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Homemade vinegar

 
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I'm thinking of starting my own vinegar culture. It would be a good destination for some of the lesser countrywines produced and give me a great homemade base for pickling veggies and stuff. Any experience around here?

 
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I too have thought about doing the same thing. I think probably the easiest way would be to buy 1 bottle of vinegar that still has the 'mother' in it. Like sour dough bread, once you have the original culture, you can keep it alive forever.

We have a decent wine here for $2.49 (Charles Shaw, commonly called "2 Buck Chuck". While not fancy, it is certainly drinkable with dinner, but I feel it could be easily turned into a very good, cheap wine vinegar. Laughingly, we also have an organic raw, unpasteurized/unfiltered vinegar here, but the one pint bottle will cost 2x what the bottle of wine does.

 
Kat deZwart
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In my storebought organic apple cider vinegar there sometimes is a cloudy mass to be found. Is it always a good way to obtain a motherculture? I'm worried it might be contaminated with something like aspergillus or other nasties. I've also heard it's not possible to use a cider mother for wine or vice versa.
 
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This thread reminded me I was supposed to post about making vinegar ages ago!
I have only made cider vinegar, but I'm pretty sure the process is basically the same for wine vinegar. Most info says to do fiddly things like juice and ferment the fruit into alcohol, then allow the acetic acid beasties convert it into vinegar. If I'm going to go to that kind of effort, I want a nice glass of cider at the end
I've made really good cider vinegar by throwing entire apples into a big plastic rubbish bin. Windfall, bruised, bird-pecked, codlin moth, a bit of rot, in they all went, covered with water and an old net curtain. As more apples fell, I chucked them in.
No added culture: as long as the vinegar flies and air can get in (pretty much the opposite of making alcohol), the 'mother' will form with no more help.
I've recently had a couple of cidermaking sessions. I dumped all the squeezed-out pulp into a 100 liter bin and covered it with water. It already has a healthy 'mother' on the surface.
I've never heard of vinegar going 'bad'. It's so acid, I can't imagine anything much surviving in it. Makes a great hot drink with honey though...
 
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Simply putting unpasteurized cider in a mason jar with a bit of cheesecloth over the top (no "vinegar flies" needed, evidently) and leaving it for months worked perfectly when I was a kid. Presumably the same would work for wine vinegar. If it's already wine, put it in a jar and leave it alone.

Keep the vinegar FAR AWAY from your wine/beer/cider operations or you may make a lot more vinegar than you had in mind.
 
Leila Rich
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Yeah, I'm a bit nervous about my lovely-looking cider and country wines being in the vicinity if all that vinegar...so far so good
And I agree on the vinegar flies, I think they just hurry things along.
 
Kat deZwart
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Leila,

If you use the apples in water method, don't you get all kind of fuzzy and hairy things growing on top?

Thnx all for the feedback. I've got some dandylionwine going that I'm suspecting of going straight to the vinegarstage... Didn't have a waterlock to spare so covered the bottle with a bit of cloth and over that a plastic bag that inflates as the CO2 formes. That has worked in the past, but now it's quite funky... :/
 
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No fuzz or funk Kat. My theory is the vinegar bacteria are staunch enough to overwhelm everything else. Certainly pathetic wine yeasts!
I was about to start going on about wine, but I think I'll start another thread.
 
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L. Jones wrote:Simply putting unpasteurized cider in a mason jar with a bit of cheesecloth over the top (no "vinegar flies" needed, evidently) and leaving it for months worked perfectly when I was a kid.


Do you mean sweet cider/applejuice or hard cider/applewine?

I can't believe that sweet cider won't get anything green growing on top...

anyway, I'll start with a bit of cheapo wine and keep y'all posted...
 
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...yet you make gingerbeer with the same method and no fear of green fuzz (substituting "tea towel" for cheesecloth.)

