While selling at local markets I have been told a few times that people can’t taste my products because they are Coeliac – I always assumed it meant they couldn’t eat the cracker with which to taste the product, so I would give them a disposable spoon and they would taste away. However, when I was asked yesterday whether my products themselves were gluten free I was certain they were, but are they? I know that the sweet jams and jellies definitely are because they are only made with fruit and sugar.
However, the chutney’s are made with vinegar – and some contain malt vinegar. Is the gluten lost in the manufacturing process? What if extra malt is added after the vinegar has been produced?
I knew that red wine vinegar and cider vinegar were gluten free – they are made from grapes and apples – neither of which contained gluten in the first place, so it certainly wouldn’t be in the resulting vinegars. But malt vinegar and balsamic vinegar I knew less about.
It was time to do some research.
Malt vinegar (also called Alegar) is made by fermenting ale that has been made from malted barley (1). The barley grains (containing gluten) are ‘malted’ turning the starch into maltose and then converted into ale using anaerobic fermentation by yeast (5). A bacterium is then added to the ale along with oxygen to turn the ethanol (alcohol) into vinegar (6). (All those years teaching GCSE science weren’t a waste after all!)
Balsamic vinegar is made by heating white grape juice until it becomes a dark, thick condensed liquid which is then mixed with a vinegar ‘mother’ (starter) and left to age in a sequence of barrels of diminishing size and type of wood wherein it continues to thicken and mature in flavour. (2) (4)
From the articles I read, listed below, I can say that any of my products containing MALT VINEGAR are NOT 100% gluten free. However, the guidance from the UK based Coeliac Organisation (3) suggests that the amount of barley left in the vinegar at the end of production is only a trace amount, and that the amount of vinegar eaten at any one time would be limited so as to make the chutney technically gluten free! The majority of the time I use cider vinegar and the ingredients are always listed on the label, so if you want to manage the risk of a reaction to gluten you can do so with confidence.
For my part, where I can change the malt vinegar to cider vinegar I will – I don’t want any of my products to be knowingly un-eatable to some who already have a hard time finding tasty things to eat.
My NEW batch of Chilli Garden Chutney is now 100% gluten free!