DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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23 May 2011

Making vinegar the old way

A warm and sincere thank you to everyone who visited Sarndra yesterday. We are both delighted with your lovely and encouraging comments. I have no doubt Sarndra will have many excellent organising ideas in the future and I'm looking forward to seeing how she leads us towards better organised homes.

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I have been reading the wonderful Wild Fermentation book by Sandor Ellix Katz, with foreword by Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions fame.  If you have a chance to read this from the library, or better still buy it - it will make an excellent reference and recipe book - do so. It is a sensible and intelligent guide that will lead you on healthy food pathways. This post comes partly from reading Wild Fermentation and The Vinegar Book by Emily Thacker, partly from making vinegar the past couple of years and partly knowing that without fermentation there will be only lifeless food. You can read my old post on pineapple vinegar here.


I love good vinegar. Hang  on, I like the cheap cleaning vinegar too. I guess I love all vinegars. I love that sharp acid taste, it's health properties and being able to clean with it is just the icing on the cake. Vinegar is really easy to make and anyone can do it.  Can I entice you to give it a go? You have to get rid of all those notions of having sterile food because vinegar, along with cheese, sourdough, yoghurt, wine, beer and many other foods and drinks, rely on bacteria and yeasts to give the flavour. But remember, you have control over every part of this process. I reckon if you saw behind the scenes of many food making factories you wouldn't touch their food. If you try this, it will show you a natural process that has been used for hundreds and probably thousands of years, that will deliver a wonderful product to you. This is gourmet food making at its best.

You can make excellent vinegar at home using old wine, apple cider or fruit. It requires no special equipment. Today we'll be focusing on apple vinegar, because I still have an over-abundance of apples, but you could make this with any fruit or fresh fruit juice you have on hand. You will need a glass or crockery wide mouthed container that will hold about one litre/quart, and a net, cheesecloth or muslin cloth covering to keep out the visiting vinegar flies and other insects. If you want to make a large amount of vinegar, use either a water crock or a food-grade plastic bucket.

Air is very important to vinegar making - it is an aerobic process. Your vinegar must have air contact all the time to allow the airborne beneficial yeasts and bacteria in your home to colonise the liquid. Stirring the vinegar during the making of it will increase the amount of air being introduced to the mix and will increase your chances of making good vinegar. It also needs to be stored in the dark, so keep it in a dark cupboard during this process.

If your first attempts at vinegar making fail and you've been using glass, you can give it another go using a container that doesn't let in any light. If you routinely use anti-bacterial wipes or soap, you may have knocked out all the good guys. According to Mr Katz in Wild Fermentation, "Your skin, your orifices, and the surfaces of your home are all covered with micro-organisms that help protect you (and themselves) from potentially harmful organisms that you both encounter. Constantly assaulting the bacteria on, in, and around you with antibacterial compounds weakens one line of defence your body uses against disease organisms.  Microorganisms not only protect us by competing with potentially dangerous organisms, they teach our immune system how to function." (Page 9) I agree with him wholeheartedly.


If you don't have access to rainwater, the day before you make your vinegar, save a litre of tap water and allow it to sit un-covered to let the chlorine evaporite off. You don't want to introduce anything into this process that will inhibit the growth of the yeasts you are hoping to capture.  Some tap water is heavily dosed with chlorine which kills bacteria and like antibacterial wipes, it kills the bad as well as the good yeast and bacteria. If you use it, you may well kill off any hope of making your own vinegar because the water will kill the colonising yeasts and bacteria.  I was going to add some leftover Scrumpy cider to my vinegar but I checked the label before adding it, saw that it contained sulphides, and left it out.  Sulphides are added to some food and drink to stop bacterial contamination, it would have killed off the beneficial yeasts and any chance I had of making vinegar. Had I known this Scrumpy contained sulphides, I wouldn't have shared the bottle with Hanno for dinner last night.

