, and he recently introduced me and my family's palate to a whole new world of flavor-enhancing vinegar tactics that I never knew existed, straight from his new culinary collection of artisanal vinegars. At GreenfieldPantry.com, the vinegar is $98.00 for a 4-bottle set with shipping included – no club membership is required for the vinegar. You also have the chance to join TJ's olive oil club to go along with your vinegars and receive a $1 offer for Olive Oil.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-Introduction to vinegar…08:10
- Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club
- Produces olive oil and vinegar
- Podcast with TJ Robinson:
- TJ Robinson, known as the olive oil hunter is also a vinegar hunter
- How is vinegar produced?
- Four sensational vinegars hand-picked by TJ
- Vinaigre de Banyuls
- Barili Exclusivi Condimento
- Pear Balsamic Vinegar
- Calamansi Gourmet Vinegar
- Medicinal uses and applications of vinegar:
- Fighting infections
- Household disinfectant
- Insect and jellyfish stings
- Lowering blood pressure
- Anti-tumor activity
- Source of polyphenol
- Blood sugar control
- Oxymel – an ancient cough medicine formula of 4 parts honey and 1 part vinegar
- Kion Lean
- Study: Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect
–How TJ Robinson got interested in vinegar…23:12
- Olive oil really goes hand-in-hand with vinegar
- Ben adds honey and salt to the olive oil-vinegar mix
- TJ travels a lot, exploring cuisines and cultures
- Work as the Olive Oil Hunter has been going on for a few decades now, taking him to amazing regions where not only grapes are grown but also olives, olives and grapes
- A lot of exciting things going are on with vinegar at the moment
- Pear balsamic vinegar from Austria
- Avoid bad or fake vinegar on the market; aim for natural flavors
- Read labels – some producers take shortcuts and actually soak wood chips in the vinegar instead of actually aging it in real wooden barrels
- Growing up with apple cider or white distilled vinegar
- Later exposed to artisan, barrel-aged vinegar
–How to find a good vinegar producer…28:06
- Making a beautiful barrel-aged vinegar is like creating a very fine wine
- Local olive oil producers recommend good vinegar producers
- Talking to local chefs
- Food pairs perfectly with travel
- Tracking Global Award winners in the vinegar category
- Recommendations for purchasing a good vinegar
- Fully reading the label
- Staying away from artificial colors or extracts
- Looking for the country or region of origin (similar to wine)
- Barrel aged
- Single estate vs. mass company
- Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy
–How many kinds of vinegar are there?…40:06
- Anything that can be fermented and you can get alcohol from can be made into vinegar
- The mother of each vinegar is very important for the flavor
- The process of production – balancing sugar and acid
- From tart to sweet
- TJ’s road trip through Europe
- Curated a 4-bottle set
- Not a club, it's a one-time-a-year collection
- At the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club, you get a 20-page printout
- Science behind the vinegars
- Stories about the farms
-Opening a tasting box – Banyuls vinegar…47:50
- French, Vinaigre de Banyuls is the most acidic at 6%
- Red wine vinegar
- Found 15 years ago at a farmer’s market
- Ideal for French-style salads with fatty items that needs a very acidic vinegar
- Smelling – earthiness, and sweetness
- Aged in a French oak barrel for 3 years under the sun, 3 more indoors
- Good as pickling vinegar
–Pear balsamic vinegar…57:27
- Pear balsamic vinegar
- TJ discovered it in Germany at a Christmas market
- The producer, maker of Austrian whiskeys and brandies
- Vacationing in Modena and tasted balsamic vinegar made from grapes
- Used the process to make apple balsamic
- Later pear balsamic
- Fruit based vinegar, more drinkable, less acidic at 5%
- Can be used to tenderize meat
- Shrub cocktail
- Podcast with Sam Bertram:
-Condimento al Aceto Balsamico di Modena…1:08:07
- Condimento al Aceto Balsamico di Modena
- Italian balsamic vinegar from Modena
- Different categories
- DOP – very expensive – aging from 12 to 24 years
- Condimento – similar to DOP but not aging so long
- Smells sweet, like dried cherries, chocolate, oak
- As sweetener in vinaigrette
- Ideal for wild boar or venison
- Calamansi gourmet vinegar
- Outside of TJ's normal range
- Calamansi is a Philippine fruit
- Cocktail-style vinegar
- Made in Germany
- Smells like yuzu, mandarin, orange, lemon, lime, fresh ginger, lemongrass
- Taste hints of sour orange, limes, yuzu, florals like jasmine with herbal notes like chamomile and lavender, orange blossom, honey, kumquat, and tangerine on the palate
- Great in salsa, guacamole, fish
- Get 4 bottles at Greenfield Pantry.com for $98
-And much more…
- Six Senses Retreat: February 27, 2023 – March 3, 2023
Join me for my “Boundless Retreat” at Six Senses from February 27th, 2023 to March 3rd, 2023, where you get to improve on your functional fitness, nutrition, longevity, and the delicate balance between productivity and wellness. Complete with a healthy farmhouse breakfast, yoga spa sessions, and sound healing, you learn how to live a boundless life just like me, and I'd love to see you there. Learn more here.
