If you’re not on your honeymoon in the wilds of Canada, Fall is a great time to begin brewing up a batch of apple cider vinegar. Take advantage of inexpensive, freshly pressed apple cider available at orchards and farmer’s markets all through the Fall, and ferment it to make a delicious cider vinegar to use all year long.
Apple Cider Vinegar
INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT
- a 1 – 2 gallon crock or jar with spigot
- 1 gallon of organic or naturally grown apple cider
- 1 liter of organic apple cider vinegar, with the mother, such as Bragg’s
- First fermentation. To ferment the sugar in your apple cider to alcohol, take the lid off of a gallon jug of fresh, preferably organic (which contains more wild yeasts), apple cider. Attach a fermentation lock, or use a balloon with a pinhole stuck in it. Leave the jug of cider in a warm but dark spot (away from direct sunlight), 60 – 80 degrees F, for about 6-8 weeks. When fermentation ceases, the balloon will deflate. At this point, you have created hard cider. You can celebrate by getting drunk, or turn this into cider vinegar!
- Clean jar or crock well in hot, soapy water.
- Second fermentation. Pour hard cider into crock. Do not fill the jar or crock more than 2/3rd full at any time, as the cider needs air circulation in order to turn into vinegar. Add the liter of unfiltered apple cider. This is not absolutely necessary, but will kick-start the reaction and turn your cider into vinegar faster. Give the cider a swirl or two in the jar. Cover the top with a layer of cheesecloth or two, held on with an elastic, and let sit in a warm (75 – 85 degrees F), dark spot – on top of the kitchen cabinets works well.
- Swirl, or stir with a wooden spoon, every other day or so, to aerate.
- After anywhere from 2 – 8 weeks, you should see the mother form; a viscous, gelatinous disk that slowly settles to the bottom of the jar and contains the aerobacter that turns alcohol into vinegar. At this point your cider should smell strongly of vinegar.
- Taste the vinegar; when it tastes good to you, you can pull or pour some off and bottle it. I use cleaned wine bottles or store-bought vinegar bottles. If you want to bottle your homemade vinegar and give as a gift, you can find nice botttles on-line or at local antique shops. (If you leave the vinegar in the jar indefinitely, without adding more wine, the mother will eventually consume all of the vinegar. Ask me how I know this.) Alternatively, you can test your vinegar using a kit and these instructions; in order to safely can food with your homemade vinegar, it must contain a minimum of 5% acetic acid.
- If you are having trouble forming a “mother” in your vinegar, or the process is moving very slowly, you can jump start the process by adding a mother to your batch. “Mother” can often be bought at wine-supply stores or home-brewing stores, or you could try adding more unfiltered apple cider vinegar, which contains some of the ‘mother.’ If you have a friend or relative that makes vinegar, ask them if you can have some of their mother; then simply toss it in the crock with your cider.
- A stone or ceramic crock works well, and is more decorative in the kitchen, but a glass jar with a spigot is more convenient for pulling off finished vinegar. You decide.. or have a couple. I use one for apple cider vinegar and one for red wine.
- I’ve heard that you can make cider vinegar from apple peels & cores, leftover from making pie or apple recipes. I tried this once, but yielded a great big batch of moldy apple peels for my efforts. If I try again this fall, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Store finished vinegar in glass bottles with a cork or plastic top (vinegar will dissolve metal) in a cool, dark place. Vinegar will last indefinitely.
Fresh apple cider is available at farmer’s market starting in Fall and continuing throughout the Winter.