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Homemade vinegar

 
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Earlier this week, I started my first ever attempt at a batch of vinegar, too - watermelon rind vinegar! It's only been a few days, and it's already smelling vinegary! Granted, the rinds sat in the fridge for... over a week, before I had a chance to do anything with them, which may have given them enough time to start fermenting, before I even got the water and sugar in the pot with them, lol.
 
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Amy Gardener wrote:. Anticipating the potential mold, I will weigh down the pears to keep the fruit submerged



I wonder, given that vinegar fermentation and the primary fermentation stage of alcohol are both aerobic processes, whether weighing down the fruit will cause any problems. Maybe don't put all your pears in the same bucket, just in case 😁 I'm trying to make a lot of vinegar this year, so when I get to my apples and pears I'll try a batch with the fruit weighed down. It might be a handy technique.

I have to say mold generally isn't a problem though, except when I forget about the vinegar, which is easy to do when I'm out of the habit of making it and the jars are out of sight under the kitchen table, pushed back to the wall. As long as I give the jar a quick stir every day or two it's fine. So I don't think most people need to worry too much about igetting mold.
 
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Thanks to everyone contributing to this thread and keeping it alive. :)

I have lots of peels and cores from getting pie apples in the freezer and you all inspired me to try making vinegar. Figure I'll throw some apples in there too, based on what I've read here.

Does it all need to be blended or are peels small / thin enough?

And should the bucket be kept in cool / dark? Is warm better?
 
Carla Burke
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Warmer will ferment faster. I chop mine up smallish, but not fine. But, I'm new to doing it, so... Take it with a grain of salt!
 
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I have four vinegar experiments going:

1. 5 gallon bucket 2/3 full with peaches
2. 5 gallon bucket 2/3 full with pears
3. half gallon jar full of asian pears
4. half gallon jar full of peaches

These are the discarded bits - mostly half-rotten fruit.  I added some sugar at the beginning.  I just have the tops of the buckets and jars covered with a towel, and they're in the pantry which has stayed between 50-65F, mostly dark.

The 5 gallon buckets are now 3-4 weeks since I first submerged them.  They have the white film on top that's been described, which I understand is the mother.  I have scraped out a few bits of green mold from the peach bucket.  I just tasted them.  The pear vinegar tastes very strongly like vinegar and is delicious.  The peach one also has a vinegar tang but is a bit sweeter and not nearly as strong - but still tastes good.  

Question:  How long can I leave them like this with the fruit bits still in?  As long as I stir occasionally so they don't build up a ton of mold on the bits that stick up above the liquid, will it most likely be fine for weeks/months longer?

If I understand right, the next step is to strain out the solid bits and then leave the liquid in an open container (covered with cloth) for another month or so, and then it can be stored in a sealed container?  And is my understanding right, that as long as it's been done right, vinegar can be stored for years in a closed container?  Does it need to be completely air-sealed?  

If it's not acidic enough, I imagine it will not keep very long on its own?  What can I do to make it stronger?  Would cooking it down on the stove concentrate it, or ruin it?  Or should I just add more sugar/fruit to the one that's not strong enough?

 
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I've been making vinegar experiments several times, out of the locally common chang (barley wine). I find that if I stir or shake it every day or three, it turns into delicious vinegar (actually tastes much like apple vinegar). But if I just leave it standing still, it gets a nasty mold layer, smells bad, and I throw it away. I keep a lid on it because of the intense evaporation here, and just aerate it by stirring or sloshing regularly.
 
Jan White
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Philip McGarvey wrote:  

Question:  How long can I leave them like this with the fruit bits still in?  As long as I stir occasionally so they don't build up a ton of mold on the bits that stick up above the liquid, will it most likely be fine for weeks/months longer?

If I understand right, the next step is to strain out the solid bits and then leave the liquid in an open container (covered with cloth) for another month or so, and then it can be stored in a sealed container?  And is my understanding right, that as long as it's been done right, vinegar can be stored for years in a closed container?  Does it need to be completely air-sealed?  

If it's not acidic enough, I imagine it will not keep very long on its own?  What can I do to make it stronger?  Would cooking it down on the stove concentrate it, or ruin it?  Or should I just add more sugar/fruit to the one that's not strong enough?



I don't think there's any benefit to keeping the fruit in for a very long time. It's just there for flavour and sugar, and those have probably been extracted by now. I would think it's just a mold hazard with no benefit. My last couple attempts to save moldy vinegar seem to have worked, but I've had to throw some out after moldy fruit introduced something that made the vinegar taste more and more unpleasant as it aged. Someone upthread says they just keep adding apples to the same vat of ACV with no problems, though.

After I strain the fruit out, I often leave it covered with a cloth much longer than a month. Just leave it until it's sour enough for you, I think.

I wouldn't add more sugar to the peach one. If it's not sour enough, it just means the beasties haven't worked their way through the sugar that's already there. I'd strain the fruit and leave it covered longer.

Boiling it down will make it sweeter and kill everything off. You can reintroduce bacteria afterwards with some live vinegar. If you let that ferment, you'll end up with a balsamicy type thing, vinegar gods willing.

