Vinegar, White or Cider, which should I use...

The biggest difference between using white vinegar and cider vinegar is how if affects the taste of what you are canning. I usually use white vinegar. It doesn't affect the taste. The cider vinegar will change the taste. Just depends on what you want as to whether or not you like the final product. Make sure you use commercial vinegar (5-6% acidity). Or you can use other but the acidity has to be right or whatever you can may not be safe. Kathy, THE SCRUBBIE LADY
Thank you for visiting the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
> question -> One of my readers has a question. Her recipe calls for vinegar but does not say white or cider. How does one know when to use one or the other. I see both for the same type of recipe. Can you advise?
Usually if a recipe calls just for "vinegar" it would not matter which was used.  The choice will depend on desired flavor and "sharpness" in vinegar taste, and perhaps desired color.  Cider vinegar has a light amber color which can change the appearance of light-colored products in which it is used, whereas white vinegar would not.  Cider vinegar tends to have a milder flavor while white vinegar is quite "sharp" or "acrid" to some people.  If you see both in similar recipes, it is probably the choice of the writer as to which is preferred.  In some of our recipes we specify one or the other because that is how it was tested and preferred.
If the food depends on vinegar for pickling so it can be canned in boiling water for room temperature storage (until it is opened), then what is most important is that the vinegar be at least 5% acidity (for all our processes) or the acidity stated in tested recipe.  Most white and cider vinegar are standardized to 5% or 6% acidity, but one should always read the label.  Store brands or lesser brands are sometimes only 4%, as are some flavored or specialty vinegars.  Whereas higher acidity than 5% is as safe for pickled canned foods, the flavor can be adversely affected with too much acid.
Some background on pickling and ingredients for pickling:
Elizabeth Andress
Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D.
Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist
Director, National Center for Home Food Preservation
Department of Foods and Nutrition
The University of Georgia
208 Hoke Smith Annex
Athens, GA  30602-4356
Phone:  (706) 542-3773
FAX:    (706) 542-1979