Start with a clean jar - wash it just before you use it - warm soapy water and a good rinse. Add ¼ cup of sugar and a litre/quart of filtered or distilled water to your jar, then add any cut up fruit or fruit scraps you have - apples, bananas, grapes, mango, pineapple - whatever and fill the jar. Then pour enough water in to cover the fruit. Cover the jar with an open weave cover, fix the cover down and leave it in a warm place (around 23 - 28C/73 - 82F)  to ferment. And that's it. Stir the mixture at least once a day and recover it. 


I have a number of vintage and new coverings for the wide variety of fermented foods I make here, if you don't have something similar, here is an easy way to make one. Take a piece of open weave cotton or a double layer of net and cut it to the size you need, with about two inches overhang.  Zig zag around the outside with your sewing machine, or hand stitch it. Now cover the top of your container and fix it on with either a rubber band or one of those canning lids without the centre piece.  See the photos below.





If you're a keen crocheter, you could copy this style of cover which were in most kitchens up until the time we stopped making all those delicious foods like sourdoughs, sauerkraut, ginger beer and vinegar.

I'll be following this vinegar along over the weeks, so if you decide to join in, we'll troubleshoot along the way if there are problems. If you've ever longed for the days before cheese slices and sterile food, now is your chance to win back forgotten techniques that will allow you to make food the way your great grannies did. Our first vinegar checkup day will be this Thursday.


52 comments:

  1. Rhonda--I love this! I had no idea that making vinegar was a simple process. I'm definitely going to give this a go sometime soon. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. I love the idea of doing this, but probably won't try it until we move out of my in-laws' house into our own.

    I do have one, maybe silly, question though. Is the wild yeast everywhere? I live in a much colder climate than you do, but would it still work? My logic tells me it must do, but I'm never sure my logic is right!

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  3. Wild yeast is everywhere but if you're in a cold climate, if your home is warm, it would work.

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  4. This is fantastic Rhonda! I'm a keen cheese maker, but it has never even occurred to me to make my own vinegar. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Rhonda,
    Questions: Will vinegar made with fruit retain a fruity flavor (and lend that to the dishes in which it is used)? Also, is this fruity vinegar good for cleaning, too, or will it be sticky?

    Thanks so much for this- I plan to try it!

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  6. Good luck with it, 500m. Another skill under the belt.

    Ashley, the vinegar will taste of the fruit you use. Pineapple vinegar tastes of pineapple, apple vinegar tastes of apple. Combined fruit would be a fruit salad taste - so you have to choose wisely what flavours you wish to use on your salads or whatever. It isn't sticky, it's like store bought vinegar.

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  7. I like this idea very much and plan to try it real soon (within days) now all I need is ways of how I should use it.:o)

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  8. This looks really easy. I think I might give it a go, especially since I was given a bag from a neighbours apple tree. Now kicking myself that I threw out my scraps last night after baking with some of them!

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  9. I can't wait to see how this goes as I would love to try this! I am taking an online class going back to basics of cooking like Norishing Traditions! :) Good luck and can't wait to read all about it!!!!

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  10. this is just perfect rhonda, ive just spent the weekend on an apple orchard and came home with 3 bags of apples, so ive got mine started and will follow your progress keenly. also about a month ago i bought the wild fermentation book, great isnt it.

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  11. The only fruit I have an excess of at the moment is lemons - meyer and lemonade. Will vinegar work with citrus fruit?

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  12. This is great info Rhonda and very approachable. I was inspired by our Forum member who made strawberry vinegar recently and now you've given me the way forward. Thanks!

    BTW, I must say that I love the label in photo 2 -- for obvious reasons. :)

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  13. Robyn, citrus should work and please let me know how it goes. I think lemon or orange vinegar would be fabulous.

    Rose, the label is why bought it! I actually bought Old Rosie and some Irish cider for Hanno's 70th last year, this is the end of it. I have to tell you, in case you're a cider lover, I liked the Irish cider much more than the Scrumpy.

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  14. I'm excited to try this! I tried making sourdough starter like this and it didn't work. I will follow along with you for the vinegar and will be able to trouble shoot as we go!

