Harry Rosenblum wants to help people become more self-sufficient. That’s part of the reason that he co-founded his cooking school, The Brooklyn Kitchen, in 2006, and part of the reason he’s written his new book, Vinegar Revival: Artisanal Recipes for Brightening Dishes and Drinks with Homemade Vinegars.
“There’s value in self-reliance and self-sufficiency, and for me that’s what cooking is about in general,” he says. “That’s one of the values in teaching people to cook, whether they’re young or old.” Point taken. But how does vinegar lead to independence? “Food is the easiest entree to self-sufficiency,” he says. Vinegar, for Rosenblum, is a stepping stone, not only to life of less processed foods but of better foods. “Most of the vinegar that’s available to people, they can make way better vinegar at home from stuff they’re already drinking. That’s a way you can improve your cooking, no matter how busy you are.” And Harry Rosenblum knows a thing or two about being busy.
In addition to running The Brooklyn Kitchen and releasing this first cookbook, he also co-founded the famed butcher shop The Meat Hook and hosts the Heritage Radio Network podcast “Feast Yr Ears.” Plus, he’s got kids to pick up from school and a dog that needs walking. Vinegar is in the background of all this. “You start with something so seemingly normal, and, though what feels like culinary alchemy, it turns into a delicious and satisfying ingredient,” he writes in the introduction to his book. Time leads to vinegar, vinegar leads to better food—from French onion soup with red wine vinegar to pork chops with balsamic vinegar to rye Manhattans with honey vinegar.
We asked Harry Rosenblum five questions about his new book Vinegar Revival, his favorite recipes and the inspiration behind all these acidic dishes:
Edible Brooklyn: What’s one recipe in the book you think is emblematic of the concept behind Vinegar Revival?
Harry Rosenblum: The cured mackerel is a method I’ve been using since I was 11 or 12 and I would catch lots of fish in Maine. I loved mackerel sushi and worked on recreating it long before I ever made my own vinegar. The idea making something delicious from ingredients you can’t easily buy or that you make yourself is a big part of my cooking. I would catch my own fish and clean it and cook it on my own, and that was influential for me in understanding I could be self-sufficient.
The mint vinegar julep is a drink made with a mint infused apple cider vinegar. You can make that vinegar yourself and then make the infusion and then make a delicious drink that’s like the original, but has an acidic twist and isn’t just a rehashing of old ideas. I love this drink.
EB: What was the first recipe you knew you wanted to include in the book?
HR: Vinegar pie. I came across this dish in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book when I was reading the series with my daughter—the whole series is filled with awesome food. There’s so much about the pioneer kitchen that’s woven into those stories. I knew this was one that people wouldn’t likely have any experience with, but it’s a crowd pleaser. A friend who is a chef did some recipe testing for me and told me after that when he first read the pie recipe he thought it was going to suck, but he ended up loving it.
EB: Which recipe was the hardest to get right?
HR: The Sauerbraten was hard to get the timeline right on the soak and then the sauce was hard, until I figured out the secret of using sugar cookies to thicken it. The vinegar candy was pretty hard too, getting the sugar temp right and not cooking it to long was difficult to figure out.
There were recipes I had wanted to include that didn’t end up in the book. I wanted to find a way to make salt and vinegar potato chips at home, and I tried making them for days. But the fact is the only way to really make them work is by using a vinegar powder, which is a commercial product that you can just buy, because salt and vinegar potato chips is essentially an industrial product. So I just put vinegar on my potatoes, instead.
EB: What books did you turn to for inspiration in writing Vinegar Revival?
HR: I wanted the recipes to be accessible and honest. I looked at a lot of old American recipes from the 19th century, Julia Child, and my all time favorite cookbooks for their instructional style and vast recipe archive: The Time Life Good Cook series.
EB: What’s one cookbook you couldn’t live without?
HR: The Joy of Cooking. It really is still one of the best all around cooking reference books in my opinion. Or the Good Cook—but that’s 28 books! I have owned the entire series a couple of times over the years. It’s really my favorite set of cookbooks; its Richard Olney’s opus. Half of them are technique- and recipe-based, and then the other half is recipes from all over the world.
Saucy piquant pork chops
Adapted from Edward Giobbi’s Italian Family Cooking, published in 1971, these chops were a staple in my mother’s cooking. Ed Giobbi lived across the street from us in Katonah, New York, when I was growing up, and he kept chickens, peacocks, and hens. Every time my mother made this dish, she told the story about how our dog Max would venture across the street and terrorize Ed’s birds. When I moved out on my own, I found this in the family recipe book my mother gave me, and it’s been part of my own repertoire ever since. I like to serve these with roasted or mashed potatoes and a nice salad.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 bone-in pork chops (each 1 to 2 inches thick)
½ cup finely diced onion
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup Homemade Stock (page 121), or store-bought
¼ cup homemade red wine vinegar (page 29), or store-bought
¼ cup store-bought balsamic vinegar (not the expensive, thick “extra vecchio”)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed if salted
2 tablespoons cornichons, cut into caper-sized pieces
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large cast-iron skillet with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, brown the chops on all sides, about 2 minutes per side, being careful not to scorch the butter.
- Remove the chops to a plate and pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they start to brown, about 8 minutes.
- Add the flour and stir. Cook for 1 minute, then add the stock, vinegars, capers, cornichons, and half of the parsley. Simmer the sauce for 3 minutes.
- Pour the sauce into a bowl. Return the chops to the pan, cover, and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the chops from the pan and set aside to rest for 5 minutes. Add the sauce to the pan and, over medium heat, reduce it by a fourth to thicken, about 2 minutes. Slice the chops and spoon the sauce over the meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Reprinted from Vinegar Revival. Copyright © 2017 by Harry Rosenblum. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Ed Anderson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.