Originally posted on September 25, 2012 on Texas Adventures in New England
Why Homemade Vinegar?
This past summer my one brave Bartlett pear tree gave me a bumper crop of pears. I had never canned before so I was scrambling to learn the ins and outs of pear butter, pear jam, pear sauce. I was on my last few ounces of apple cider vinegar which I use for a lot of foods and for health reasons. Ladies and gentlemen: ACV is excellent for maintaining urinary tract health. It is good for controlling candida yeast overgrowth. It can even help with fighting infections.
So I was running out of my organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar, I have a ton of pears and I wonder, just wonder how difficult can it be to turn these pears into vinegar. But I don’t want to spare whole pears to make vinegar. Heading to the internet, where we know everything is true and free, I find a few posts on how to make homemade vinegar. One appeals to me because it is so simple. I love simple!
Peelings, cores, jar, a little water, splash of previous batch of vinegar and a few weeks. The result is homemade vinegar. I can do this!
What I Did — Making my First Pear Vinegar
My first venture into canning was pear sauce. Really easy, no pectin, all goes well. I was peeling, coring, and into 1/2 gallon mason jars go the peelings and cores, even the stems, as I prepared my pears for saucing. I only filled the jar halfway at this point leaving room for fresh pear scraps (the introduction of fresh scraps gives the ferment more sugar). Over the next week I continued to process pears. I added peels and cores to each of the several jars I had started, made sure there is more water than fruit and then just cover with paper towels. I hadn’t discovered the wonders of flour sack towels yet, and I actually had a roll of paper towels, scrounged around for a few rubber bands (not an easy task in my house because they are never in the drawer where they belong). I placed these in the corner of my cabinets between my coffee maker and stove. Nice and warm.
I reread the directions for making vinegar at least three to four more times because nothing gets into my memory easily. I took a butter knife and poked the fruit down once a day and watched it bubble, begin to smell like alcohol and eventually start to get a vinegary smell. I love that smell!
I ended up with five 1/2 gallon containers of vinegar ferment, all in different stages.
Step by Step
- Prepare your container by washing, rinsing, rinsing some more and allowing it to air dry.
- Place fruit peelings and cores in your container, until about half full. Add water to about 1″ above fruit. If you will not have additional scraps fill the container to just below the shoulder ensuring that the water is at least 1″ above the fruit. Do not overfill container.
- Pour 1-2 tablespoons of an unfiltered vinegar such as Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar ensuring that some of the “mother” is included. Stir the vinegar into the fruit scraps.
- Cover with cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
- Place in warm place for fermenting.
- Daily, using a knife push fruit back down into liquid and give it a gentle stir.
- Add fresh fruit scraps every day or so for up to a week (optional).
- After a week or two, after you definitely smell vinegar, strain contents of jar returning the liquid to the jar (straining is optional but recommended). Compost, ferment a second time, or feed strained fruit to livestock.
- Cover jar and allow to ferment a few more weeks. You might get a surprise scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) growing on top of your fruit and liquid.
- Strain again and place vinegar in sealed containers. Bottles with a narrow neck that will limit the vinegar exposure to the air is recommended but not absolutely necessary. I use canning jars. Grolsch or another type of swing top bottle would be perfect (you do not want metal coming into contact with the vinegar). Use as you would apple cider vinegar.
I will share with you some of the little tricks and observations I made during this accidental kitchen adventure:
- Do not overfill the containers. The fruit will rise up above the liquid level and make your covering a fruit fly magnet.
- Adding an unfiltered vinegar definitely speeds up the process. You do NOT need 1/4 cup. A tablespoon or two is plenty for 1/2 gallon.
- Strain your fruit out after you smell vinegar, about 1-2 weeks or somewhere in between. Not necessary but makes it easier. If you do this with two containers you can combine them.
- You can grow a scoby. Yes, my vinegars grew scobys. I read that these can then be added to fruit juice to start new vinegar ferments. Later in the fall I took one of my vinegar scobys, placed it in red wine that had been diluted with water. Until I diluted the wine with water it did nothing. I now have the most amazing red wine vinegar in my pantry that I use for salad dressings, marinades, and more. It took at least 2 months to reach the rich vinegar flavor I have now. I also made apple vinegar from organic apple juice (store bought, pasteurized — but my vinegar is alive because of the scoby I added.
- I keep my vinegar ferments away from my other ferments such as Kombucha and Ginger Bug. I read that the different organisms can interfere with one another (though I have no way to know for sure).
Vinegar making is so simple even I could do it on the fly while in the midst of other projects. You can, too!