I remember long, long ago often seeing my grandmother drink vinegar. When a salad was eaten, she used to pour the small amount of plain vinegar dressing left in the bowl into a glass, and drink it. Nothing would be wasted. I think my sister Tricia drinks vinegar in this way too. I must ask her. If you read this Tricia, send me an email please.
I've been reading about vinegar this week and it's a really fascinating subject. I have The Vinegar Book by Emily Thacker, it's an Australian book, lent to me by a friend.
Emily describes vinegar as: "an acid liquid made from wine, cider, beer (or most any mildly alcoholic beverage) by what is called 'aceteous fermentation. What this means is that alcohol mixes with oxygen in the air. The alcohol then 'disappears'. Actually it is changed into acetic acid and water. ... It was not until 1878, nearly 10,000 years after vinegar making began, that a microbiologist correctly explained the chemical process which creates vinegar. He accurately described the three species of vinegar bacilli. These tiny creatures gobble up alcohol and excrete acid. The process where alcohols are changed to acids is called fermentation."
I have made vinegar at home in the past and you can read about it here. And here, from the book, are some other ways to make vinegar, although Emily warns that store bought apple cider probably won't work as it's been pasteurised. The secret agent in the process is mother of vinegar which is a mass of scum that forms in unpasteurised vinegar or on the top of cider when the alcohol turns into vinegar. As fermentation increases, mother forms a rubbery floating lump. It's pretty disgusting but it does the job.
These are the vinegars I currently have in my pantry. I'm going to make another batch of homemade vinegar to use when these are finished.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Put chopped up apples in a stone crock and cover them with warm water. Tie a cheesecloth over the top and set in a warm place for 4 - 6 months. Then strain off the vinegar. For faster action, add a lump of raw bread dough to the crock.
Another way to make apple cider vinegar is to allow sweet apple cider - preferably homemade - stand in a jug for 4 - 6 weeks. Cover it with a cloth to stop vinegar flies getting in.
Place apple and peach peelings and a handful of grapes in a widemouthed jar and cover with cold water. Set in a warm place and add a couple of fresh apple cores every few days. When scum forms on top, stop adding the fresh fruit and let it thicken. When the vinegar is good and strong, strain it through cheesecloth and store in a bottle.
Let a bottle of wine stand open to the air in the summer sun. In about two weeks it will turn into a nice vinegar.
Make winter vinegar by letting wine stand open to the air for about a month.
There are many different grades of vinegar. If you are buying vinegar, the vinegar in large containers is really best used for cleaning. I buy my cleaning vinegar in two litre (quart) containers. I believe the best vinegar is organic apple cider vinegar. I use this in my salad dressings and yes, I have been known to drink the remains of the dressing. It's delicious.
The purpose of this post is to encourage you to experiment with vinegar and to show you that, like most other things, you can make vinegar from scratch. The taste will change depending on what you make your vinegar from, but you can also add to the flavour by making various herb vinegars. The possibilities are endless.
The Vinegar Book by Emily Thacker is published by Tresco Publishers, ISBN 1-883944-03-1
Melinda over at 1greengeneration wrote a very helpful post about vinegar this week. Check it out here.
And now for some good news. I have started discussions with a literary agent in New York who thinks this blog is the basis of a good book. So all those readers who were hoping for a book, may get their wish. I'll keep you posted. :- )
Thank you for continuing to read my blog. We are coming up to half a million visitors soon so I'll have to think of a giveaway to mark the occasion. I think we've built up a pretty special group of people here who add a lot to what I write through their comments. If you are new here, please drop a line and say hello.