Vinegar Update

Loyal readers may recall that one of our earliest posts dealt with making your own vinegar. I have been remiss in posting the promised update. As you can see, the gallon jug on the left contains a slightly opaque substance that used to be apple cider. It’s hard to see in the picture, but there’s a thin layer of bacteria about the thickness of a sheet of plastic wrap floating on top of the liquid. This is the mother: a thin layer of bacteria that eat alcohol and produce acetic acid, or vinegar, as a byproduct. It’s starting to smell a lot like vinegar, but the taste test says that it’s not quite there yet. I must confess that tasting it was a leap of faith, but I am happy to report that it tasted actually tasted pretty good—just like a sip of hard apple cider seasoned with some vinegar. Give it another couple of weeks, and we’ll have vinegar.

Now, the jar on the right is a true experiment, inspired by a recent post on Local Kitchen and another blog that I unfortunately have misplaced (if it’s yours, please speak up!). I’ve been told that you can make vinegar not only from fruit juices, but also from fruit scraps. So, last weekend when I made apple chutney, I saved all the peels and cores and stuck them in a giant jar with about a quart of filtered water. The first stage of fermentation (from fruit juice to alchohol) requires anerobic bacteria, so I’ve sealed the jar. Once it stops bubbling, I’ll assume that the alcohol production is done and will move to a cheesecloth cover, as the vinegar-producing bacteria—unlike the alcohol-producing bacteria—require air. This apparently may take many months, so stay tuned.

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5 comments to Vinegar Update

  • localkitchen

    Ah! I also tried the apple core/peel experiment (after many, many apple pies this fall) but unfortunately got a moldy pile of peels that ended up on the compost pile. I have a feeling that I did not add enough water and/or leave enough air… but you’ll have to let us all know how it turns out!

  • Hi Doris,
    I’m fascinated with this vinegar thing, but as with many things, my fascination is grounded in my ignorance (ie, the more ignorance, the more fascination!). I play with sourdough too, and of course, it depends on the mysteries of bacteria too – but this summer I started to think about the role played by fruit flies (aka, vinegar flies) in the process of these “friendly” bacteria doing their thing – I wonder if any studies have been done on that role?

    I mention it because I wonder if it’s all that necessary to over-worry about covering a crock of “working” vinegar (in order to let the vinegar flies play their role). This of course depends on the flies even having a positive role – it may be that they have a detremental role to play, for all I know. But I seem to remember reading how vinegar makers in the 1800s would welcome the presence of vinegar flies – ???

    BTW, in your pic above, in your jar of peelings, are you using a plate inside the jar to hold your peelings under the surface of the liquid? I see this “rule” often in old open crock pickling recipes, because mold is encouraged if any fruit/peelings emerge above the liquid. Might be a reason why you’re seeing mold.

  • dorisgoat

    Fascinating! I don’t think the fruit flies are necessary–I think now we mainly think of flies as carriers of disease. It is useful, though, to spike the vinegar pot with a dash of vinegar from a sample with an active mother. I transfered a little bit of the clearly active vinegar (plastic jug) into the apple peels to encourage it.

    And no, there is no plate in the glass jar. To my knowledge, I am not having a mold problem yet, but your suggestion is a good one. I’ll see if I fit something in there when I go home tonight…

  • Amy

    You’re also learning how to make prison hooch, I believe. 🙂

  • Hi,

    I just found your blog tonight while browsing for inspiration for a carrot salad with yogurt dressing recipe. Bingo, though I emptied a mint teabag into the dressing (sans bag). Nice blog!

    I love traditional food preservation, particularly lacto-fermentation, as it creates probiotic bacteria that is good for health. I’ve been experimenting with various types of fermentation for the past few years. If you haven’t read the book Wild Fermentation, I highly recommend it. I also really like Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes, written by the Gardeners and Farmers of Tere Vivante in France (translated into English).

    I use a Japanese pickle maker for many of my vegetable fermentations. The lid latches onto the container (but isn’t very airtight). In the lid there is a big plastic screw attached to a perforated plate that just fits the container and pushes down on the contents, keeping them under the liquid (usually a brine). That’s how I make raw, naturally probiotic sauerkraut and never have mold problems (there are expensive European crock sauerkraut makers that have an airlock/water moat to keep out mold (traditionally a large stone was used to hold the cabbage under the brine. You can buy the Japanese pickle makers online or in Asian supermarkets, generally for under $20.