In my research into making vinegar, I read that you can use any sweet fruit like grapes, plumbs or even peaches. I used the standard apple. Back at the end of September, I purchased two bushels of apples to make apples juice and apple butter. You can read the post on how I made apple juice and apple butter here. I used the apple discards from making juice to make the vinegar. Here is a picture of some of my apple discards from last September.
The next step to making vinegar is to gather all the discards and place in a crock. I had so many that I used a five gallon bucket. The instructions said I had said to to cover all the discards with water. For me, that meant filling the five gallon bucket almost to the top to ensure everything was submerged in the water. Then I stirred it a bit with a stick and added a teaspoon of yeast. This is a picture of mine.
Since I don't have a basement, I placed this in my laundry room. I put it under an open window during the month of October to help gather the 'good' wild yeast. I stirred it once a day for the first 3 weeks to incorporate some air into the mixture. After the first 3 weeks, I started to get Mother of Vinegar forming on the top.
When Mother of Vinegar starts to form, you are supposed to stop stirring and let it sit. The total time I let mine sit still and ferment was five additional weeks; mid October to end of November. Then, I strained it to remove all the leftover apple pieces.
At this point, I pasteurized it so it would be stable and store well. I heated it to 160 degrees and left it at this temperature for five minutes.
When it cooled, I poured it into storable jugs. I used old vinegar bottles from the store.
Wow! Homemade vinegar!
A few lessons I learned when making my first batch of vinegar:
- The entire process took eight weeks. I started at the end of September and finished at the end of November.
- I never intended to use this vinegar for food recipes. My orange five gallon bucket is not made of food safe plastic. This vinegar is suitable for cleaning the bathrooms. Next time I make vinegar, I will use a food grade plastic bucket.
- Since I started with a non food grade bucket, I also used my soapmaking pot to pasteurize the vinegar. My soapmaking pot is not used for anything but soapmaking. I never put food in the soapmaking pot for safety purposes. I also stirred the vinegar with my soapmaking spoons and used my soapmaking thermometers to check the temperature when I was pasteurizing it. The glass pouring container and funnel are only used for soapmaking as well.
- The teaspoon of yeast I added at the beginning of the process was bread yeast. The instructions said to use wine yeast for edible vinegar. While I do have some wine yeast, mine is old and probably dead. I didn't even try it. (You can use wine yeast to make your own soda and that was the intended purpose of mine.) I am going to purchase some additional packets of wine yeast and use that next time. Then, I will use the Mother of Vinegar formed on the next batch to make additional batches after that. My intent is to have vinegar that is safe to consume.
- I started the process with five gallons of water but that isn't what the final yield was. When I checked the bucket in mid November, the total volume shrunk to about 4 gallons. By the time I strained out all of the left over apple pieces, my final yield was 2 1/2 gallons.
- Making vinegar is smelly. Vinegar doesn't really have a pleasant smell anyway and when you are making it the smell is compounded. During the two months mine was fermenting, we closed the door to the laundry room to keep the smell contained. It didn't necessarily smell bad at first. It started out with a fruity smell then switched to a vinegar smell. Then a beer smell. At the end of the process, my husband said it smelled more like dirty socks then anything else. I would describe it as a white vinegar smell that was slightly off. This off smell was probably because I used bread yeast and not wine yeast. I don't want you to think the entire house smelled. It didn't. I never noticed the smell until I went to do the laundry. When I walked into the laundry room, I could smell it at first but then I didn't noticed it anymore. My laundry room is next to the kitchen. When standing in the kitchen, you couldn't smell anything.
- There are many, many different ways to make vinegar. Now that I have made my first batch, I may try to make some apple cider first and then try to turn that into vinegar. (The process is different from what I described above but it is fit for consumption.) I may also try making some vinegar with grapes next summer (depending on how many grapes I get off my vines!)
- Lots and lots of apples are needed for a basic vinegar recipe. We planted two new apple trees in our back yard last month to make the process completely self-sustaining.