- Shine Event / VIP Dinner: March 10th – March 12th
I want to personally invite you to an intimate VIP dinner experience with my family and I in beautiful Sedona, Arizona. I'll be in AZ during that time presenting as a keynote speaker at the Breath, Body & Beyond ‘Shine' event from March 10th to the 12th, and I'd love to see you there for my formal dinner on the 11th. At this dinner, you'll be presented with an exquisite home-style dinner personally prepared by the entire Greenfield family, a free signed copy of Boundless Cookbook, a personalized Q&A with me, and entertainment by local vocal artist and my younger sister, Aengel Greenfield. Learn more here.
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar!
Resources from this episode:
– TJ Robinson:
- Greenfield Pantry
- Vinaigre de Banyuls
- Barili Exclusivi Condimento
- Pear Balsamic Vinegar
- Calamansi Gourmet Vinegar
- Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club
- What Olive Oil Should Taste Like, The Scary Truth About Olive Oil, Can You Cook With Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Much More!
- Answers To Your Top 8 Burning Questions About Olive Oil Revealed (& How To Avoid The Most Common, Dangerous Olive Oil Mistakes)
- The Future Of Plants, Sustainable Agriculture, Vertical Farming, AI-Driven Personalized Nutrition, Child Education & More With Willo’s Sam Bertram.
– Other Resources:
- Kion Lean
- Beekeeper's Natural
- US Wellness Meats
- Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect
HVMN: Visit hvmn.com/BenG and use code BENG20 for 20% off any purchase of Ketone-IQ️. This is an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. You can now find HVMN in California Earthbar locations (located within Equinox).
Clearlight Sauna: If you want to sweat buckets in the privacy of your own home, go to HealwithHeat.com and use code: BEN for a discount and free shipping – the free shipping alone is a huge saving because these saunas are big, heavy, and well-made!
Naboso: Naboso features sensory-based product lines, created for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and biohackers as a way to optimize their foot health and foot recovery. Better movement begins now. Visit naboso.com/ben and use code BEN for 10% off”
Ultimate Longevity: Ready to hack your sleep and stay grounded while recovering? Head to ultimatelongevity.com/ben to get your hands on grounding mats for your mattress, pillow, blankets, and other valuable tools to help you bring down your inflammation and jumpstart your healing.
Six Senses Event: Join me in this beautiful 19th-century wine estate in Portugal and enjoy treatments that go beyond the ordinary in Six Senses Spa. Ten treatment rooms and an indoor pool with chromotherapy and an underwater sound system offer a unique and layered wellness experience. Try delicious food made with local sensitivity and global sensibility. Head over to bengreenfieldlife.com/sixsenses and claim your spot today.
SHINE Sedona: Join my family and me in Sedona Arizona from March 10-12, 2023 at an amazing event hosted by SHINE. I'll be giving a keynote talk on breathwork and biohacking, and hosting a VIP Greenfield-style home-cooked dinner prepared by my family. Tickets are limited so get yours quick at bengreenfieldlife.com/SHINESedona.
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for TJ or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!