None of my vinegar has ever gone bad. I don't think it can. I dug a bottle of store bought red wine vinegar out of the back of my mum's cupboard one time. I'm sure it had been there many years. There was a couple inches of vinegar in the bottom, with a thick scoby looking mother in it. The vinegar tasted totally normal. Not sure how a closed up, pasteurized bottle of vinegar grew a mother 🤔

I'm still experimenting too, but those are my thoughts on the matter 😁
 
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Hi all you mad scientists! It's been about a month since I posted about following Jan's fruit scrap pear vinegar approach. Philip's excellent post about his process motivated me to share my kitchen experiments with you.  October 10, I actually started the process so here is an update after 12 days:
Using a glazed 2 gallon glazed ceramic vessel with spigot, I thoroughly cleaned then swished it with 80 proof vodka for sanitizing. By opening the valve and draining the vodka, the spigot was sanitized as well. I lined the crock with a large, 5 gallon, brewing bag (used for straining beer mash). The large size leaves plenty of room to overhang the bag outside the vessel as it is being filled with pear chunks. I set up a clean work station to rough chop nearly 2 gallons of dinged up pears and drop them into the bag which is supported by the crock.
Following Sandor Katz’s recipe for Fruit Scrap Vinegar, I added 1/4 c sugar per quart of water to cover the pears. Total added liquid is 2 quarts which is 1/2 c added sugar.
Two quarts is not enough liquid to cover fruit. Since I have 2 cups fermented raisins and liquid totaling 1 quart bubbling from natural yeast activity on counter, I decided to add that sweet liquid; figured the cane sugar already adulterated the pure pear option so natural raisin water is okay. The head space in the 10 inch tall crock is 2.5 inches, so that's 3/4 full. Unfortunately, the spigot on vessel leaked. Luckily I had a clean jelly roll pan and a 5 gal food grade bucket to help mitigate the problem. After scooping out the fruit from the bag and dumping enough on the jelly roll pan to pull out the bag and stash it in food grade bucket,  I reached in and finger tightened the valve (careful here so as not to break the crock). After pouring the fruit and liquid back into mesh bag inside dispenser and I'm back on track, glad to know this process wasn't meant to be a sterile procedure.
I knotted the bag then put a plate on top to submerge the fruit in the liquid. Maybe this isn't necessary but I want less air for the alcohol building stage so this creates a little tighter seal for that initial alcohol phase. The mixture began bubbling after 3 days.

Today is the 12th day and the bubbling has significantly slowed (4 burps per hour). This is my signal to remove the spent fruit bag from the crock and move on to the vinegar phase. The white veil at the top of the mixture grew over the top of the plate, which is now in the sink. The strained liquid totals 1 gallon, which is 1 quart more liquid than what was added. I assume this extra liquid is pear juice because the original 2 gallons of fruit is less than 1 gallon. The texture is kind of gooey, almost mucilaginous. It is pear flavored, somewhat sweet and alcoholic with a hint of sour vinegar.  The color is golden. Now I'll let nature take its course and leave the cloth-covered crock alone for a year. The year-round temp in this house varies from 62 - 75 degrees F.

I'll taste the brew monthly and let you know if anything interesting or weird happens.

 
Amy Gardener
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Wondering about that gooey quality noted above in the pear vinegar, which continues to be there after 22 days, I ran across this passage in Ben Watson's, Cider Hard and Sweet under "Cider Disorders," p. 107-109:

Ropiness or oiliness sometimes occurs in low-acid ciders after bottling or in bulk storage. It is caused by certain lactic acid bacteria that produce a gel-like substance. When the cider is poured, it will have the slimy texture of light oil or a raw egg white. The flavor is not affected. This condition does not occur in ciders that have been treated with sulfur dioxide before fermentation. To treat it later on, pour the cider into another container and stir it vigorously to break up the clumps. Then add 100 ppm of SO2 (two crushed Campden tablets) per gallon, and rack into new bottles or jugs.


So it sounds like the kefir LAB floating around in my kitchen may have infected the pear cider on its way to becoming vinegar. The brew tastes like vinegar now and continues to have the strange texture. Since this problem is not toxic, I'll just continue with the fermentation process and see what happens.
 
Jan White
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I mentioned in Amy's thread about balsamic vinegar substitutions that I had some elderberry syrup I was going to ferment and see if that was a viable stand in.

I started by dumping in a bunch of live vinegar and a bit of fresh elderberry juice to get the fermentation going. Nothing happened for over a week, so I figured, it being syrup, that the sugar concentration was too high. So I added some water, and that did the trick. I had very vigorous fermentation up until a couple days ago, when it stopped bubbling.

At that point, I tasted it. Yowza! I've got some very strong, sweet wine. And super tasty! It's almost a shame to let it turn to vinegar, but I don't really drink alcohol anyway.

In any case, if the flavour of the wine is any indication, this is going to be top notch vinegar. Now I just have to make sure I keep some set aside for a decade or so.

My plum vinegar got to a sourness I like, so that got bottled. No more mold.

My regular elderberry vinegar, made from juice, had that veil growing on top. I'd been leaving it alone, instead of stirring it in like I usually do, but last week I noticed a few spots of green mold starting to grow on top. So I skimmed the whole veil off. Vinegar still tastes good, but not ready for bottling.

I also started a new batch of pineapple vinegar that I didn't allow to mold! 😆 Primary fermentation on that is done now.

I keep my vinegar jars under the kitchen table in a cool corner of the house, out of sight and out of the way. A couple weeks ago, on coming home from work, my husband asked, "Why does it smell more and more like a brewery in here every time I come home??" 🤣 I directed him to the vinegar hoard.
 
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