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  15. Hi Rhonda, after reading your blog on pineapple vinegar I decided to give it ago. I started it on the 15th of May and have been diligently giving it a stir every day. Will look forward to watching your progress with your apple vinegar.

    Will post photos on my blog as soon as I sort out some computer troubles.
    Cheers, Deb

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  16. I'd love to try this. I have some home-made "cider" which is probably more than half way to being cider vinegar already, so I will find a recipe amongst my many farmhouse cookery books and keep you posted.

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  17. When you cut up the fruit, does your book say that you have to cut out every little bruise and blemish? I know that you do not have to do this when making cider and wondered if the same applied to vinegar? I don't mean really gone off bits but just bruises and blemishes. Usually I give the apple bits to the hens and rabbits but I think I would like to have a go at some vinegar too.

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  18. Love the idea Rhonda and I have some fallen lemons I can use. I am wondering though - just how much vinegar does it make? The same amount as the water you put in I'm guessing but of course I could be wrong. Can't wait to get started - tomorrow though - too cold and dark to hunt for lemons now...sigh.

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  19. Thanks for this Rhonda - I have 30kgs of apples to pick up tomorrow so think there will be plenty of peel & cores for the vinegar !! Its a bit cool here in Perth so I'll have to find somewhere warm enough indoors :)
    I enjoyed making pickled onions over the weekend thanks to your recipe also.
    Hugs
    Jeni :)

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  20. I once inadvertently "made vinegar" in my briefcase. I had a piece of fruit in a plastic bag which migrated to the bottom of it (canvas briefcase) and stayed there until I decided the briefcase needed a clean-out. Definitely vinegary, but I could not remember what it had started out as! And of course, when I disturbed it, it dumped all over the place...

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  21. Rhonda, I've made apple vinegar before using the apple peels and cores that were left after I canned apples. It turned out great, and I've used the mother to make other vinegars. A few weeks ago, I bought a pineapple, and remembering your post about pineapple vinegar, I started a jar. It was fine for about 3 weeks. It was beginning to become vinegar, but a layer of white dry yeasty stuff accumulated on top of the liquid. I'd never seen that before on my apple vinegars. Is it still ok to use if the yeasty stuff is removed?

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  22. This post is so perfectly timed for me you can't even begin to imagine. This weekend Matt and I were contemplating how-do-you-make-your-own-vinegar....I-wonder-if-it-is-hard. I feel like giving it a go now for sure.

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  23. I am definitely going to Follow-A-Long with you. I was familiar with saving the *mother* in the bottle but starting from scratch will be the best.

    What a terrific idea.....just like the fun swaps!

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  24. Jo, you can include the bruises and blemishes. It's very similar to cider making.

    Calidore, whatever amount of liquid you add, that will be the amount of vinegar.

    lfturpin, carefully remove that white yeast and continue on. That sometimes happens but it doesn't seem to make any difference if you remove it. The vinegar yeasts will continue work and give you a good vinegar.

    I'm really pleased everyone is working alongside me. Remember, start with a clean jar and we will followup on Thursday.

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  25. This is great. I make pineapple vinegar any time I buy a pineapple - my mother in law taught me how. But now you have me wanting to try apples. The apples are just starting to ripen on our tree - I think we will save a few for vinegar.

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  26. I am a few days late in starting but have a heap of limes I will try with as well as some apples I have.

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  27. Thanks Rhonda. Some lemon vinegar coming up!

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  28. Hello Rhonda,
    I am also following along with the vinegar. I am making it with pineapple scraps after stewing the fruit. Wondering whether your apple pulp cake could be made with my stewed pineapple...Will try and let you know. Thanks so Rhonda dear. You are my inspiration!
    Dhilma

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  29. Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for sharing your amazing knowledge. I want to give this a go.

    Does it matter if your stir with a metal or wooden spoon.

    And do you know if the weather can be too hot? I live in Darwin.

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  30. Thank you, thank you, thank you for yet another gem of information and inspiration! I've been wanting and daydreaming of doing this without actually setting out to learn how.
    Perfect timing. I also shared a link to this post on my blog this weekend for my readers to visit. http://rosiedreams.com/favorites-for-the-week/
    Cheers!