Ripe apples have wild yeast on them. So the sweet (raw) cider becomes hard cider. Left open to the air (ie, cloth, not airlock), the hard cider then becomes vinegar. First the alcohol and then the acid keep green fuzzies at bay - and the cheesecloth or tea-towel likely help a bit, though mostly they keep the flies out.

It works, really. If it makes you happier, start with plastic-wrap and a rubber band, then switch to cheesecloth. But you don't need to.

An interesting read in the public domain - of which there are several scans online in various library projects (of differing quality, and I don't recall which place had the best quality one I currently have, nor is it any guarantee that if I had saved the address it would still be in the same place) is the English translation of Pasteur's "Studies on Fermentation: Diseases of Beer, Their Causes, and the Means of Preventing Them" - if you can get past the archaic terminology, it's a lot of practical stuff from the man himself (and much applies to wine and cider.) If you find an online scan but it's of poor quality, keep checking - there are good ones out there.
 
Leila Rich
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I've just got rid of a failed batch at a friend's where they used my suggested method of not mincing the fruit-it really ponged!
I remembered this thread...and I retract my advice to use whole fruit--it can fail very stinkily!

I'd already started a batch of vinegar last month by roughly chopping windfall apples, dumping them in a foodsafe bucket and mincing with a stick blender
and today I made a giant vat of chutney with apples from a wild tree, so I thought I may as well add to the working vinegar

I experimented a bit by freezing/defrosting the apple scraps
This makes the fruit really easy to mince in a food processor with a bit of water,
but it's easy enough to process without, and I think it was overkill.

Mixed new into old, laid the cloth back on the floating apple mince surface to stop it rising up above the liquid

replaced the old net curtain secured with a couple of bungees (bungees are awesome!)


 
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My apple tree died, the replacement is not yet fruiting. I have enough to spare if they are needed.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Ummm.... new personal rule, preview everything, even edits, before posting!

Most folks seem to be speaking of apple cider vinegar here. I have several bushels of cooking PEARS from a friend's trees. I am wondering if the peel and cores of pears also produce a nice vinegar? Can acv be used as a starter here as well? I have enough PEARS to spare if more of the actual fruit is needed than peels and cores produce. So far I have 2 gallons of cores and peels to use, with far more coming!

Also does the fruit need to be chopped in less than 1" square pieces? I'm not quite sure of the definition of 'minced'. I think of minced garlic in 1/16" pieces.

Thanks for the help in response to THIS somewhat complete thought.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Well, I discarded the peals and mushed my cores and softish pears up, and I think I have pear vinegar. Anyone have a picture of their finished vinegar? Does it look similar to a wine when it is ready to rack off?
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Over due update. I strained it. It smelled like vinegar. I used it. I yet live!
 
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i ve had some thoughts.... if you make fruit juice with one of these electric machines... you ll end up with pulp. what about making vinegar with it?
2 years ago, i made ACV from apple peels and cores. i put them with water in a blender, then in a covered bucket and stirred daily to prevent mold. then added mother made from ACV. it s a mild vinegar, not very much acid and of a very light color. but that s kinda logic. there has not been much sugar, so not much alcohol, so not much acid.

next question: can cultures produce alcohol and vinegar at the same time? for example a bucket or other vessel filled with juice/pulp etc. and yeast. later add the vinegar-mother. will both fermentation processes run at the same time? so one could just add juice/fruit-pulp/sugar/carbohydrates when they are produced. just keep adding to that bucket and from time to time strain a bit vinegar as needed.

i m thinking of vinegar for household use.

have a blessed weekend.
 
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I make my own wine vinegar.  One day, I noticed a vinegar mother growing in an old bottle of red wine vinegar that had gotten pushed back in a cabinet and forgotten.  I added the contents to a pint jar full of red wine (cab).  Two months later, I had a pint of vinegar.  The mother had grown, so I started a new batch.  The results were good - a much more complex wine vinegar than I am used too and very good on salads.  Early on, it is still a little sweet, but it sours as it ages.  I have also used kombucha that has fermented too long as vinegar in pickling - plain kombucha tastes just like apple cider vinegar.
 
