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Making Homemade & Herbal Vinegars

Updated on January 31, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

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.

Image:Herbal Gardens
Image:Herbal Gardens

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"

That's it!

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:

  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • pears
  • apples
  • unsprayed rose petals
  • hot peppers
  • onion
  • dill
  • garlic
  • oregano
  • basil
  • thyme
  • lavender
  • cilantro
  • peppercorns
  • citrus peel
  • ginger root
  • pineapple

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

Lost Art

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!

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      I was just recently wondering about this process again--thanks!

    • gracefaith profile image

      gracefaith 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Fantastic!!

    • profile image

      loveALWAYS 5 years ago

      can I make vinegar out of potatoe peel? thanks

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      I would go with about 1/2 a jar

    • profile image

      CorgiHouse 5 years ago

      This is wonderful!! Thank you for this informative info...but I do have a question. I don't see anywhere here where it does mention quantities/ratio of the peels vs water. Do you just put a few peels in the bottom of the jar and then fill it up with water? Or do you have half a jar or a full jar of peelings first? Can you please clarify that info? Thanks again!!

    • profile image

      Bill Kerr 5 years ago

      I once wanted to make honey mead and after many months found out that air had got into the barrel and it was turned to vinegar. It was the most amazing vinegar for a salad dressing and I am going to try and make it again.

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Sorry Alexandra I don't know...

    • profile image

      Alexandra 5 years ago

      A friend made herbed vinegar 20+ years ago. It has been in its lovely bottle with the cork heavily sealed with candle wax ever since. I don't know how to open it, or if it would still be good. Can you advise?

      Thanks, Alexandra

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Awesome article. I will try this soon!

    • profile image

      Alannah 5 years ago

      If I'm using apples, which kinds do you recommend? Is there a difference in the end product between using juicy apples verses more dry apples?

    • profile image

      Rebecca 6 years ago

      I've heard you have to be careful of Botulism in raw herbs/fruits.

    • Marye Audet profile image
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      Marye Audet 6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      It is usually distilled from malt vinegar but you can't use it as a starter for other vinegars. FOr that you will need an organic vinegar

    • profile image

      Winston Hudson 6 years ago

      I just want to know about White vinegar, commonly found on grocery shelves that, Is it a chemical or pure vinegar & how they extract it.Can I mix 1-Cup of it, if I'm the first time maker?Thanks

    • profile image

      Leonardo C. Bag-ao 6 years ago

      In preparing vinegar with banana peelings or any other raw materials, do we need to mix it with water? Thank you for your reply.

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Wow. I've never even thought about making my own vinegar. I'm definitely going to try this. Thanks for the great information.

    • profile image

      happyhomestead 6 years ago

      love making red wine vinegar using half wine half water and am teaching a class of twelve this week who want to learn..Love your site

    • profile image

      Akadiri Oluwaseun 6 years ago

      Thanks Marye Audet will try one of those, it quite expensive in nigeria especially when you need it in a large quantity.

    • profile image

      Martelle 6 years ago

      Thanks .... I can really use this as experiment

    • profile image

      RIVANALDO 6 years ago

      Culture banana trees in my yard and the times I lose many bananas because they ruin. Question: To make the vinegar I can only use the banana in pieces or use the rinds?

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 6 years ago from US

      This IS great, I use a lot of vinegar and the organic is so expensive and besides I know this will be fun, thanks so much.

      Polly

    • profile image

      ohlo 6 years ago

      Thank you so much for this information! I recently started using an apple cider vinegar rinse for my hair as well as body because of chemical allergies and an increasing awareness of the harmful chemicals in most beauty products. I have a couple of questions: 1. Can a vinegar be made using several fruits and/or vegetables at a time or do they have to be made separately? 2. Do the benefits of the plant transfer to the vinegar? By the way, for anyone interested, I have long, very thick, dark, natural curly hair and have always had to use a lot of product to detangle, but with the vinegar rinse, I am able to brush right through my hair. It's amazing!

    • profile image

      Bev 6 years ago

      I'm trying this again with pear peelings. The first try was with peach peelings and after the second week it became infested with fruit fly larva. I inoculated the peelings with ACV, cooler temps now (not many, if any, flies), plus I used a cotton sackcloth instead of cheesecloth to cover the jar opening. Thanks so much for posting this information!

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Anja - yes, exactly. That adds the correct bacteria immediately.

