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Homemade Vinegar

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My red and white vinegars

For years I thought about making homemade vinegar, but since we don’t drink and are not in the habit of buying alcohol, I never got around to it. A couple of years ago, when a friend gave us a bottle of red wine, I was thrilled! It was a sign from the universe that now was the time to try my hand at making designer vinegar.

No, I had no idea what I was doing, but that never stopped me before. I did a Google search and didn’t find a whole lot of information about it on the web–there is a lot more out there now!– so I did a lot of winging it. This is what I learned:

Very simply this is what vinegar is all about–Acetobacter are the bacteria that make vinegar. They eat alcohol and produce acetic acid [vinegar]. The fastest way to make your own vinegar is to get some alcohol and some acetobacter and put them together and let them do their thing. There’s no way to short cut the alcohol thing – it’s what they eat.

Things to remember–Acetobacter is called ‘vinegar mother’, hereafter referred to as mother. Dark is good. Warm is good. Sweet is good. Mold is bad.

What you need–container, alcohol, mother, cloth cover for your container and something to keep the cover on with.

Container: Some folks use crocks. Crocks are great. I saw a few sites that recommended using crocks with spouts, but other sites said don’t bother because the spouts get clogged with mother. I opted for glass jars. I like to see stuff happening and you can’t see through a crock. I have my red wine in a gallon jar now and I started a white one in a quart jar. I get the vinegar out with a ladle. Use wide mouth jars so you can get a big ladle in there.

Alcohol: I’ve made vinegar with both red and white wine. They say that the mother likes sweet wines and I believe them. They also say that the better the wine you use, the better the vinegar you get. The Gang of Pour uses all the wine left over after they do wine tastings. I tried a shiraz [pronounced sher-ahh], but didn’t really like the result. I really like merlot – and you can buy it cheap in a box. At Walmart. White wine makes fine vinegar. It’s usually less sweet than red, so the vinegar is slower. Don’t panic if it takes longer.

Some sites tell you to dilute the wine when you put it in the jar, others say to use it straight. I use it straight. If you need to dilute, you can do it when the vinegar is ready to use.

Mother: Sometimes you can get mother at wine/brewery supply stores. I couldn’t. I tried making my own, but that was a waste of time. Lots of folks online recommended using unpasteurized unfiltered–raw–Bragg apple cider vinegar as a mother start. I did and it works beautifully! Bragg cider vinegar is fabulous cider vinegar in and of itself. I had no idea cider vinegar could smell and taste so good. When you go get the Bragg, you’ll notice the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. That’s mother. That’s what you’re after. Get a bottle with lots of sediment.

How to make Homemade Vinegar:

1. Pour off the top quantity of the Bragg until you have a cup or so left in the jar–that will be the part that has the mother. Pour the mother out into your vinegar jar or crock.

2. Pour the wine in your jar. A bottle of wine and the mother should just fit in a quart jar. If you have some wine left over, cork it and keep it in a cool place to feed your mother later.

3. Cover the jar with cloth. The cover will let the air in but keep the bugs and dust out. For my gallon jar, I use a square piece of fabric held in place with a rubber band. For my quart jar, I use an old tea napkin held in place with a canning ring.

4. Put it in a dark and warm place away from places where you use yeast. A pantry is perfect. Once you’ve got a ripe mother, you can adjust the speed of things by adjusting the temp–warm speeds things up, cool slows them down. Dark is important–sun will kill the acetobacter. I put mine in the sun only to take these photos, then they went back in the jelly cupboard.

5. It may take 6-8 weeks or longer before you have a good mother of your own. Patience is a virtue. Once you see your mother floating at the top, your vinegar is ready to use.

6. Use it like store bought vinegar. It’s great for deglazing, even in the early stages of ripening. You can dilute it if it’s too strong for you. Some folks say to dilute 1 part water to 1 part vinegar. We use ours straight.

7. Don’t forget to feed your mother. Every once in a while, pour a cup or so of new wine into the jar to keep your acetobacter happy.


