20 August 2008

Vinegar, with a surprise ending

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.

Fruit vinegar
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.

Wine vinegar
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.



  1. Rhonda, I am not new to your blog but don't comment often. I just wanted to say "hi" and congrats on the possible upcoming book. Thank you for all the great information here. I am from the USA. I read your blog daily. Karen

  2. Rhonda,
    My mother in law, 86 yr old, healthy woman, drinks a mixture of vinegar everyday. I'll have to find out her recipe, as she says it is what keeps her healthy, as she is very healthy. Gardens, sews, quilts, makes her own soap, cans, freezes,etc.
    Congrats on the book contact. So exciting for you and all of us.


  3. Rhonda,

    My husband cringes each time he sees me drink the pickle juice after we have eaten all of the pickles gone. We go through bottles of balsamic vinegar that we use on tomatoes and avocados. I've never thought about making my own vinegar. I will give it some thought.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well with the agent about a book based on your blog. How exciting!


    ps: I've contacted chas who would like to learn to knit and look forward to helping her get started.
    She'd like to learn to knit dishcloths and I'm sure it won't be long before she is using her first one to wash dishes!

  4. I buy Apple Cider vinegar with Honey at Coles in the Health Food Section. This is really good to have first up in the morning as a tonic. It is also lovely as a salad dressing. Good Luck with your book :)

  5. Hi Rhonda, I guess I've only been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I too love it. I will certainly be in the queue when the book's published!

    Vinegar is something I've always loved but never really had any idea about the science of it. Thanks for your ideas and vinegar recipes, I will give it a go one day.. that is when I have six months to spare in one place!

    Congratulations, Emma

  6. Congrats on the possibility of abook!!
    I use vinegar to cook corned beef and other than that to clean...
    Vinegar and bi-carb ...Vinegar and water

  7. I'm not new, Rhonda Jean, ;-) but I read every day and thought I'd say a big hello to you today! Stop by and see my new baby if you have the time!!

  8. I read ages ago about the benefits of drinking vinegar and used to do it daily until I started to hear reports about how it rots your teeth and some of those reports were from dentists. So please check this out more thoroughly. Needless to say I don't do this anymore. Karen.

  9. Hey Rhonda, I actually have that very book! I just had to say thanks as you've inspired me to pull it off the shelf and have another look at it after all these years. My copy is from 1996 but it was published here in my home state of Ohio, USA.

  10. I know this is off of the subject. But i found this crocheted dish cloth pattern that I just love and thought I would pass it on to you. It is fast and easy and a looser weave. I am not a knitter. I have tried but always mess it up and take forever. Crocheting I can so without thinking . I don't know if you have seen it before but here is the link.


    Have a great trip!

  11. Just a question about making wine vinegar. I have access to some very "average" home made wine in old sized flagons (3 litres)that my late Dad made. When you mean leave open outside, should I still cover with open weave cloth over opening? Would like to give try as it seems a pity to discard all his hard work.
    Thanks Nerida

  12. Darn, I didn't do that right.
    Try again ;o)


  13. Hello everyone! :- )

    Nerida, yes, cover it. All fermenting liquids and foods attract vinegar flies - those really tiny flires, and you don't want them in your vinegar.

    Jennlala, thanks for the link. I'll check it out in the next day or so.

  14. Hi Rhonda,
    The vinegar book looks interesting, I have an Aunt that drinks vinegar everyday as she says it keeps her healthy, and she is never sick.

    I am very excited about the book, good luck with it all.

    Have a good day..

    Tracie xx
    PS. I Love your blog read it every morning with my Brekky, have pointed a few friends to it who are now working their way towards the simple life.

  15. I've learned so much from your blog...I don't think I'll make my own vinegar but I have started making my own laundry detergent.

    Thanks for all the help and encouragement.

  16. Is it really that easy to make wine vinegar? Now I know what to do next time there's some wine left in the bottle. Thank you :)

  17. I've had it in mind to start making my own vinegar for a while now. Seeing all those great looking bottles full in your cupboard looks so encouraging and it sounds easier than I thought.

    Excellent news about the prospect of a book. You're such a good writer with so many valuable things to say.

    Regards, Marilyn

  18. Oh Rhonda - fantastic news on the possibility of the book!

  19. Good news about the publisher! I think the world is waking up. I was behind a young Mom with 4-5 children with her in the grocery check-out the other day and she had reusable bags for all of her groceries & there were a lot of them!

  20. ::Fingers crossed re New York::

    Dorothy Hall, an Australian naturopath, wrote several books in the 70s and 80s. Once after a bad bout of flu, she went to the fridge and drank the liquid contents of the pickle jars etc. She later learned that this craving was for essential healing vitamins and minerals found in this liquid.


