Wednesday, December 2, 2015

DIY Making Vinegar from Scratch

DOB August 19
From cooking to cleaning, hair care and laundry, I go through a ton of vinegar around here so this summer I decided to try my hand at making my own. I found plenty of How-To articles online, but almost all of them were cheat directions that involved buying Bragg's ACV with the mother already in it. I wanted to go really old school for this, and after a lot of searching ran across a comment in a forum that gave me a clue on how to pull this off.

We make a lot of wine and booze here at the Halfassed Haphazard Ranch, so I knew how the fermentation processed worked. Vinegar is basically just wine that's turned, so it seemed like it couldn't be that hard. I mean, all I had to do was make wine, then ruin it. I'm down with ruining things.

After canning peaches I was left with a bucket load of peels. Normally I toss them to the chickens but I decided to give peach peel vinegar a whirl. I threw a handful into a gallon pickle jar, and another into an old latch lid jar that was just taking up space. Added a cup of sugar and filled up with water.

Yes I said filled. We'll get to that later.

Gave them both a good stir and then realized I had nothing to cover them with. No muslin, no cheesecloth. What I did have was a hemp bag we'd used a time or two to strain mash with and some sterile gauze bandages, so those plus some rubber bands and I was in business. I put both jars in a cabinet next to the dishwasher.

Now we've been fermenting various things for making booze and I should have remembered the importance of leaving ample headspace. My memory was quickly refreshed two days later when I ran the dishwasher and heated up the cabinet with the jars. Both of them frothed up and over as the wild yeasts they'd picked up from the air had been hard at work. After cleaning the mess up, tossing the hemp bag into the washing machine and the other gauze cap into the trash, I pulled some from each jar and started a third batch in a spaghetti jar, which I stuck beside the fridge and behind the coffee maker. Added new high tech gauze and rubberband covers to all three batches.

Ten days after start, all three jars were bubbling away and smelling boozy, especially the pickle jar. The spaghetti jar was the least active, but since it was made from the skimmings off the other two it's also the weakest batch to begin with. I'd been stirring them a little bit every day and everything is going great. This is basically how you make prison wine. Or so I'm guessing from watching Orange is the New Black. :D
August 29

Look at all this action! 
August 30
I pulled my fermenting jars out this morning to stir and possibly go ahead and strain off. The bubbling action had died off in 2 and I only saw a few bubbles around the edges of the pickle jar.
Sept 30
Took a pic, popped off the covers, stirred, and oh $(@!
What I thought were bubbles was actually a mother forming. I wasn't expecting that to happen so soon!
Mother forming, September 30
The idea was to ferment to make wine, then strain the jars and THEN a mother would form. Well oops. On advice, I went ahead and carefully pulled the mothers out and then filtered the jars to get all the peels out. The liquid from the pickle jar could best be described as boozy snot, very thick and gross. The spaghetti jar was more like water. I transferred it to a mason jar. Mothers back in, and new gauze covers on all, then back to the cabinet. I am told what I did won't hurt them and that more will form anyway.
Sept 15
By September 19 all three jars had mothers growing. Touching them made the whole thing move, whereas before it would tear apart.
Sept 19 Mothers in all jars
Pickle Jar, thickest one of the three batches
Quart Mason jar

By September 30 I had vinegar in the Mason jar. This was WAY faster than I'd expected! The original mother had sunk to the bottom, and while a new one was forming on top a quick taste test confirmed it's vinegar. Good vinegar too, very strong with a slight peach aroma and taste.
Sept 30 Mother sank and wine is now vinegar
The larger jars are still brewing. I tasted the pickle jar one and it's still a little peachy boozy flavored. The mother in it is pretty thick. This was the strongest batch by far to begin with and the one that was positively snotty when I skimmed out the peach peels.

Now for the ew part. Gnats got into the swing top jar and started raising a family and I pulled it out to find about a dozen gnat maggots on the inside of the glass. I didn't take a picture of that. :/ My mistake here was not switching my gauze covers to something with a tighter weave once the mothers were forming. The bacteria you need to make them grow is carried on the feet of vinegar flies, so you have to let them get into it at first in order to start the process (which is probably why I had mothers growing in my early fermentation batch). Gross I know, but that's how it goes. But once the mothers were there, the flies were no longer needed and certainly not wanted because as I discovered, they take up residence and get jiggy in there.

I took this pic today, December 2nd, and you can see the layers of different mothers in each jar now. I need to skim out the pickle jar because there's a lot of crud in the bottom half. When I need vinegar I just pull it off the top.

December 2
We've got a few carboys going right now and will be bottling wine this weekend. I'll empty these out and then put the mothers back on the bottom of the jars, then pour fresh wine over them to start the process all over again. :)

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