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I've been making my own red wine vinegar for some time, but I'm bad about reading/following directions and I just sort of winged it. I had leftover wedding wine, and I added the mother from a bottle of Bragg's acv, then let it sit two months and viola - vinegar! My question is in regards to safety. Are there any visual cues I should watch for in the mother that might suggest the wrong kind of bacterial growth? I'm suspicious of something this easy and don't want to poison myself or my husband inadvertently. Right now, I have a new batch with a mother hanging out on the bottom of the canister, and an older batch with the mother floating on top. The float-on-top one concerns me a little. There's no mold, but there's just a hint of a grayish tinge, but that may just be because I can see it. Anything I should worry about with making vinegar this way? Both are "cooking" in plastic, wide-top containers (like you might keep cereal or pasta in), with cheesecloth covers. I had shut one completely for a while (no air), and that's the one with the mother floating on the surface. I'm worried I shouldn't have covered it.
 
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I've never made vinegar before but it was such a good year for them that I'd thought I'd try it out with elderberries.  

I ran raw berries through the juicer and ended up with a liter and a half or so of juice.  I divided it between two jars, added unpasteurized ACV to one of them, covered them both with an old tshirt rag, and went away for a week.  When I got home, the just juice jar had a nice thick head of green fuzz on it.  Dumped that.  The other jar with the ACV added looked the same as when I'd left and didn't smell any different.  Now, a month or so on it's smelling decidedly vinegary and has a purple-grey wrinkly layer on top, that I'm assuming is a mother.  Haven't tasted it yet.  Want to make vinegar out of everything now.
 
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Also wondering if keeping a vinegar project near something smelly (in this case wet cat food) will make it absorb the smells. My vinegar project got kicked out of the common areas as the acetic acid got stronger and now lives in the garage with the cat.😸 No cat box - he goes outside - but the food smells pretty gross.
 
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Hi all,

I have a terrible time getting my vinegar started. I'm making apple cider vinegar and I start by making apple wine from pressed apples. When the yeast has finished fermenting, I take the wine, put it into an open pail and add vinegar mother. I then cover the pail with an old cotton shirt to stop things falling in.

But the mother never seems to take. Last year I pitched fresh mother into the wine half a dozen times without success. I'm not using chemicals or anything in the wine either.

This year I got an aquarium air pump putting air into the wine, and used a fresh mother from a bottle of vinegar I did successfully make last year. A month later and the wine still smells fresh and clean.

What gives people??
 
Nick Kitchener
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OK I decided to put a heating band around the fermenter. It's what brewers use in cool areas to help their yeast along. I'm wondering if 15C is too cold for the acetobacter down there in the basement.
 
Wj Carroll
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A kombucha scoby is very similar to a vinegar mother - but seems to be a bit tougher/more aggressive.  It really depends on your environment... but since a scoby has both yeast and acetic acid bacteria, I usually just use the scoby, whether in wine, cider or even fresh juice.  The scoby will not be healthy and vigorous like in tea... but it does seem to work pretty well
 
Nick Kitchener
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Nick Kitchener wrote:OK I decided to put a heating band around the fermenter. It's what brewers use in cool areas to help their yeast along. I'm wondering if 15C is too cold for the acetobacter down there in the basement.



That didn't work.
I took the vinegar to a different location where it sits at 22 degrees C and gets as hot as 28C in the afternoon. A week doing that and I have action!

So I think acetobacter needs very warm conditions to thrive. anything under 20C (68F) is probably going to not work out.
 
Jan White
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I'm making some chokecherry vinegar this year. The trees are loaded and the birds are apparently blind.

I forgot to stir it for a couple days and the floaties got moldy. I skimmed all the mold off and I'll see if it recovers. My stomach wasn't into tasting recently moldy stuff, so I don't know if the flavour is still good.  I'll see how I feel about tasting it tomorrow 😁

Does anyone have experience saving moldy proto vinegar? Or should I just go pick more chokecherries?
 