If you start seeing little oil slicks on the surface of your vinegar, that’s good! You’ll get collections of sediment at the bottom and maybe even on the sides of your jar. If you’re using red wine, your mother will be sort of liver colored and a ripe mother will resemble a placenta. (Gross, but there it is.) White mothers are creamy or pink. Eventually, you’ll get a lovely layer of mother at the top of your vinegar. When it gets ripe, or if you disturb it too much, it will sink to the bottom and another will form at the top of your vinegar. You can see old mothers in the jars in the photo above. Those old mothers can be used to start new vinegar. Fish them out with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry about stirring stuff up.

The photo above is of my white wine vinegar mother. I used a red wine mother as starter, which is why it’s pink instead of white. It’ll get whiter as I add more white wine. This is a new mother, so it’s only cloudy in the center instead of solid. That’s normal. After I moved the jar, the mother sank to the middle. That’s normal too.

More notes to keep in mind–

  1. Mold: If you make a lot of bread or cheese, those bacteria can interfere with your vinegar. Keep the vinegar in another room away from your yeast.
  2. Bugs: In the summer, the gnats [vinegar flies] will find your vinegar. The cover will keep them out, but what you need is a trap so they’ll leave you alone: Mix some vinegar, water and a couple of drops of dish soap and put it in a little open jar or bottle right next to your vinegar. The flies will go in the open bottle and hit the surface; the soap breaks the surface tension of the water and the flies fall in. This works like a charm.
  3. Smell: yes, vinegar smells a bit – like wine at the beginning and like vinegar at the end. Keep it in a back room so you won’t notice it.
  4. Filtering: You can filter it if you want to keep the sediment out. I put some filtered stuff in a smaller jar for the kitchen and by golly that little jar grew a new mother in nothing flat. Obviously this means that you need more than a couple of layers of cheesecloth to filter things through – coffee filter? Personally, I don’t care much – it took me a long time to achieve that mother and it can grow wherever it wants.

If you don’t want to buy alcohol, you have a couple of options:

1. Get someone else to supply you with wine and deliver it in a jar that says ‘acetobacter food’. or
2. Start from juice.

Starting from juice is a two step process. First you have to turn the juice to alcohol – yes, you’ll be making wine. Then you can turn the wine to vinegar. It’s way easier to have someone else buy wine for you.

I tried the juice to vinegar process last year. I did finally achieve fermentation – and it was bee-utiful pink foam, but not before I achieved spectacular blue and white mold. Mold is bad. I’ve read that some folks were able to just pick it off and still achieve mother, but I was never able to. That batch was a total loss and I’ve stuck to the wine method ever since.


Good luck! Keep us posted!


Robin blogs at Rurification.


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Posted by on March 23, 2011 | Permalink  

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  1. 3-23
    7:52
    am
    Avatar of ngsiahaan

    Thank you so much for this recipe. My Grandmother used to have a vinegar mother and every time we visited her she would show it to us. She always seemed so proud of her mother! We always thought it was really neat! I think hers was an apple cider vinegar.

  2. 3-23
    9:09
    am
    Avatar of lisabetholson

    Robin, that is such good instruction I thought Suzanne wrote it (sorry).
    I have never seen Bragg here or anywhere that I remember. I used alot of vinegar to clean my cheesecloth from making cheese until I discovered baking soda works just as well. I may have to attempt to make some just to see if I can get the job done.
    You did a wonderful job on this post. I hope you always have good success.

  3. 3-23
    9:43
    am
    Avatar of Louise

    I remember as a child our vinegar had mother in it from the store but you never see that anymore. Why is that? Is it more processed now than it was then?

  4. 3-23
    11:10
    am
    Avatar of barbie

    Have you tried to make vinegar from apple cider. We buy unpasteurized apple cider and I have wanted to try making vinegar from it.

  5. 3-23
    1:05
    pm
    Avatar of jeepdriver

    Great post! These are the things we need to know to keep eating good without the use of stores.

