Making Homemade & Herbal Vinegars
Did you ever wonder if it was possible to make your own vinegar? Well, it is and it is easier than most people think.
Making vinegar is an inexpensive project that results in a more flavorful product. Homemade vinegar can be flavored and bottled and given for unique gifts. You can make it from anything that contains sugar or a starch. Fruit, fruit juice, fruit peels - even carrot peelings, or grains. Don't use commercial juices as the pasteurization process and additives interfere with the bacteria needed to make the vinegar.
For the frugal homesteader this is an excellent way to make peelings more useful than just livestock feed or compost.
What You Will Need
You will need:
- A glass jar, crock, or enamelware pot.
- A piece of cheesecloth big enough to go over the container
- A way to secure the cheesecloth to the container (kitchen twine, rubber band, etc.)
- Peelings from clean, organic fruits or vegetables, (or what ever you are using to start it)
- Distilled water. Chemicals in tap water will interfere with the process
- A warm, dark place to store the vinegar while it is "working"
How -to Make Vinegar
Sterilize the container by filling it with boiling water and letting it stand for 5 minutes. Pour the water out and add the peelings. Cover the peels with distilled water and cover with the cloth. Secure it carefully so that insects and dirt can't get in there.
The cloth allows the natural bacteria and wild yeast in the air to colonize in the vinegar, which in turn causes it to ferment. Stir once a day to make sure that the ferment is mixing with the rest of the liquid. After a few weeks you will start noticing a vinegary odor. Allow the vinegar to continue to ferment until you have the intensity that you want.
To ensure success, especially for your first time, before it is fermented, you can add a half a cup of organic unfiltered vinegar from the health-food store, or use a vinegar starter or "Mother" available on the Internet. After you have done that once, just reserve a cup or so of your own homemade vinegar to add to the next batch.
At this point you can strain through clean cheesecloth and bottle. Store in a cool, dark place. This homemade vinegar can be used as any other vinegar. Each ingredient you use will cause it to have a different flavor. For example we all know what apple cider vinegar tastes like, but peach vinegar has a much different taste, fruitier and more mellow. Experiment with different combinations and ingredients to see which you like the best.
Fruit and Herb Vinegars
Once you have your vinegar strained you can use it to make even more unique gourmet vinegars. The basic instructions for that are as follows:
In a sterilized jar place the flavoring agent (herbs, fruit, etc). Carefully pour vinegar into the jar and fill to within one half an inch of the top. Cover with plastic wrap and then a tight top, if using metal. Let the flavors blend for six weeks in a cool, dark place. Strain and bottle. Be sure and label.
You should never leave the items in the vinegar as it can cause the whole thing to spoil.
Some things to try in vinegar are:
- unsprayed rose petals
- hot peppers
- citrus peel
- ginger root
When you bottle it, make a pretty label on the computer to label it. I like to use the transparent address labels because then only the printing shows up on the glass jars. Cover the top with some calico that has been cut with pinking shears and tie with raffia. Add a brown paper tag and you are good to go. People will be amazed!
Making Rosemary Vinegar
Like so many things that our great-grandparents knew how to do, vinegar making is almost a lost art. We rely on the insipid, bitter, overly sour stuff that we get at the stores when we could be enjoying a far superior product for a fraction of the (admittedly low) cost.
Vinegar making makes a great homeschool history or science project. Try it and you will be hooked!