The pioneers considered vinegar a very important food product. It is useful for preserving food, sanitation, medical care and many cleaning chores. Pickling vegetables from your garden is a great way to preserve them. Here are links to a couple of posts on vinegar, Pickled Vegetables an Easy Way to Preserve , Vinegar. Now you should store vinegar, but what happens when you run out? Making vinegar is easy.
Making vinegar is a product of the fermentation of alcohol by bacteria to produce acetic acid. Acetic acid is what gives vinegar its flavor and also makes it useful for household cleaning. The ethanol alcohol used to make vinegar can come from a number of sources, such as apple cider, wine, rice wine, fermented sugar cane, beer, honey and water, or vegetable juice.
The first batch you make will take several months, but if you save the mother of vinegar from this batch, the second will be very fast. Mother of Vinegar is a slimy, harmless substance consisting mostly of acetic acid bacteria (Mycoderma aceti) and cellulose.
While not appetizing in appearance, mother of vinegar is completely harmless and the surrounding vinegar does not have to be discarded because of it. It can be filtered out and used to start a new batch of vinegar, or simply left in and ignored.
If you’re starting from scratch and not using a mother of vinegar to speed the fermentation of alcohol into vinegar, your best bet is to start with apple cider, wine, fermented fruit juice, or stale beer.
Now for most of us the best choice is probably apple cider vinegar. This is made from fresh apples. Wash and cut the apples into small pieces, include the skins and cores. Make a mush of the whole business by hand or with a press and strain it through a cloth bag. We have a press that is used to press olives and fruits, but you can also hand press the pulp in a potato ricer lined with cloth
Pour the juice you collect into clean, dark, glass jugs, plastic buckets or crocks and cover the top with several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Do not use metal containers. Do not put a lid on the mixture as it needs the air circulation. The cloth is to keep the insects out. Let the mixture sit in a dark place for about three to six months. The best temperatures are between 60-80° F. When it is ready, simply strain and bottle it.
Pasteurized vinegar will store longer than unpasteurized. To pasteurize vinegar, heat it to 170° F for 10 minutes.
If you have mother of vinegar, add this when starting a batch and it will speed up the process to just a few weeks. Leftover mother of vinegar can be kept alive if kept in a dark place and feed alcohol or fruit regularly.
There are other methods for making vinegar that are every bit as effective. In the near future, I intend to make some in a fermenting crock, which uses yeast and I understand only takes about a month. I will let you know how it turns out.