  21. It is interesting that you said the vinegar forms a rubbery lump. I make Kombucha tea which is very healthy for you (my diabetes friend has had her sugar levels cut in 1/2 by trying my tea, arthritis friends feel difference and several friends swear it has made them loose weight) forms what is called a mushroom but is not really one- combonation of a friendly bacteria and yeast. I worked for an alternative Dr. for years and this is one of the most inexpensive yet great for your health drinks he suggests- it can actually have a carbonated taste to it if done right.
    One of the best ways to live simply and inexpensively is to take care of our health and this is one of the things I do. If you are interested in more info let me know-

    :) mary

  22. I LOVE Kombucha and really want to try brewing my own! When you were talking about the rubbery thing I was thinking about Kombucha too.

    Thanks for the recipes Rhonda. I want to try pinapple vinegar (vinagre) too. It's a Puerto Rican recipe.

  23. so kind of like Kombucha...
    well the same basic idea at least!
    my grandma drinks vinegar too...I thought it was weird LOL

  24. I have never thought about making vinegar. I've heard its' very good at getting rid of heart burn.

    I love eating cucumbers in a bowl of vinegar! yummy!!

  25. Rhonda, I have been using vinegar for almost 2yrs. For cleaning, hair rinse, salad dressings and tonics. I am so excited to be able to make my own. My question is how do you know when the vinegar is ready to use? For example from your first example with apples in a crock. Could I use a gallon glass jar? I read your blog daily. How very exciting about the book.

  26. Congratulations, Rhonda Jean - I'm sure you will write one fabulous book!!

    I just wrote a post about the wonders and versatility of vinegar - guess we're thinking alike again. ; )

    I will update my post to add a link here, so anyone new will also learn how to make their own vinegar. I was wondering how to do so - thanks for answering my questions!

  27. Dearest Rhonda,
    This was a great read.
    I am praying for you about a possible book....that would be wonderful and a blessing to so many. I would be one of the first to buy it.
    Love and blessings to you and hugs to Alice,

  28. Our favorite thing growing up - and still today - was Mom's poached eggs. Mom always added vinegar to the water. When asked why, her response: "Because that's what my mother did."

    So, that's what I do, and that's what my children will do "just because."

  29. Hoping the book works out, it would be wonderful!!

    I love all the uses vinegar has, truly one of the most practical products to have in our homes.

  30. Oh and I forgot to add that drinking cider vinegar is known to be very beneficial to general health.

  31. I would have never thought to make my own vinegar. This is what I love about blogging. You learn so much from others! Good luck with the book deal!

  32. Hi Rohnda,
    I never knew people actually drank vinegar straight!. Sounds weird to me, but it's a whatever floats your boat kind of thing. I hope your blog does become converted into a book, you could sure help alot of people out there, I know that with all of us here, we have pulled through a lot of challenges!.

    I saw on a post a few days ago that you have peaches! What other fruit do you grow? We are just starting to change our backyard from overgrown mess, (thanks to previous owners) to something that can support our little family. But trying to find out information on what fruit we can actually grow in our climate (Sunshine Coast) is quite hard. I'll take any information you can give me. :)

    Have a wonderful day & take care.
    Chrissie & Co.

  33. We use a lot of vinegar here. My husband even uses it for his aquariums - dont ask me what for, I just know he keeps gallon jugs on hand.
    I love vinegar on our Pennsylvania Dutch concoction of Ham/green beans/potatoes - all cooked together. Myparents always sprinkled vinegar on the dish and that is the only way I like it. We also sprinkle vinegar on french fries at our local fairs and festivals.
    I often set a bowl of vinegar to help with odors after cooking certain meals as well as cleaning out the coffemaker and other things. Vinegar is so multipurposeful.
    Love your blog!

  34. Chrissie, we are growing tropical peaches and nectarines - the nectarines are better than the peaches but both are fabulous. We bought our trees from the Caboolture markets. We also grow red paw paw, pineapples (from tops), a few strawberries, bananas, sultana grapes, pink grapefruit, eureka lemon - which fruits almost all year, Washington navel oranges, Sunshine Blue blueberries (also from Caboolutre markets) and a little bit of rhubarb. We will be planting raspberries again soon, again from Caboolutre.

  35. I agree, I think you could write a fantastic book. Good luck with it.

    Vinegar is amazing stuff isn't it, I use it everyday.

  36. Hi Rhonda, I have been reading your blog daily for the last few months. It would make an amazing book! You are so full of wisdom and advice, thank you for sharing it with us. I am sure many others could learn much from you as well.
    Thank you for reminding us recently about money and simple living. My family is just begining the change from over spending on things we really do not need to living simple and planning helpful/needed purchases. When I get discouraged about how difficult this can be, I check out your blog and get a new surge of excitment and energy. Thanks again! I will be looking for the book. Shannon B

  37. My preference is to drink the wine. One step removed and all, you know. The book will be grand and we will all be in line for it.

