Homemade vinegar

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate throwing things out- particularly food. We’ve put work into it, why should we throw it out without putting up a fight?

One of the products we make to sell at Market and at the farm is apple cider- straight up apples, no additives and it’s made fresh every week. It takes quite a bit of work- you need to grade apples, wash them, grind them, press them, bottle the juice and then, with a bit of luck, sell it. The list does not include the growing of the apples, which we also take care of- but is a completely different post. It is kind of a crap shoot to figure out how much to make: we are usually pretty good at guesstimating, but we can be totally off base and come home with cases of it, or be sold out by 10AM.

After all of that work, why would you want to let the pigs guzzle it? We can use some of it for apple cider slushies (delish!) or in the kitchen cooking, but “cases” mean alot of cider. At the place I used to work at we made vinegar with leftover wine (it was a winery)- why not with apple cider. It’s supposed to be great for you anyway, right? As it turns out, it was a good idea- it tastes great, and people are happy to get a local vinegar, which is not that common around here.

The only downside is that you need to have a fair bit of patience- ours seem to reach its proper maturity after about a year. The only way we found to know that it was ready was to taste it, and just a heads up- it’s a bit of a mind benderto will yourself to taste it for the first time. You open it up and it smells like vinegar, but it’s got a giant blob floating on top that looks like a snot pancake and little bits of web- aka the mother- swimming around like a jellyfish in the ocean and, more then likely, a fruitfly or two (or fifteen).

Apple cider and wine seem to be the easiest that I’ve tried so far, blueberry juice was kind of a flop- but I lost patience with it….  Aside from that, a little mother is helpful to move your vinegar along. You don’t need to have it, but there is a better chance of your vinegar just rotting if you don’t have it, instead of rotting in a controlled way if you do. The mother is a culture that will influence the rest of your liquid to turn into vinegar. There are vinegars on the market today are sold with mother in the vinegar, it’ll say it on the label.

So. You have the liquid of choice and the mother. These should be poured into a clean and, preferably, sanitized container. You will need enough cheesecloth to cover your container and butcher’s twine to tie it tight. The most important thing to remember when making vinegar is that it needs oxygen for the first few months. It should be stirred every few days to have more contact with oxygen, after about 2 months you can take off the cheesecloth and replace it with a loose fitting lid- not completely air tight… Forget about it for a while, check and stir it, then forget…. do this for about a year. There will be the floaty goop pancake on top, remove that- and then taste it. If it tastes really really really harsh, it’s not ready. Lid it (without the goop) and leave it for another month or two. Repeat until you are down to smooth and acidic- it is vinegar after all. Strain through cheesecloth and bottle into clean airtight bottles.

You can save some of the mother for another batch- store it in the vinegar, and remember that a little will go a long way- we started with a 250ml mother and vinegar combo and it’s vinegaring 200L.

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