Fig vinegar is a specialty vinegar that can be made from many varieties of figs. In some countries, culinary schools specialize in making fig vinegar from the fig tree varieties of their regions. Fig vinegars can be purchased in the grocery store specialty aisles or gourmet food stores, through mail-order and online specialty stores, or at local farmers markets. The purchase price of these vinegars are likely to be high, because figs tend to be expensive. Fig vinegars may also be made from wines, producing a sweet-sour tartness that animates various dishes.
Fig vinegars come in varieties that are flavored by mixed herbs or spices. Some people prefer them with the addition of herbs such as basil and garlic, while others prefer the sweetness of cinnamon or cloves added to the tangy vinegar. Winemakers from the wine country regions of northern Italy offer fermented fig vinegar, which can be used as marinades or glazes for duck or chicken. Farmers markets sometimes feature fig vinegars made from sweet mission or brown turkey figs with vanilla or cinnamon seasonings; these make excellent hospitality or holiday gifts.
The production of good fig vinegar is a two-step process. The first step ferments the figs into an alcoholic base, as yeast changes the figs' natural sugars into alcohol. The finishing step takes place as bacterial cultures called acetobacters turn the alcohol into an acid that becomes the vinegar. Though it only requires two steps, timing and great care during the fermentation process produces the best thick, sticky vinegar for use in marinades and dressings.
Recipes for making fig vinegar from many varieties of fig can be found online or in many good cookbooks. Homemade fig vinegar can be stored in sterilized glass jars or bottles; some recipes call for refrigeration and others for storage at room temperatures in a dark cupboard. Fig vinegars can be combined with a balsamic vinegar and lemon olive oils to make salad dressings, or drizzled over salad ingredients, melons, asparagus spears, or avocadoes. Dishes that combine nuts such as pecans or walnuts, fruits such as raspberries or cranberries, and cheeses with salad greens are complemented well by fig vinegar dressings. Dark fig vinegars can also be added into fruit pies such as cherry, apple, rhubarb, or spicy pumpkin pies as the tartness will be immediately detected.