    I made vinegar last year from pineapple peelings. It’s very easy and free. Wash pineapple good, cut off peel and stuff in jar and fill with water. Add a tablesoon of Bragg vinegar. I forgot that once and it did not seem to matter. Cover but allow air in. East pineapple. Let jar sit and soon you will smell the alcohol. Bad stuff can not grow in this state, mold on the surface might, just scrape it off. Once you’ve got alcohol you can take the peelings out. Let it continue to sit until it smells like vinegar. 6-8 weeks. Strain if wanted. Put in pretty bottle. It will continue to age and like wine does not need to be in air tight container. Nothing bad grows in vinegar.

    NEVER use metal anywhere in the process. It reacts with your vinegar and will add a distasteful metal flavor. Ick.

    You can also do with with apple peeling and a bit of sugar. Shaking seems to speed the process up by adding air but it works either way. It’s free and easy and fun. Just takes a patient soul.

  6. 3-23
    4:26
    pm
    Avatar of Robin from Rurification

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Jeepdriver: Great idea with the pineapple peels. I’ll try that!

    Barbie: The cider needs to be fermented for the acetobacter to take. Hard cider might work…I need to try it!

    Louise: People these days don’t seem to like stuff floating in their jars. Store vinegar is usually ultra-pasteurized and triple filtered. Too bad. Thank heaven for organic, raw, unfiltered Bragg.

    Ngsiahaan: I’m ridiculously proud of my vinegar mother, too. It took forever to grow her and now I love watching her do her thing.

    Lisabetholsen: Thanks!

  7. 3-23
    5:09
    pm
    Avatar of evonne

    quick question, my M-i-L gave me a bunch of her old wine to use for cooking.. it’s def past it’s prime for drinking, would bottles like that be good for vinegar?? or should i just buy a new bottle?? or waht about the bottle that’s still good to drink that we didn’t care for and it’s still sitting in the fridge?? lol…
    i obviously don’t have the issue of buying wine… lol
    thanx for this post… i’m wanting to work towards being away from the commercial foods as much as possible, and i was wondering what i would do about vinegar… next step OIL… lol…
    THANX!!!!!

  8. 3-23
    5:52
    pm
    Avatar of Robin from Rurification

    Evonne – Good question! A good rule of thumb is this: The better the wine, the better the vinegar.

    That said, I can’t stand throwing good food [or drink] away. I’d smell your ‘past their prime’ bottles, and if they smell OK, then I’d use them for vinegar. If they’re good for cooking, they’re good for vinegar. If you don’t like them to cook with, get rid of them.

    Your ‘still in the bottle and ok to drink’ wines will make fine vinegar. And you’ll feel so virtuous for recycling it!

  9. 3-23
    6:33
    pm
    Avatar of evonne

    thanx robin!!
    these were pricey bottles to start with, and i’m thinking that they could be halfway to the vinegar process already which would be why they no longer taste good as wine?? maybe.. lol…
    i’m going to see if i can find that apple cider vinegar online and get a start on this.. soo excited…

  10. 3-23
    6:55
    pm
    Avatar of brookdale

    Great post! Years ago my father would make apple cider every fall. Some of it would sit in the cellar to become “hard cider”. And some would become apple cider vinegar. But I never really knew how that happened, or if it just happened naturally by sitting around in the proper environment.

  11. 3-23
    11:01
    pm
    Avatar of

    What a fantastic post!

    Here is a link to buy Bragg’s vinegar.

    http://www.bragg.com/

  12. 3-25
    2:33
    am
    Avatar of Darlene in North GA

    I just bought some apple cider without any preservatives in it. Make SURE it’s not been treated with preservatives or it will NEVER grow a mother. Get some unpasteurized if you can find it, but I think most states require apple cider to be pasteurized if it’s being sold.

    I also bough a bottle of Italian red wine vinegar and low and behold I looked at it one day and there was this piece of plastic looking thing floating it it, as well as a thing with a TAIL floating below THAT. Figured out that the bottle of REAL red wine vinegar (vs the red wine FLAVORED vinegar will grow a mother all on it’s own.