Jan White
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Well, one of the jars had a few tiny specks of mold just starting, so I skimmed the floaties off again.  The other jar was fine. It had less mold the first time. My stomach was okay for a taste today. So tasty! This is going to be amazing vinegar, as long as everything continues to plan. Chokecherries apparently make very good vinegar. I think I'll pick more anyway. Six litres might not be enough.
 
Jan White
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While I'm making vinegar, I'm reminded of how amazing it gets when it's aged. I've got some two year old pineapple vinegar that's turned into something I'd almost drink as is. I've got a strawberry vinegar that's been sitting since last June that's getting really good, too.

I think I'm going to start putting aside a bottle of every vinegar I make to age for a few years. After a while, I'll have enough in rotation I can use only premium, super tasty stuff.
 
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Please keep posting your progress, Jan. This is very helpful to hear the play-by-play.
I'm following Richard Olney's research from his classic book, Simple French Food. I'll summarize his method if you're interested (this would take some time so I won't bother if you are up on his work). I'm making prickly pear vinegar in a small oak barrel following Olney's summary of the instructions listed in Le Cuisinier Parisien (1833).
 
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Amy Gardener wrote:Please keep posting your progress, Jan. This is very helpful to hear the play-by-play.
I'm following Richard Olney's research from his classic book, Simple French Food.



I wasn't familiar with the name, but I looked him up and I think I'm familiar with the method. It's when you keep adding to the same fermentation vessel, drawing some off when the vinegar is ready to make room for more additions. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Do you ferment the prickly pears into an alcoholic beverage before adding to your vinegar barrel? I've only seen the method used with wine.

I like the idea, but whenever I make vinegar it's with whatever fruit I have a glut of that year, so it's usually a one off batch. This year it's chokecherries. It looks like it might be a good elderberry and pear year, too. I hope so. I've been hoarding the last bit of elderberry vinegar and I ran out of pear a long time ago.
 
Amy Gardener
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Yes you are right that Richard Olney relates the historical practice of adding table wine to a DIY fermentation vessel to replace the vinegar that was used in the household. In addition, he talks about how to make vinegar from wine in a contemporary setting using bottled wine that is poured into an open vessel and covered with a cloth. He also describes how to reduce, flavor bottle and age wine vinegar.

In my case, I am using homemade 4-year-old prickly pear wine. I did not have any prickly pear vinegar so the goal is to have the airborne acetic acid bacteria “infect” the wine without introducing apple cider. I’d like to produce a “pure” prickly pear vinegar that I can reduce and age. Today is the 9th day of exposing the wine to ambient air about 4 feet away from a gallon vessel of homemade apple cider vinegar. Both vessels are covered with cotton cloth so the airborne bacteria move freely. The apple cider vinegar has a thin veil inside the liquid that was originally a floating translucent white film on top of the hard cider (also fermented using champagne yeast). So far, the prickly pear wine is without any visible culture. The taste is changing but it is not yet acidic.

Using excess fruit to make artisan vinegars sounds like a wonderful practice and I look forward to learning more. For starters, please confirm or correct my understanding of the process: even if using fruit juice or scraps plus water, airborne yeast clings to the fruit then consumes the sugar and expels alcohol. The acetic bacteria then eats the alcohol. So no matter what is used, fruit juice or wine, alcohol is necessary food for the acetic acid bacteria.

By the way Jan, if you're willing to share your recipe, how did you make your excellent pear vinegar?
 
Jan White
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That's my understanding of vinegar making as well, Amy.

