Thursday, January 10, 2013

Latest Kitchen Venture:Vinegar

It never fails, after a dinner party, we always have left over wine.  Sometimes almost full bottles.  Since we don't drink much wine ourselves I either have to find a way to cook with it or dump it.  Now I may not drink much of it, but just dumping any sort of alcohol should be a crime!  So what's a girl to do?  Be creative or be resourceful!  That's when I turned to the ever trusted Google.  Why I did not think of this before, I'm not sure, but the obvious thing to do is sitting right in the pantry-wine vinegar!  Quality wine vinegar can be hard to find.  Being mass produced leads to shortcuts and cost cutting measures.  It is also usually pasteurized.  Vinegar is a living, breathing entity and as such has added health benefits. (You can Google thousands of links to find these out.)  Kill the vinegar, kill the benefits.

How do you make your own vinegar?  You need a good mother.  Not the one who raised you and made you who you are today, but a vinegar mother.  What is that?  It is a slimy, yeasty, gelatinous goo that causes the further fermentation of the wine into a vinegar.  Some people say they have had success using the mother from an ACV (apple cider vinegar) that has not been filtered or pasteurized (Bragg's).  Others suggest using a mother for the specific type of wine you are making into vinegar, white or red.  I figured the people who were selling it online knew what they were doing, so I ordered both a white and a red mother.


You also need a good wine.  Does this mean expensive?  No!  This means would you drink it?  If you like the way it tastes as a wine, then you should like it as a vinegar.  Type of wine doesn't matter either: Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, whatever.  I had some Merlot left over (two bottles, two makers) so this is what I started with.

What else do you need?  Some filtered (non-chlorinated) water, a glass jar or a earthenware crock-preferably with a spigot for easier taste testing, cheesecloth, and a bit of time and patience.  This will be a two to three month venture.

Here is what I have done so far:

2 cups of wine (plus 7 1/2 more over the next week)
1 cup filtered water
8 ounce jar of purchased vinegar mother (
1-2 gallon glass or earthenware crock (Crocks run about $70-90 and sun tea jars about $4, whatever you want to spend)

Mix your ingredients together in a clean container.  Make sure your jar is clean and sanitized.. A hot dishwasher will do the trick.  Cover the opening with a double layer of cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.  The fermentation process needs air, do not cap the jar.  Fermentation also requires a fairly warm and constant temperature, ideally 70-80 degrees.  I found that our water heater closet provides the warmth, constancy,  and darkness that the vinegar will need.  Just make sure it is fairly dust free.  Any dark cabinet should work, but preferably not one that is opened up a lot.

**Let this set for a week, then over the next week add 2 1/2 cups of wine, 3 different days until you have added the remaining 7 1/2 cups.  Let's say M-W-F.  You may have a sort of veil forming on the liquid by this time.  This is a new mother forming.  Like most moms she doesn't like to be disturbed while she is regenerating, disturb her a little as possible when adding the new wine.  A Turkey baster may work very well.  Add SLOWLY.

Now leave it alone.  Mom needs some me time if she is to get all of her work finished.  You can check on her in about two months.  Now is when the spigot will be handy.  If it smells like vinegar, everything should be hunky dory, if it smells like nail polish, it is time to throw it out and try again.

So let's say you are pleased with your taste test.  You can now strain to remove sediments and store in sterilized glass containers, or just keep it in the crock and use as needed.  I haven't gotten this far yet, but you can apparently just add wine to it as you use it and keep the vinegar going.  New mothers will form and old ones will die and sink to the bottom.  Take them out carefully.

**I misread the original instructions and began to add my extra wine the first week.  As I typed this i realized my mistake.  We'll see what happens.  I have at least tow months to go before it is ready.  It does already have a vinegar smell to it.

Also, many comments I read on other sites said they used canning jars or their empty wine bottles.  You will just have to adjust amounts accordingly.  I got this recipe from  There is also one on the jar of mother I ordered.

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