How to Make Vinegar, 3 Ways!

Vinegar is nothing more than a two-step fermentation process. The first process in creating vinegar comes from alcoholic fermentation. Alcohol is formed by the yeast consuming sugars within fruits and grains. As yeast consumes natural sugars it excretes alcohol. Next, the alcohol is transformed into vinegar through acetic fermentation. In order to transform alcohol into vinegar, oxygen and bacteria from the genus Acetobacter must be present, which are found in all organic produce that contain sugar. This combination in an aerobic environment is what causes acetification, which is how vinegar is made.

To jump-start the vinegar-making process, you can start with an alcoholic beverage. Think wine that has sat too long, or liquor that has been in the cupboard for a while and you aren’t sure what to do with it. The key is ensuring your alcohol by volume (ABV) is at just the right place so the end product has the appropriate ending acidity. There is a minimum of 4% acidity that is required to prevent spoilage, but the standard number is 5% as it is more reliable. As an example, a product with an ABV of 5% will convert to roughly 4% acidity.

To get started, the items you will need to make vinegar at home are as follows:

1) Large glass jar or crock

2) Cheesecloth and twine

3) Wine or liquor such as dark rum (not spiced rum)

4) Mother of vinegar or raw, unpasteurized vinegar such as apple cider vinegar

5) Filtered water or spring water

6) A cool, dark place (room temperature is adequate, just nothing too cold or hotter than 77F)

7) Time – depending on the quantity anywhere from 3-6 months

 

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

In the Pacific Northwest we are abundant with apples during the fall. Some are great for snacking, while others are great for baking or making vinegar. Peels and cores from making pies, apple butter, or apple sauce, can be used to create homemade apple cider vinegar.

Ingredients and supplies:

Organic apples, free of mold, fungi or rot (see note)

Spring water (or filtered water)

Sugar (optional)

Glass jar or crock (quart size or larger)

Cheesecloth

Twine

 

Instructions:

1. Wash and clean your apples. Peel, core, and chop up apples if using whole apples.

2. Fill a sterilized quart jar or crock with clean apple peels, cores, and pieces. Or add apple scraps over the course of several days from your snacking apples (be sure to cut away bitten areas).

3. Add spring or filtered water, free of chlorine, to the jar, ensuring that the apple scraps are completely covered.

4. (Optional step) To speed up the fermentation process add ¼ cup of sugar to the jar and stir.

5. Cover the filled jar with a circle of double or triple lined cheesecloth, tying it securely around the jar with twine. This will help keep fruit flies out of the jar and permit the mixture to breathe.

6. Place the jar out of direct sunlight, in a warm place, to speed up the fermentation process. Be mindful of the heat, no more than 77F. Most homes, at room temp is enough.

7. After a few days, the contents of the jar should start to thicken. The mixture will begin to foam and bubble.

8. After two weeks, strain out the apple scraps and pour the liquid into a clean quart jar or crock. Cover as you did before with cheesecloth and twine. Store on a pantry shelf.

9. After a few weeks, the mixture should appear cloudy and a film will form on the surface. This is the “vinegar mother,” which can be used to start future batches of ACV.

10. At six weeks, from the start, the fermentation process should be complete. There will be residue inside the bottom of the jar and the vinegar will taste tangy. If the ACV smell or taste is undeveloped, allow it to sit longer. Once the ACV has developed, cap the jar with a lid and store in your pantry until needed.

11. When you’re ready to make another jar of ACV, remove the “mother” and add it to a new batch of apple scraps and water and repeat the process.

 

Note: If you are using whole apples, be sure to soak them in a bowl of water and one tablespoon apple cider vinegar for five minutes prior to peeling. This serves as a fruit wash that kills unwanted bacteria and removes any fungicide or pesticide residue that may be present.

 

Yield: 2-4 cups depending on starting amount

Preparation time: 10 minutes plus fermentation time of at least 6 weeks

Recipe slightly adapted by Wendy Jordan from Deborah Tukua, Farmer's Almanac, Make Your Own Apple Cider Vinegar, https://www.farmersalmanac.com/make-your-own-apple-cider-vinegar-22645, Accessed 9/20/2022.

