I learned how to make my own homemade vinegar a few years ago. I had been interested in making my own for some time since it’s something my grandparents used to do. It’s a good practice to make your own homemade vinegar as this product is recommended for preppers to stockpile. It has many survival uses, it will save you money and it’s easy to make.
When I first looked into this, I tough it would be difficult to make my own homemade vinegar. Turns out I was wrong. In fact, making vinegar is just as simple as making wine. Some people say that’s even easier than that.
How is making vinegar different than making wine? For starters, to make vine you need yeast to be fed sugar to excrete alcohol. The acetic acid bacteria that forms in wine (spoiling it) has the ability to consume alcohol and excrete acetic acid, also known as vinegar. That’s why you have to keep your alcohol away from the air for extended periods of time, or it will turn to vinegar. As a last specification, yeast works in an anaerobic environment (absence of oxygen) while vinegar is formed only in an aerobic environment (oxygen is present). These would be the main distinctions between making wine and vinegar.
To get you started, you need a warm, dark place, a jug or similar container, some sort of alcoholic beverage, a piece cheesecloth, and a mother of vinegar (a starter culture of acetobacter).
When choosing an alcoholic beverage, try to use wine or beer with around 6% percent alcohol as I’ve learned this works best. Also, when it comes to the starter culture, some people prefer to leave the beverage sit and hope to get the right bacteria from the air. Since this is not a certain guarantee, I recommend using unpasteurized cider vinegar or using solution with 5-7% alcohol content.
You can order a mother from several online stores for a decent price. You will see them listed as red, white or malt mother, but rest assure, the bacteria is the same in all liquids. The reason for the color is to keep a consistency when making certain types of vinegar. You wouldn’t add red wine based mother if you plan to make white vinegar. When buying online, look for terms such as raw, unpasteurized or with mother.
Acetobacters tend to be very temperature-sensitive. They are happiest between 59 and 94°F, with an optimum range of 80 to 85°F for acetification, and they die off at temperatures over 140°F.
Step by step to make homemade vinegar
Start by dumping any leftover wine or beer (not both) into a crock jug or any similar container. Keep in mind to use only stainless steel, ceramic or glass containers.
Dilute the alcohol leftover with water, no more than 50/50. Remember to leave enough room in your container for air to get in. Avoid using tap water, unless you let it aerate for 24 hours or more for the chlorine to evaporate. The chlorine from tap water can kill the mother.
Add the mother. I usually add one cup per gallon.
Cover the jug with a piece of cheesecloth and hold it in place with a piece of string or rubber band.
Store in a dark cellar or closet and let it sit for 2 months.
Once you check on it, you should have a leathery growth floating at the top of the liquid. That’s a clear sign of a healthy mother. If that’s not the case feed your vinegar with some fresh wine and one or two teaspoons of raw vinegar.
If you have a vinegar crock with a tap near the bottom, once your vinegar has aged a couple months you can continually use it by tapping it as needed. You can top if off with whatever wine you have around to keep a continuous supply.
Some people like to use homemade vinegar for canning, but there’s a trick to it. You may have made a batch of homemade vinegar, but are you sure it is strong enough to kill the bad bacteria? To make sure you’re not putting your family in danger, test the vinegar before using it for canning.
How to test and refill homemade vinegar
If you plan to use your homemade vinegar for food preservation, you should make sure it has at least a pH of 5. Botulism cannot reproduce at a pH of 4.4 or less, but few people take into account that the food they preserve can change the pH by diluting their pickling solution.
To make sure you don’t screw up, get some test strip and make sure you test your vinegar before using it. Pour some vinegar on a test strip and compare it with the color from the picture on the jar. Each jar of test strips should have a color pattern which indicates a pH value. Since the strips can change color in time and are not fail-proof, I recommend getting a digital pH tester.
Store your homemade vinegar in a plastic container and leave some for refilling. The remaining vinegar can be topped off with fresh wine and left to feed. You can do so and keep a continuously feeding batch. You can use some and then refill it.
Some homesteaders recommend feeding your vinegar regularly, every couple of weeks. This keeps the culture strong and your mother won’t become dormant. I often add a cup or so of leftover wine to my vinegar, just to make sure it has a stronger and thicker mother floating on the top of the wine.
My recipe for making homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
- 6 apples
- 6 teaspoons raw honey
- Warm filtered water
- A piece of cheesecloth
- Cut the apples into 1/2″ sized pieces or slices.
- Place them in a sterile quart-sized mason jar.
- Mix the honey with 2 cups of warm water and add it to the jar. You must use warm water to allow the honey to dissolve a little.
- The apples need to be completely covered so you may need to add more water, depending on how big the pieces or slices are.
- Cover the jar using a piece of cheesecloth and secured with a rubber band. This keeps impurities away while letting the air to get in.
- Place your jar in a warm, dark place for 2 weeks until the mixture has formed cider.
- Strain the liquid and compost the apple pieces. You can add them to your compost pile or feed them to chickens (my chickens love it).
- Return the liquid to the same jar and cover it with clean cheesecloth.
- Leave the jar in a dark place again for 4-6 weeks until it’s turned to vinegar.
Adding yeast to activate fermentation is not essential, but will speed up the process and can produce a higher quality.
As a homesteader, making vinegar isn’t really all that hard. You will avoid throwing away leftover alcohol and it’s much more satisfying cooking with vinegar made from your own fruits and wine. If you think about the fact that homemade vinegar has been used for home remedies, cooking and cleaning for centuries around the globe, then it makes sense to learn how to make your own.
Other Useful Resources: