Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vinegar: revisited

On February 6, 2011 I wrote about a vinegar project I was embarking upon. I had grand plans of making the best vinegar that the world had ever seen! Well, honestly, I wasn’t sure what would happen, I just wanted to know if I could make something that resembled Vinegar.

I made two batches, one with Ed Wort’s Apfelwein and one with peach wine that I made specifically for the vinegar project.

I used Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar with live “Mother” for my starter.

The Apfelwein version never really made a healthy thick blob, but boy did the peach version make mushrooms.

I don’t know for sure what we’ll call the blob, the Kombucha folks call it a SCOBY. (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) Some of them call it a “Mushroom” which it is NOT. And the Vinegar mongers call it a “Mother of Vinegar”

Three distinct disks of "Mother" formed in the bottle.
Whatever you call it, the 1.75 ltr bottle of wine grew about 3 disks roughly 1/2 inch thick and as big around as the bottle.

This science experiment has been sitting atop the beer fridge, along with two vessels of Kombucha for the last year, and last night, I decided to try it before throwing it away.... WHICH IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT ANSWER!

I poured a tiny bit into a glass and it smelled pretty good. Knowing that I don’t really taste things right when they are full strength, I mixed about 50:50 with cold water and gave it a sip.

WOWZA! What do you know, I made vinegar! And really REALLY good vinegar at that!
With all the character and acidity of apple cider vinegar, but with a fairly forward peach nose and flavor. I can’t wait to get this on a salad!

I think it would be great as just vinegar and oil. That’s been a favorite for years, and this seems like the perfect vinegar to use.

Never being one to go simple, I decided a basic vinaigrette was in order.

My dressing currently consists of 1 1/2 cups EVOO, 1/2 cup of my vinegar, two big pinches of “Italian Seasoning Mix” about six grinds of black pepper, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar.

So what did I do with that healthy little slab of mother? Why... make more vinegar of course!

Conveniently enough, I had some golden strong ale with no hops that has just finished fermenting.

This kind of “Convenience” takes some planning to be sure, but it’s usually not hard to do around here. I put it right into the same old rum bottle with the mother. I poured fairly hard to get it some o2.

The Acetobacter needs oxygen to convert alcohol into acetic acid, so no lid or airlock. I just used a doubled over piece of cheese cloth held on top with a rubber band. The trick is to keep the bugs out and the o2 flowing in.

So if you’re thinking about making vinegar, I have to say that it’s a lot of fun, and very rewarding when the product is ready. I don’t know if it would have taken six weeks or six months, but after a year, it certainly is good to go!

You can make good vinegar by keeping the last bit of wine from dinner and when you have a good bit, say, a liter or so, go ahead and add a half cup of organic vinegar with mother and let it sit.
If you’re a homebrewer, keep back a half gallon of wort before you add hops, ferment it, then add the vinegar mother.

The healthy "Mother" can be used to start more batches
Some of the Kombucha people I know from Twitter will argue my method, but I’ve had success making the “Fermented Tea” with my Vinegar Mothers.

If you have a healthy mother from a previous batch and an inclination to make Kombucha, just add the “Mother” to gallon of tea with sugar. It doesn’t work quite the same, but it somehow makes a very vinegar like product that can be sweetened, carbonated and drank over ice. Kombucha can be very refreshing or it can be awful! Just like all of these “experimental” projects.

My theory is that the sugar slowly ferments and the bacteria immediately converts it to acetic acid. I have nothing but about 15 gallons of experience to back up that theory.

Whether you are making Kombucha or Vinegar, sanitation is of paramount concern. This is a great time to break out your bottle of brewing sanitizer. I use StarSan and have had great luck with it.

With all the associated health benefits of vinegar, and the fun this project has provided, I’m afraid that there may be a bottle “In Process” on top of the fridge for some time to come!


1 comment:

Maggie said...

Nicely done! Unfortunately I'm not into vinegar so I'll stick to brewing kombucha (and drinking beer - I used to homebrew but gave it up for other hobbies) but enjoyed reading about the results of your experiments.

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