I've never used a recipe and my method is pretty variable, as well. I cover smashed or chopped up fruit with water or I use pulpy juice. For example, I run elderberries through the biggest screen on my juicer, just to take out most of the seeds and stem bits. Most of the skin and pulp comes through. Sometimes I add some sugar, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I add some live vinegar, sometimes I don't. The only times it hasn't worked is when I've forgotten to stir it in the initial bubbly stage. Fruit floats to the top and gets moldy if you don't stir it every day. After it stops bubbling and I've got time, I strain out the fruit or pulpy bits, return it to the jar and try to stir it once in a while. When it tastes sour enough, I put it into bottles. Sometimes I strain out sediment, sometimes I don't.

Some of my vinegars are definitely better than others, so I should probably pay more attention to what I've done each time, but they're always perfectly acceptable.
 
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Well, I had to skim mold off the vinegar a few times, but it seems to have stabilised now. Neither jar has any weird off flavours, although one does taste better than the other. I've mixed the jars up now, so I don't know which one it is.

So I'm going to say, yes, you can save a moldy vinegar.

And it's a good thing, cause I've just done the same thing to a plum vinegar I forgot to check on for a couple days 🙄

I swear I'm not as incompetent as I sound! 😁
 
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Fascinating process, Jan. About that “mold”.... I’m no expert but that sounds like something that Richard Olney, Simple French Food, mentioned in his discussion of wine becoming wine vinegar:

…if the wine is left in contact with air, an insidious culture in the form of a frail, white powdery veil will develop on the surface, eventually transforming the entire body of wine into vinegar. The same detested fleur blanche, for the fabrication of a good vinegar, must be pampered, kept at room temperature (60 F. - 75 F.), a body of air always in contact with the surface which should not otherwise be disturbed: the mold lives only in contact with air and, if submerged is transformed into a heavy viscous matter called colloquially mere de vinaigre (mother of vinegar”), which settles, harmless but inactive to the bottom of the container. (Olney, 44)

Right now, the prickly pear wine does have what appears to be a “white powdery veil” on the surface that is exposed to air. Could it be the wine becoming vinegar? Instead of stirring, I am going to continue to let the veil stay unless there is some adverse reaction to the flavor. The somewhat tart and slightly sweet flavor of the weekly samples removed from the low point of the barrel via the spigot is becoming more concentrated due to evaporation in our dry climate.
 
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Amy Gardener wrote: a frail, white powdery veil



Ah! Thank you for that quote. Yes, I have that veil, too. I wasn't sure if it was normal, but it shows up in my vinegars and doesn't seem to be doing any harm, so I haven't worried about it. I've only really looked up basic vinegar making instructions, and it's been easy enough that I haven't looked into it in more detail. Maybe I should be more careful of that layer. I often stir it in so I can dip a spoon in to taste. 🤔

The mold I was skimming off was mold mold - white or green and fuzzy, growing first on fruit pulp, then on top of the veil after I strained the fruit out.

I forgot to mention I added some sugar to the chokecherry vinegar after a couple mold skimmings. I don't really keep much sugar in the house, so to begin with the vinegar only got the last few spoonfuls I happened to have. I thought some extra sugar might give all the beasties a bit more to work with and make it more unfriendly to the mold quicker. Don't know it helped or not.

My plum vinegar is getting the veil on it now, and no sign of mold so far. I may luck out in this one.

 
Jan White
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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Oh, and your prickly pear vinegar sounds like it'll be delicious! If I can end up with something useable with all my faffing around, I'm sure your properly made stuff will be amazing 😁
 
Amy Gardener
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Jan, you have inspired me to try the pear fruit-scrap method. The wine vinegar that I am making (following Olney) is only one approach. Your chunks-in-the-pot method is equally “proper” and sounds marvelous. It also seems faster and practical with all the dinged up fruit that falls from the trees. I’ll skip the wine step and put the pear scraps in the bucket, cover with water and let the natural yeasts ferment the fruit into natural alcohol. Then hopefully the vinegar bacteria will move in and take over. Anticipating the potential mold, I will weigh down the pears to keep the fruit submerged (a glass plate and a clean stone should work fine). Best wishes and thanks for your continued play-by-play on your progress. Keep those notes coming!
 
It's in the permaculture playing cards. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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