Essig-Essenz is Germany’s all-around product you can’t live without

Essig-Essenz is Germany’s all-around product you can’t live without

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

An old proverb cautions us that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. While the saying speaks to the fact it’s easier to win people over with politeness rather than hatred, it overlooks the fact that cider vinegar mixed with dish liquid in a glass topped with cling film is, in fact, a very effective way to lure those annoying little fruit fries we see at this time of the year to their demise.

But today we’re introducing you to another type of vinegar: Essig-essenz, or vinegar essence.

Essig-essenz is widely available at just about any supermarket or drug store you’re likely to walk into within Germany and costs about 1.20 euros per 400-gram bottle. The most common brands you’re likely to see include "Surig" or "Kühne." You’ll generally find it on the shelves next to less-extraordinary types of vinegar. It may look just like water, but it’s anything but.

What sets this product apart is its super strength. Vinegar essence is the same acetic acid found in ordinary vinegar, but at a much higher concentration. It comes in at around a whopping 25% acid, as compared to your basic table vinegar, which is likely to be around the 4 or 5% mark. Its highly-concentrated nature makes it a product you will never, ever find on American supermarket shelves. In the U.S., one of the few places you’re apt to cross paths with such a highly-concentrated vinegar is a garden shop, where it’s sold as a weed-killing agent. It’s definitely not food-grade quality and marked as such.

Germans are not somehow more acid-tolerant than the rest of us. In cooking and food prep, the product is used in a diluted form; one part vinegar essence is generally diluted with four parts water. From there, it’s used in the preparation of a variety of classic dishes including cucumber salad, potato salad, sauerbraten and quite a few soups. It’s also used for pickling and marinating fish, meat and vegetables. When cut with wine, champagne or sherry, it produces a rather luxurious dressing. It should never, ever be consumed in its undiluted state!

In addition to its culinary versatility, the product is also an effective and versatile cleaner. As such, it is also used in diluted form. Things you can use it for include keeping your windows squeaky clean, sanitizing household surfaces (it’s a virus killer!) or as a fabric softener in your wash. But perhaps amongst Essig-Essenz’s best tricks is its ability to remove limescale from kettles, coffee makers, showerheads and anything else that gets clogged up with that annoying, appliance-destroying white buildup so common around these parts.

Another reason to love vinegar essence is that, as a natural product, it does no harm to our natural environment.

Need more convincing? Consider this: Germans living in the U.S. longing to get their hands on a bottle of this product their grandma knew and loved would have to pay several times over the price it’s available for here.

Be safe and be sure to read the product warnings before use (you can do so by using the Google translate function on the website for Surig Essig-Essenz) and of course, keep it far, far away from any place where children could get into it.

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