How to make your own vinegar

By Catherine
A mother of vinegar at the bottom in a bottle

I have a Mother of Vinegar! I’ve had it for over ten years now and it continuous to produce vinegar. I must admit though that it started out as a mistake. 

A Mother of vinegar is a bacterial entity developed from fermenting cellulose. It turns alcohol and oxygen into acetic acid, i.e. it produces vinegar.

We make our own apple juice and during the first year in our orchard, I hadn’t learned the difference between different apples. Anyway a huge batch of apples where crushed and then pressed in our apple press. They where nice, sugary apples; though not juice-apples. The liquid was turbid and not really appetizing. I transferred it to a five gallon can and set it aside. The idea was to try to filter it, or find another way to clear it up. 

I forgot about the can, so it stood there for about a week. Unfortunately it started to ferment. The initial thought was to throw it out, then I said to myself; okay, let’s see what happens. So I wrapped some cling foil around the top, since my can didn’t have a lid. Then put it in the cellar… and forgot about it.

Fast forward two years, that’s about the time I discovered a dusty can in the basement with some plastic wrap around it. One grumpy husband later and the can entered the kitchen. Two years, some really sweet apples and a loosely wrapped cling foil had created the most beautiful apple vinegar and an equally beautiful Mother of Vinegar.

The can produces 1-2 gallons of vinegar per year. Now and then I give it some TLC and add some apple juice to it, but most of the time the can just sits there in the basement. 

I forgot about the can, so it stood there for about a week

Our apple vinegar is great as it is, but I make spiced vinegar by adding chili, juniper, rosemary and other spice mixes. 

I’ve also made a balsamic type of vinegar by adding 1 cup of sugar to 12 cups of vinegar and then let it reduce on low heat until approx. 3 cups liquid remains. 

If you want to create your own Mother of Vinegar there are a few important things:

  • You need fresh fruit juice, you can’t use anything with preservatives in it, since it stops the fermentation process
  • There must be “real” sugar in the juice, no stevia, aspartame and other artificial sweetener. I suggest you add extra sugar so you are on the safe side
  • The vinegar needs oxygen so don’t cover it completely
  • Store it in a dark place
  • Give it time, at least a year

Your Mother of Vinegar looks like a large lump at the bottom of the can, don’t ever let it dry. Don’t add water to it, just fresh fruit juice and some extra sugar now and then.

I have only made vinegar on apple juice, so I can’t recommend other types of juice. I don’t know what will happen to the vinegar with other types of juice. If I should guess; I’ll say that grapes and berries are better than citrus juices, but as long as you have a lot of sugar in it; you are good to go.

So good luck, producing your own vinegar.

Image from Wikimedia. My Mother of Vinegar isn't as nice looking, it's more like a sponge.