The Vinegar Challenge

Have you ever made vinegar?  I haven’t but I love cooking and experiments.  And, vinegar is all the rage right now as a seasoning for many dishes.  Never let it be said that I am not one to get caught up in trends!  So, I’ve done (a little) research and feel up for the effort.  Perhaps you will too after reading this post.  If so, please let me know how your vinegar turns out.  I’ll do the same in a later post.

So I’m going to start simple.  No spices, herbs or other flavorings to start.  I know my limits.  My first effort will be using a red wine and a white wine to create two simple vinegars.

One of the first decisions I need to make is whether to use a mother.  That’s right.  Using a mother, think of a sour dough starter, will greatly accelerate the vinegar making process. There is a limit to my patience so I’m going to try both a white and a red wine with a mother.

What is it that turns wine into vinegar, with or without a mother?  Vinegar is created by Acetic acid, which is made by a bacteria known as an acetobacter.  Acetobacters are everywhere including just in the air.  When an acetobacter gets into your wine it will, over time turn the wine into vinegar.

Be prepared for failure – I gather even the most devoted home vinegar makers accept that not every batch will turn out great.  A 60% success rate is not unusual.  If you hit 80% give yourself a hand.

Using a mother will speed up the process so that it takes about 2-3 months to turn your wine into vinegar.  Without a mother be prepared to wait a year or more!  You can purchase a mother on-line, snag some from a friend who is already making vinegar, or use a live vinegar like Braggs as your mother.

A couple notes about the wine – use good wine.  Bad wine = bad vinegar.  Don’t pour leftover wine out of glasses, only from the bottle.  Ideally, the wine should have an alcohol concentration of 9-12%.

Whether you use a mother or not pour your wine into a glass or even better a ceramic jar.  Cover the jar with cheesecloth (to keep bugs out and let air circulate) and place it in a cool dark place to ferment.

Check your vinegar from time to time and if you have some good wine left over at the time you check add a little (pushing the mother to the side so you don’t disturb it).  Be prepared, the mother will look like a gooey glob – this is good.  On the other hand mold is bad.  Test the vinegar after a month or so (if using a mother).  If it is too “wine-y” let it go longer.  Once it suits your taste buds store it in jars with lids in a cool dark place.

That’s it?  Yup.  But if you research a little further there’s much more to learn.  

We’re going to give this a shot at Locals.  Maybe the next time you come in you’ll have the opportunity to taste a Locals’ vinegar.  Or bring yours to us and tell us your secrets.

Cheers

Written by Robert Acosta-Lewis

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