  38. Hi Rhonda Jean :) I am delighted for you - what a joy to consider the possibilities in a whole new light! Love & hugs, Q

  39. I didn't read through your comments, so I hope I am not repeating what womeone else has already said. I have a book called Folk Medicine, and it explains the all teh benefits of vinegar. (and honey, but that is another post) Vinegar is so good for us in so many ways! If any of you can get ahold of this book it is excellent reading. I just happened upon it years ago in a second hand store and picked it up. I have carried it around with me since. Farmers way back when used to put vinegar in their cows daily feed to get the milk production up and get a richer milk from them. (I'm not saying that we as people need a richer higher production of milk, but if it can do that for milk cows...well...)
    I can't wait to purchase your book!

  40. Hip-hip-hooray! Your book will be Fab.U.lous.
    Your blog is always a bright spot in my day......
    Bless you~

  41. good luck with the book Rhonda,I will certainly buy it.

    As for vinegar, among it's many uses I have found that a taking a teaspoonful can soothe a tickly cough and is an instant cure for hiccups too


  42. Hope the book deal comes together, what great news!

  43. Rhonda,

    My husband is a borderline diabetic and we've been experimenting with a vinegar use the last few months. He takes a jigger of apple cider vinegar in the evening and his glucose levels are lower on the mornings when he does this!

    It's also a great hair conditioner!

    Congratulations on the book discussions! This is indeed good news!


  44. Rhonda, how very exciting about the book. Please keep us updated!

  45. I just had to leave this story with you about vinegar...

    My Mom had a rather odd uncle who used to swear by vinegar ~ so much so that he used to drink it in shots daily. He always said it was "for his health". Everyone thought he was crazy, until one family event changed their minds.
    It was a wedding, and everyone ate the food except for one little baby who was still on a bottle. After the meal, her uncle took out his vinegar and drank a gulp of it. He said he always did this when eating food he did not prepare himself. (must have been a germophobe, too!) Do you know that everyone at that wedding became violently ill with food poisoning except for the baby and her uncle?? amazing.

    My husband's 98 year old grandpa (who still lives alone and drives his car!) takes one tablespoon of honey in the morning and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the evening. He swears that is why he is so healthy.

    interesting stuff!


  46. Oh Rhonda!!!
    I am so excited to hear that you may be writing a book!!!
    Oh that is wonderful.
    Keep us posted!

  47. Rhonda Jean,
    I'm so happy to hear the news about the book -
    As for the vinegar, I've never made my own *though I may try in the future* but I eat a lot of things doused in vinegar-like spinach, cabbage, and potatoes. And although we rarely eat potato chips when I do I always want the salt and vinegar type. I've never just drank it. but I think I could. :-)
    I'll be waiting for more info on the book deal-very exciting!

  48. Hello,

    I am 'new' to your blog...can't remember how I got here, but i've bookmarked it and check it every day or second day, as I get the time...

    I am interested in domestic/simple living topics. Your blog is both interesting to read and informative. Thanks for your work!

    Vinegar...I use the big 2L containers in the laundry room for the rinse cycle. Yes, apple cider vinegar is wonderful for salads. It's really one of those must-haves in the house. You have inspired me to read more about vinegar and to try making my own!

    best regards,

  49. Oh, yay on the book. How exciting!
    My grandmother used to swear by her cup of cider vinegar a day. She would put about a centimetre of apple cider vinegar in the bottom of her cup, a teaspoon of honey and fill the rest up with hot water. It's really yummy!
    Rachel from NZ

  50. Rhonda, I wanted to say thank you for your knitting links. I have been attempting to learn how to knit for the past few years and have NEVER mastered it.

    Your link to the WMA, to me, is priceless; because I CAN NOW KNIT!!

    Slowly, and a little rough around the edges of course, but I am officially a knitter!!!

    Thank you.

    As for the vinegar - my husband takes a mouthful in a glass every morning; it's not even apple cider, so it must be incredibly sour!

  51. oh how I love this blog, let me count the ways!

    You have inspired me to start blogging again...

    Thanks for all your insight into living simply, it is simly a fresh breath of air around here!

  52. congratulations rhonda! what wonderful news, to be having book discussions... i would love to own such a book!! best of luck, keep us posted.
    all the best,

  53. I have made raspberry vinegar but have found it'd quite difficult with out the "mother" I am going to try your apple peach vinegar but wondered if you have a just peach recipe. Also several sites I have read say use only fresh whole fruit. any comments?

  54. Hello anon, it's okay to use peelings as long as your peels are undamaged and unbruised. Don't throw rubbish in and expect a top result. If your peels are just cut, they should be right. Also, pineapple vinegar is made from the outer skin of pineapple. You have to skim off debris at the end, but you don't have to use a full pineapple.

  55. This was a very cool post, particularly as I read all the comments, which I don't always do. I've gotten a bit addicted to your blog and look forward to it on the week days before work.
    Fermentation & other uses of microbes are fascinating and I know that they have a reputation for improving health - one of the reasons I've begun using more sour-dough from my 'wild caught' batch:)
    Congratulations on your book opportunity and I trust that they will appreciate your good grammar as much as I do!


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