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The Power Of Vinegar

Lessons learned while homeschooling

Small bottles of flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the kitchen.
Small bottles of flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the kitchen.

I’m a healthy eater and love to cook, so I know my way around fancy vinegars.  They offer big flavors with minimal calories and have endless uses. Balsamic drizzle on tomato, mozarella and basil, red wine vinegar for Greek dressing, Champagne vinegar for fancy salads, apple cider vinegar for a hidden delight in my stuffed zucchini. My husband even takes a tablespoon of ACV every night to ward off acid reflux. Flavored vinegar has always been a part of my life.

But what about that large jar of clear distilled vinegar my mom had growing up and has been in the back of my cleaning cupboard for a decade. I heard rumors of using it as a natural cleaning solution, propagated by Monica from Friends, but did anyone really do that? What was it actually for?

Now that I’ve been homeschooling for over a month, I can’t imagine life without that miracle liquid. I worried we’d be caught in a supply shortage, unable to fulfill all the things on our list we were now reliant on it for:

  1. Science projects. Would any homeschooling experience (by choice or force) be complete without an exploding volcano? Vinegar is the key ingredient. Simply add to baking soda in a vase and watch your kids’ faces light up in wonder.  It’s an easy experiment with a fundamental learning lesson about acid and reactions. You can also dissolve an egg’s shell in a cup of vinegar. The kids loved checking on the progress over 48 hours. And the list goes on.
  2. This is a big one for moms: it takes out slime. Yes, you read that right. If you have a budding slime enthusiast, it’s pure magic. Saved me from trashing our duvet, a dress, and favorite pillow, to name a few. Vinegar dissolves the slime in a few seconds flat without any color damage to the fabric or water stain like ring. If only I knew that trick before my seven-year-old daughter cut three inches off her friend’s hair as their only means to get the slime out. Especially sine they left it on the floor and I thought it was a dead mouse.
  3. Easter’s over, but egg dying wouldn’t have been the same without it. There’s also a wealth of art projects, like creating fizzy paint based on the vinegar baking soda duo.
  4. It’s the only substance that refreshes our chalkboard wall back to it’s original lux black surface. Just mix with water for the perfect finish.
  5. The solution for vomit on a couch. Yep. I don’t like to talk about it, but there was a wrong turn made during a stomach bug and our couch was soaked. Major crisis. No amount of scrubbing or soap lifted the stench. I’m not sure why this isn’t common knowledge, but vinegar is also the only thing that works. I tried it all, including baking soda, which is a sound idea, but still falls short. I was worried our 6 month old couch would never be the same, but no one would ever know and good, because I really still don’t want to talk about it.
  6. Baking. That’s right – good old fashioned baking. My mom makes the best treats and is famous for “Grandma Golda’s black bottom cupcakes.” She brings them with her whenever she visits, sends them for the kids’ classes on birthdays and is constantly being asked to make them by everyone. I always eat them but never make them because my mom doesn’t use the same kind of ingredients I do. She knows she’s not allowed to bring shortening i.e. hydrogenated oil in my house and I could only imagine what she put in those cupcakes. I finally asked for the recipe to do a cupcake makeover and wouldn’t you know it – the secret ingredient is vinegar. I had never even heard of that in a cupcake, which is another great teaching lesson about acid and baking. I switched all the ingredients to healthier versions, but there was no need to replace the harmless vinegar. I was pleasantly surprised how good the new version came out!
  7. Cooking part 2 – Need buttermilk in a pinch? Just add to vinegar to milk and march on. Let’s also not forget it’s the secret to making perfect poached eggs.
  8. Pickles. Ok – I haven’t actually made these yet, but it’s on the list. I don’t know about you, but I have the toughest time finding perfect pickles. I even went to Picklefest in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and got a few contenders, but I think I can do better when I set my mind to it.
baking soda with white vinegar is the base of the
ultimate science project for kids: exploding volcanoes
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