    • profile image

      Anja 6 years ago

      This is great! The simplest method I have found but I have a question!

      When you say "to ensure success, especially for your first time, before it is fermented, you can add a half a cup of organic unfiltered vinegar" Do you mean to add the bough vinegar right at the start?

    • profile image

      mjay 7 years ago

      how i wonder if i can make a vinegar using pineapple pilling to sell it. can i get some reciepies? THANKS

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Just buy white vinegar..it is cheap.

    • profile image

      familygleanings 7 years ago from New Zealand

      I want to make something that cleans like white vinegar. What would you recommend?

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Any vinegar you make should be made with organics. MOst conventional produce is full of pesticides.

    • profile image

      Idahocshell 7 years ago

      I'm sorry but the recommendation for banana peel vinegar may not be a good idea. Unless you are buying organic bananas most bananas are sprayed with an insecticide that is not meant for human consumption. I always throw away banana peels. But I really learned alot from this site about vinegar making. Thank you!

    • profile image

      Carol 7 years ago

      Garlic vinegar is fabulous!

    • adorababy profile image

      adorababy 7 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      Home made vinegars are the best concoctions to use when whipping up those home made dishes. Nothing beats up a homemade specialty made from homemade ingredients.

    • profile image

      rcfsister 7 years ago

      My brother is making rhurbarb vinegar. Asked him to let me know how it turns out. He also uese rhurbarb juice for wines. I've always been interested in making vinegar and now have some ways to make it. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Thanks for the info.

    • profile image

      mohammad 7 years ago

      wow 3 years ago and still very usefull and am sure that so many people found this page usefull but too lazy to say thank you. So thanks a mil.

    • profile image

      Janien Galley 7 years ago

      I taste this one kind of vinegar , although it taste saltly I still love it Ehm. . yum

    • profile image

      Lori 7 years ago

      This sounds much easier than making vinegar from apple cider.

      What vegetables/fruits should we use and how much of them? Just their peelings?

      Thanks

    • profile image

      Rasheeda 8 years ago

      Lots of thanks. It's the most detailled and easiest of all the methods I'd read so far. I'll try it soon. May God Reward you for the knowledge you are teaching us

    • profile image

      isaac 8 years ago

      thanks for the good info! i just started some cherry agave vinegar today.

    • profile image

      r0z 8 years ago

      thank a lot because i have learned something new!!!

    • profile image

      roston 8 years ago

      this web is so useful i got a lot of tips and recipes that are so good

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 8 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      as far as I kno wyou can use anything for vinegar

    • profile image

      Ala  8 years ago

      Can I use figs for this vinegar, thank you.

    • profile image

      t scott 8 years ago

      wow we make vinagar and cucumber and onions every year i will out do myself this christmass thank you,was messing with uneducated people at work and asked how to make this and that is tommorrows question of the day????thankyou very much

    • The Real Tomato profile image

      The Real Tomato 8 years ago

      I love this. I use vinager for many different things. The reuse of class jars can keep garbage out of our landfills.

    • solarshingles profile image

      solarshingles 9 years ago from london

      I think that the apple viniger is a very special one, even though the others are great too.

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Sally T- I make alot because we have 12 people living here! I dont think there is a minimum.

      Warm would be between 70-80 degrees.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a delicious hub!

      Mayre, when you make vinegar, what kinds of quantities do you make? Just a cup at a time, a quart? A gallon? I'm thinking in terms of parings. As I prepare food mostly for only one person, I don't usually have too many parings at one time. Is there a "minimum paring volume" at which point the process won't work?

      Oh, one more question, how warm is warm for a "warm, dark place"?

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      It really is. Just make sure the items you are using are organic.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      amazing! I'll have to try this one. I'd never thorugh of producing vienegar, but it sounds great.

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Queen C- mmmm...banana vinegar sounds great!

    • queen cleopatra profile image

      Roselyn Mendoza 9 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for the variety of vinegars. I'll try one soon. I always do vinegar from ripe banana peels by the way. Its sweet and tangy. Perfect dips to fried and grilled food!

    • Marye Audet profile image
      Author

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      not really...just keep experimenting.

    • profile image

      Valerie Weingart 9 years ago

      This is brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing your talent... I'm off to give it a go.

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks a lot Marye, I am definitely gonna try this, gosh we can make lots of healthy products with this technique. :)

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 9 years ago from Seattle

      My grandma used to make these. I always wondered how. Thanks.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      Thanks, this is most useful.