    My problem is that I don’t know a Merlot from a Rose, so which KIND of red wine do I use? Which kind of WHITE wine do I use. There’s only a bazillion choices and I’m willing to bet that they all lend a little different flavor to the vinegar. But since I don’t drink for religious reasons, I’m not going on a taste testing binge to find out. (Wine as wine to drink = bad, wine as vinegar = fine – no alcohol left – or so little as to be the same as using extracts.)Can someone just point me to something inexpensive that will taste good on a salad or as a marinate for my meats?

    As soon as I get some money, I’m getting some wine to culture my own vinegar. I’m just going to have to have one end of the kitchen for the kefir, the other end for the vinegar and the bread mixing/making will have to go on in the living room – which is where the kitchen table is located. (SMALL house!) That will keep the yeasts and bacterias in the polyglot of cultures I’m raising separated a bit.

    Thanks for posting!

    And I’m wondering, did the pineapple turned into vinegar TASTE like pineapple or just like vinegar.

  13. 3-25
    7:09
    am
    Avatar of Robin from Rurification

    Darlene in North GA – Good Question! I had the same one when I started.

    A good cheap sweet red wine is a merlot or chianti. A good cheap white wine is a sauvignon blanc or a riesling.

    You’re lucky to have a mother in your vinegar! Once you combine the mother and the wine, it’ll take about 8 weeks to form a new one on the wine.

    Good luck!

  14. 3-25
    12:34
    pm
    Avatar of Darlene in North GA

    Thank you so much for the response, Robin!

    I also have the Bragg’s Vinegar. I don’t know if the mother developed in the red wine vinegar because of the kefir I culture or because of the Bragg’s vinegar that I use (I make a drink using 2 Tbs ACV, 1 TBS honey and about 8oz of water)every day. It just seems to have spontaneously appeared.
    I didn’t know I needed to feed the mother. I’ll go add more vinegar to that bottle that the mother is growing in.
    Great article. Thanks again.

  15. 3-25
    12:38
    pm
    Avatar of Darlene in North GA

    Oh, FYI on the Bragg’s. I find mine in the health food store. It’s a bit pricey, but tastes really good. And as I said, I have some apple cider that I’m looking to culture into ACV, so it will be worth it to get the Bragg’s for a “starter” and then I shouldn’t ever need to buy more vinegar.

  16. 3-25
    12:44
    pm
    Avatar of ngsiahaan

    Darlene, I think you are suppose to feed the mother with the alcohol which is how she makes the vinegar….

  17. 3-25
    1:03
    pm
    Avatar of ngsiahaan

    I just checked my “Italian Red Wine Vinegar” by Alessi a product of Italy from Tuscany and I think I see a mother in the bottom. The bottle is a dark green but there is definatly something floating around down there! I’m going to try and feed it and see what happens. :)

  18. 3-25
    1:06
    pm
    Avatar of jeepdriver

    In reply to Darlene -

    The vinegar made with pineapple did taste and smell like pineapple. But if mixed with other items in dressing over dark greens it was not noticed. I didn’t strain mine and I think that would also make a difference. You can also pasturize your vinegar.

    Great book on live cultures – Wild Fernmentation and they also might have a website.

    Susan in WI

  19. 3-25
    4:17
    pm
    Avatar of Darlene in North GA

    Thanks, Susan. I appreciate the info. I’m a fan of pineapple, so the fact that it taste like pineapple won’t be a problem for me. I don’t want it pasteurized. Pasteurization kills all the good enzymes in stuff. I use raw milk – when I can find it. Have a friend that’s a Chiropractor and a Naturopathic Physician. He says that all of the studies they’ve done on raising caves with pasteurized milk ended up with the calf dead. The LONGEST lived calf only lived 3 months. All other things were equal. The calves were fed their own mother’s milk that had been freshly collected. The only thing that had been done with it was that it had been pasteurized. But doing that kills not only any pathogens, but it also kills a lot of the vitamins as well as all of the enzymes in it. So I don’t do voluntary pasteurization of anything. YMMV People have to do whatever they’re comfortable with doing. And you also have to know the source of your food and how clean (or NOT clean) it is. That’s why Suzanne pasteurized BP’s milk. She didn’t know the cow, what it had been being fed, etc. I wouldn’t be drinking unpasteurized milk from a large “commercial” dairy herd. My exhusband had the care of his BIL’s dairy herd and was so very careless in the milking and care of those animals. I don’t even want to THINK about all the health dept laws that man broke and how much bacteria had to have gotten into the milk from lack of care of the animals.