 

 

Maple Vinegar

Just as delicious as it sounds. This vinegar can be used in place of balsamic vinegar and is wonderful for making vinaigrettes, marinades, soups, or sauces where vinegar is needed. It also ages very well and can become thick and syrup-like in texture.

 Ingredients

3 ⅓ cups organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, such as Bragg’s 3 cups maple syrup 1 ⅓ cups dark rum (not spiced) ⅞ cup water

Half-gallon sized (64 ounces) glass jar or crock, sterilized

Cheesecloth

Twine or rubber band

Reusable Straw

Preparation

 

1. Give your vinegar a good shake to distribute the particles at the bottom of the jar throughout. This is the active part of the vinegar you want in your mixture to jumpstart the fermentation process.

2. Pour the vinegar into a sterilized glass container or crock. Mix in maple syrup, rum and water.

3. Cover the opening with double or triple layers of cheesecloth using twine or a rubber band to secure it around the jar. This is to keep out dust and allow for airflow so that wild yeasts can find their way in.

4. Store in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks. Make sure it is placed where it won’t be bothered as we don’t want to dislodge the vinegar mother that will develop.

5. At 4 weeks, check the mixture by gently taking a straw down the side, avoiding to dislodge the vinegar mother. Use your thumb to make it air tight after putting the straw into the liquid. Gently remove the straw and pour the liquid onto a spoon or into a bowl. When it tastes smooth, tart and sweet, with no alcohol burn (this might be in 4 weeks, or it may need more time depending on if you doubled the batch with no more than 6 months), the vinegar is ready.

6. Strain it into smaller containers, label and date it, and store at cool room temperature, or in the refrigerator.

 

Yield: 8-9 cups

Preparation time: 5 minutes, plus at least 4-6 weeks of fermentation time

 

Recipe slightly adapted by Wendy Jordan from Julia Moskin at New York Times Cooking, Maple Vinegar, https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016211-maple-vinegar, Accessed 9/20/21

 

 

Red Wine Vinegar

With a few simple ingredients and a little time, you can have homemade red wine vinegar. If you are feeling really adventurous, try using rosé, sake, hard cider or beer in place of the red wine. As long as the alcohol content or ABV is 8% or lower, you don’t need to add water in the beginning.

 Ingredients: 

Half-gallon sized (64 ounce) glass jar or crock, sterilized

750 milliliters of good red wine

½ cup organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar or a vinegar mother

Filtered water

Long handle spoon

Cheesecloth

Twine or rubber band

 

Preparation

1. Add the wine to a clean, wide-mouthed half-gallon glass jar. Give it a good stir with long handled spoon to aerate the wine. Alternatively, if the jar has a lid, you can put the lid on and give it a good shake. After aerating the wine, add filtered water until the jar is ¾ full, about 2-3 cups. Once ¾ full, add your vinegar or vinegar mother. Cover the jar with a double or triple layer of cheese cloth and secure it with twine or a rubber band.

2. Leave the jar, undisturbed, in a dark place at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks. Check it regularly to ensure the vinegar mother is growing on the surface and no mold is forming. If you notice green, black, or white mold on the surface, scrape it off; if it grows back, throw out the mixture and start over. The mixture should begin to smell like vinegar after a few weeks. You can taste it along the way by using a straw. Gently slide the straw down the side, being careful not to dislodge the vinegar mother. Using your thumb over the top of the straw, trap liquid in the straw and gently remove the straw. Put the liquid on a spoon or bowl and give it a taste. This will help monitor the fermentation process.

3. Around 2 months, the alcohol should have acidified, and when you taste the vinegar, it should make your mouth pucker. This is when the vinegar is ready to strain and bottle. You can save the mother and begin a new batch, if desired. At this point the vinegar can be used as is. Or aged in the bottle for up to a year to mellow its flavor.

 

 

Recipe slightly adapted by Wendy Jordan from Tejal Rao who adapted the recipe from “Vinegar Revival” by Harry Rosenblum (Clarkson Potter, 2017).

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