Vinegar is a basic staple in most kitchens and if you’re interested in forgoing the store-bought variety and making it yourself, the process is a lot easier than you think. There are many different types of vinegar; fortunately, they all take just a few simple ingredients and a little bit of your time.
Vinegar is made when sugars in a liquid ferment and create acetic-acid. The easiest way to do this at home is to collect fruit juice in a dark container and store it in a cool, dark place for six months, strain it and the remaining liquid is homemade vinegar.
You can quickly master the art of making homemade vinegar if you know what to do.
What Is Vinegar?
Vinegar is created when bacteria combines with oxygen to make acetic-acid. Everything that we’re doing in the steps below is to cause this fermentation process to happen in a controlled manner so we can make vinegar at home.
The Basics of Making Vinegar
People who make vinegar normally want apple cider vinegar, which is one of the most versatile vinegars out there as well as one of the healthiest. Getting started is simple because all you do is take several nice, tart apples and wash and peel them.
The good thing is that when you’re making vinegar, you don’t have to throw away any part of those apples. Instead, you can keep the cores, stems, skins, and everything else.
Once you get all parts of the apples cored and cut, you can mash them together by using either your hands or an electric juicer. At this point, juice will be the result.
After the apple pieces are thoroughly drained of the juice, you need to strain that juice and you can do this in one of two ways. First, you can strain it through a muslin bag, which is an easy and inexpensive item to find. Or, you can line a potato ricer with a piece of cloth and use your hands to press the juice out.
Storing the Juice and Waiting
Now comes the easy part. Take some glass jugs that are dark in color and wash them thoroughly. Then pour the juice into those jugs and top them off with several layers of cheesecloth, which you can tighten by using a rubber band or even a piece of string.
Place the jugs in a dark, cool place and keep them there for six months or so. After that amount of time, you can strain the liquid once again, transfer it to a bottle, and close it with a cork.
If you like, you can also take some sweet cider, place it in an open jug, then store it in a warm place for several weeks. After that amount of time, it will have gradually turned into vinegar.
If you’re canning peeled apples or baking some apple pies, you can take your cores, bruised fruit, and peelings, place them into a wide-mouthed jar or crock, then cover everything with cold water. Cover the jar and place it in a warm place for a while.
While you’re waiting for the taste to be just right, you can even add more apple parts from time to time, and taste it every now and then to see if it’s ready. When it is, simply strain it, bottle it, and cork it.
You can even consider the part that thickens on the top of the concoction the “mother” part, which means you can save that part of it to start yet another batch of vinegar. You can also add it to mead to make honey vinegar or use it to transform homemade wines made of vegetables, berries, or fruit into wine vinegar.
Of course, you can easily dress up your apple or wine vinegars by adding various herbs to them. Fresh herbs are the best, of course, and all you have to do is take herbs such as tarragon, mint, dill, or basil and wash them thoroughly.
Next, throw away the stems and lay the herbs themselves out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Dry the herbs in the sun or place the tray in a warm oven on very low heat until the herbs begin to curl.
Once the herbs are dried, simply crumble them up and place about a cupful into each pint of vinegar. Pour them into clear jars, cover the jars, and place them on a sunny window sill.
Each day, shake the bottles up once or twice and keep them on the window sill for roughly two weeks. Whenever the taste is what you want it to be, go ahead and strain, bottle, and cork them.
If you’re using fresh cloves of garlic to make your herb vinegar, don’t forget to throw away the cloves after 24 hours. You can also mix and match the herbs if you like because this is the perfect way to get a unique flavor and taste that is just what you want it to be. Regardless of the type of vinegar that you end up choosing, you’ll be proud that you made it yourself and you’ll enjoy its flavor even more.
A Few Things to Remember
If you’re going to make your own vinegar, there are a few tips you need to keep in mind to make sure that it’s successful. These include the following:
- Make sure that the fermentation process occurs when the apple pieces are in a dark jar. Light-colored jars simply won’t do because fermentation can only occur in the dark.
- Covering the jars with cheesecloth and securing them with strings or rubber bands is also important. The fermentation process requires air but the cheesecloth is there to make sure that the air gets in but the bugs and dust do not.
- A “dark, warm place” means that you should maintain a temperature of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 to 27 Centigrade. Fermentation simply occurs much more quickly when the temperature is warm because warm temps are required to convert the alcohol into acetic acid.
- Don’t disturb the fermentation process if you don’t have to. Wait three to four weeks before you taste it the first time. You can even smell it at first to see if it smells as if it’s been fermented. If it doesn’t smell that way, you can likely wait a little longer to taste it.
Making your own vinegar is simple and inexpensive, not to mention a great skill to have on the homestead. The sheer number of uses that vinegar has makes having the knowledge to make it one of the most important for anyone looking to become self-sufficient.