There are two ways to make vinegar; both are delicious but involve slightly different timelines. If you want to brew and bottle a single batch from your favorite wine, beer, cider, or sake so that the vinegar will have the characteristics of that single base, then follow this recipe.
- 1 bottle of good wine (red, white, or rosé), or an equivalent amount of beer, hard cider, or sake
- ½ cup vinegar mother or live raw vinegar (“Mother” is the murky “cloud” found at the bottom of raw, unfiltered vinegar bottles.)
- Open the wine and taste it to make sure the bottle is good and not corked (corked wine smells like wet cardboard and tastes thin). Pour the bottle into a half-gallon jar with a wide mouth, seal the jar, and shake well to aerate the wine and get the wine ready for acetic fermentation.
- Add water until the jar is three-fourths full (any drinking water is fine; see tip below). Add the mother, cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth or fabric, and seal it with a rubber band to keep out pests. Leave the jar in a dark corner at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks, checking regularly to see that a mother is growing on the surface and things look mold-free. There is no need to ever shake or stir the mixture after step 1; you don’t want to disturb the mother or she’ll sink. Give it a sniff; you should start to smell vinegar!
- After 2 months, taste the vinegar for acidity and bask in the delicious work the millions of bacteria have done for you. Strain out the mother and bottle the vinegar, reserving the mother for another use. Start using the vinegar immediately, or age the vinegar for a year or more to mellow the flavors.
- Begin a new batch with your mother, or give some of it away as a starter.
It may take more or less time for your vinegar to completely convert from alcohol. Differences in local humidity and temperature, as well as the exact nutrients in the wine you choose to start with, will all affect your timeline. Taste the vinegar every week or so to better understand the progress.
When to Add Water
If your starting fermented product has an ABV of 8 percent or lower (like hard cider or beer), you will not need to add water to it. Just throw it and the mother into the jar and begin. For a higher-alcohol wine or sake, you can add a 1:1 ratio of water to wine—just make sure you choose the right-sized vessel for fermentation to allow for the extra water.
As featured in the Summer 2017 Edition of Beekman 1802 Almanac Magazine. For more check outVinegar Revival Cookbook: Artisanal Recipes for Brightening Dishes and Drinks with Homemade Vinegars by Harry Rosenblum. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Ed Anderson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.