Making Vinegar With a “Mother’s” Love
A sterile ceramic or glass container with cheesecloth over the top is best to allow airflow and ventilation in making your vinegar. (photo by L.T.)
Leona Taylor | Chef's Blade
Often, it seems nothing is quite as satisfying as those things we do and make at home. In these times, it seems more and more people are finding great satisfaction in making lemons into lemonade, or in this case – vinegar. There are many methods for making home made vinegar at home. Red wine vinegar is one of the easiest. With a little help from the “mother” (a live culture of bacteria that eats up the alcohol in wine) you can enjoy red wine vinegar in just ten weeks.
Recipes to make vinegar abound on the Internet, while brewing supply stores mother bacteria cultures, but the best mothers are those that are passed around. I had started a batch at home using Dr. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, live vinegar with mother cultures already present inside. Although it seemed to be working it was off to a slow start, when randomly a friend brought me a piece of her mother as a host gift. Suddenly we were in the vinegar business and the house hasn’t smelled the same since.
There are just a few ingredients and tools needed to make vinegar. A sterile ceramic or glass container with cheesecloth over the top is best to allow airflow and ventilation, and Red Wine, Water, and some form of “mother” are all that you need to get started. Once started, your vinegar needs to be fed on a weekly basis, taking care not to overfeed, with just a cup or so of red wine and a little bit of water.
The smell of your vinegar will change over time, going through a slightly unpleasant period of acetate aroma and settling into the more familiar vinegar ambrosia. The mother will also undergo many changes, keeping it necessary to attend to and stir your concoction as often as possible. Some people have been horrified to find a thick slimy film at the top of their vinegar, but this is indeed usually simply mother cultures that need to be re-submerged. Over the course of ten or so weeks your vinegar should transform from science project to tasty delight, a taste far superior to store bought red wine vinegar. And, of course, the best way to tell if it’s done is to taste it.
Once finished, you may separate the vinegar from its “mommy” and pass it along for someone else’s pleasure or start another batch. The finished vinegar may be pasteurized for safekeeping, bottled as gifts, or stored in a container in the kitchen for continual use. Already in our household the vinegar has brought a little extra pizzazz to everything from salad dressing to lemonade while hopefully adding a healthy dose of live bacteria to our active lifestyle.