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  31. I love what you are doing on your blog. I am just getting started learning how to do everything the old fashioned way :) I kinda have to learn how to because i am trying not to produce any trash, that is what my blog is about. I will probably be referencing your blog a lot in it, hope you don't mind! My blog: http://trashfreeliving.blogspot.com/

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  32. Hello Rhonda,
    My pineapple vinegar is just bubbling happily away on my stove. I give it a good stir each morning and eve and take a whiff of its tangy smell in and smile :-) Just a small question, the fluid level has gone down a bit. Should I replace?
    Thanks! Dhilma

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  33. Dhilma, don't top it up, you'll dilute it. Next time, just make enough to compensate for evaporation.

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  34. Hi Rhonda, Thanks for the inspiration! After reading your post I went to the library and picked up the Wild Fermentation book and made a batch of apple vinegar. It turned out great. I can't believe I made vinegar! I thought it would be a difficult process but it wasn't. I posted about it if you'd care to take a look. http://watchingovertheheartandhome.blogspot.com/2011/06/homemade-vinegar-success.html

    Thanks again! Patti

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  35. Hi Rhonda , this looks wonderful ,I know we use pinapple vinegar to make cortido but I have always used white vinegar to make my dills , pickled beets etc. would this kind of vinegar work for the pickling process too ? if not , do you know how to make white vinegar ?

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  36. Rox, preserving vinegar needs to be about 4% so if you wanted to use this vinegar you'd have to buy a pH testing kit and make sure it was the right level of acidity.

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  37. Dear Rhonda, I recently received a recipe for a salad dressing, using black fig vinegar. Could your process be followed, using dried figs, or indeed, apples, etc.? thank you

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  38. Hi Rhonda!
    I love vinegar too, and I am starting my first vinegar TONIGHT!!! I can't wait! I will be posting the process in my own blog, and will link the recipe back to yours, of course, I will update you as the weeks go by...
    Thank you so much from Vanessa, the Italian immigrant in Ireland :)

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  39. I am not sure if I have a problem or not. Flies have gotten into my vinegar and I found dead larva in the top of the liquid. Is my vinegar ruined?

    Thank you
    Amy

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  40. Can I use raw honey to make the vinegar instead of sugar? I really don't like using sugar.

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    1. I've never used honey, but I guess the yeasts would love honey to eat just as they love sugar. You'll have to do an experiment to find out for sure.

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    2. Raw honey has wonderful antibacterial properties, so will greatly slow any fermentation. If you're concerned about the sugar content of the finished product, remember that the bacteria consumes it, leaving little to none. Organic evaporated cane juice or any pure raw sugar is good.

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  41. Love the post. Now following. Hopefully you can stop by sometime over at possumhillfarms.com

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  42. How much sugar would you add to make like a gallon jar?

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  43. Love this! Wondering about this vinegar for pickling cucumber, beets,etc ...is the acid level enough?

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  44. Thank you so much for posting this, I made this 4 wks ago and it was so simple and so inexpensive to make. I used to buy Bragg vinegar and it can get pretty expensive. I'll be making this for a while

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  45. what about places where so much moisture that the muslin clothes covering will turn black with mold in just couple weeks????

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  46. Wow, I am so happy to have stumbled upon this blog! It is now bookmarked and I have a question. We took the apples from our tree to a local press yesterday and I pasteurized it all and funneled it into sealed jars. Next year we'd like to try making some of it into hard cider. How is that process different from making cider vinegar? Is it too late to use the cider we have because I pasteurized it?

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  47. I grew up in a home where we made vinegar, but I don't know how to start it. There was a jellylike thing in the bottle. I would like to know how to do this again.. Nostilaga maybe?? Spelling... Can someone out there help???

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    1. Retta, read the post, that's what it's about. The jellylike things is the mother.

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  48. I grew up in a home where we had a vinegar plant. It had a jellylike thingy in the bottle.
    How can I make this happen again???

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