    I bought the book “Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning”. There’s a lot of recipes in it on making fermented foods using all different types of things to ferment with. Everything from Salt to Lactic fermentation.

    ngsiahaan, I do believe that’s the same brand that I have! I don’t have anymore here that’s in it’s original container, just a little left that’s in a glass decanter that has a small pour spout on it. But when I added new vinegar to the bottle it made another mother, so there must be something still in it for the mother to use.

  20. 3-27
    11:26
    am
    Avatar of Kat

    I have some apple cider vinegar with “beautiful” mother in it. Can I use that mother to make my wine vinegar? Or do I need regular vinegar mother?

    I love the fact that it’s called mother. Never really gave it much thought until recently. Mother’s are very good at creating wonderful things!

  21. 3-27
    12:36
    pm
    Avatar of Robin from Rurification

    Hi Kat! Yes, your cider vinegar mother can be used with any other type of wine or cider. Put it in a new jar with your wine and over time it will take on the color of the wine.

    I started my red wine vinegar with a Bragg cider vinegar mother. Then I started my white wine vinegar with my red wine vinegar mother. The bacteria is the same, the color will match whatever it’s eating.

  22. 3-27
    1:43
    pm
    Avatar of Kat

    Thank you so much Robin.. I’m on my way to the kitchen now to “create”!

  23. 3-27
    2:14
    pm
    Avatar of evonne

    WooT!! was mentioning this to a friend who makes flavored vinegar, and i saw her bottle when i went to teach her to make cheese… it has a great mother in it.. i told her that’s what it is.. and she can pour off most of the vinegar (it’s in a narrow necked bottle) and add white wine to make more vinegar…
    she also has some sangria that’s been in the fridge for a few weeks with the fruit still in it.. she asked if that would make good vinegar… sounds yummy to me?? take the chunks of fruit out and add mother and top with more wine??
    another question, i ordered my braggs from the place i order vitamins (they are actually cheaper than the braggs website!! swanson’s vitamins)
    can i split the mother that’s in the jar to start 2 bottles??? also, will that vinegar that i pour off into another jar grow more mother if i add more wine to it??
    so excited to get a start on this!!

  24. 3-27
    3:13
    pm
    Avatar of Robin from Rurification

    Hi Evonne! I have to admit that I am a bit jealous when I hear of people ‘discovering’ a good mother in their jars. Sigh. It took me a year – a YEAR – to get mine.

    The sangria – Your plan sounds great. Take out the fruit, add the mother and more wine. Let it do its thing.

    Splitting the Bragg – yes, you can do that. If it were me, I’d shake it all up on the jar to distribute the mother well and then split the whole jar of vinegar in half so that each of your new jars gets as much mother as possible. The more mother you start with, the faster the process.

    Any of the vinegar that you take out of a jar with mother in it will likely make a new mother. All of mine has.

    Which means… if you don’t want a new mother, you need to pasteurize your vinegar to kill the active bacteria.

    Good luck!

  25. 3-27
    7:01
    pm
    Avatar of Gayle Dumas

    We can get Bragg Vinegar at our local supermarket in the organic section cheaper than the healthfood store. I don’t know if anyone has tried Bragg Liquid Aminos. It is an all purpose seasoning that is an alternative to soy sauce. It is wonderful just sprinkled on burgers and is an excellent condiment for goat. BTW…My red wine vinegar with Bragg mother is currently “stinking up” one of my cabinets…but it’s a stink I can certainly live with for the result and the “one more thing” I can produce for my family.

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