Homemade Vinegar: Easy, Cheap and Superior to Any Commercial Product
Vinegar in the kitchen has numerous uses: adding a touch of tartness or brightness to a dish, making a salad dressing or emulsion, and as a flavouring in numerous recipes. But if you have been using the store-bought vinegars, you are missing the whole point of this delicious condiment! Bottled vinegars you find in stores have been rushed through the process and aged for only a week or two before being bottled and sold. Making your own vinegar, on the other hand, is easy, cheap, and the result is amazing! So gather up the supplies, and whatever kind of vinegar you prefer, whether malt, cider, red wine, or white wine, it's so simple and delicious to make yourself that you'll wonder why you never thought of doing it yourself before! Once you have started, keeping the process going is very low-maintenance, so as soon as you complete the setup, most of the work will be done!
Get Started -- It's Easy!
- Decide what kind of vinegar you will make. You can make any kind you want, but you can't make them all in the same cask!
- Drill two tiny airholes in your cask, one on each end of the barrel, at the very top.
- If your barrel does not include a wooden spigot and a hole at the top, you will have to drill these also. Pound the wooden spigot into the barrel. Drill a hole on the top to support your glass funnel.
- Soak your barrel in filtered, chlorine-free water overnight to make the wood watertight.
- Cut a piece of plastic tubing long enough to go over one end of your glass funnel, and long enough to touch the bottom of the barrel when the funnel is inserted. Cut the end at a 45° angle, so that the end will not be blocked by the bottom of the barrel.
- Cut two pieces of cheesecloth large enough to cover the airholes, and tape them on, making sure that air can get through the cheesecloth (you will need to make the cheesecloth at least two layers thick). Cut another piece of cheesecloth to cushion the top hole where your funnel will rest, and to prevent small insects from getting inside the cask.
- Remove your barrel from the water in which it has been soaking. Sterilize the barrel by boiling some chlorine-free, filtered water, and pouring it in the barrel. Swish it around to make sure you are killing all the germs. If your barrel leaks a little, let it sit, filled with your boiling water, in the sink. The hot water will expand the wood and the barrel will stop leaking.
- Once the barrel stops leaking, empty the water out. Boil enough vinegar to cover the bottom three inches of your cask in your glass pot. Let it cool, and using your funnel and tubing, add it to the cask. Swish it around to kill any bacteria.
- Now add your mother of vinegar, which should look like a blob. If it is too big to fit in the funnel, add it through the funnel opening.
- You are almost ready! If you are using commercially-produced wine, you will need to neutralize the sulfites by letting your wine breathe for at least five hours. Then strain it through a cheesecloth and into your funnel. (The first time, you will want a whole bottle of wine; if you don't have a whole bottle to spare, fill the rest of the bottle with filtered, chlorine-free water.)
- Once you have added your wine, beer, or cider, gently wipe the funnel clean, and stopper it with a cotton ball. Leave the funnel in the top of your cask, undisturbed. Be very careful not to disturb the mother, or it will die off.
- Now, every week or ten days, add a little more wine, beer, or cider. Be careful to monitor the level, because you don't want the airholes to overflow and make a mess!
- And now comes the really hard part -- the waiting. Once a month, drain a small amount of vinegar from the spigot. When the taste suits your palate, it is ready to use.
- When you are ready to use the vinegar, sterilize a wine bottle with boiling, chlorine-free, filtered water.
- Using your other glass funnel, drain the vinegar into your glass pot. Boil to 2/3 its original volume, to sterilize it and bring out its flavour. Pour the vinegar into your wine bottle.
- If desired, add a capful of vodka, cherry heering, rum, or kirsch.
- Stopper the bottle. Vinegar, like wine, will continue to age and develop flavour.
- Continue to make vinegar by adding more wine, beer, or cider to the cask. I know a woman who got her mother of vinegar from her mother-in-law; the same mother has been making vinegar for over a hundred years!
Are You Ready to Try Making Vinegar?
In Addition to the Kitchen . . .
This is a great (and useful) science fair project. If you decide to stop making vinegar, the best thing is to give the whole shebang away to an interested friend or neighbour. Otherwise, empty out your cask, scrub everything thoroughly, and store the barrel with filtered, chlorine-free water in it. If the barrel dries out, you will never be able to stop it from leaking!
Taking it to the Next Level
You can also make vinegar from honey (dilute it to 1/8 concentration with filtered, chlorine-free water), or from beets (soak the beets in water until the water becomes sour). Once you have made your vinegar, you can flavour it with fruits, herbs, or spices.