Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Yesterday in the comments, Amber asked if anyone has tried to make vinegar from scratch.

I have!

My partner and our 9yo son went apple picking one gorgeous autumn day this fall. With their incredible harvest, we made crisps, baked apples, and apple sauce. We also dried hundreds of slices in the dehydrator. Some of them we packed up as holiday presents. Some we enjoyed as car snacks on our interminable winter drive to our families. And others we'll enjoy, cooked into pies, as the winter proceeds.

As we cut up the fresh apples in preparation for those treats, we put all the cores and skins and seeds in a big jar. When it was about two thirds full, I topped it up with water and then covered with a tea towel. The mixture stood on our indoor porch for a while, waiting for fermentation.

I checked out it occasionally, never quite sure what I was supposed to be checking for.

And I just harvested the results:

...a lovely harvest of blue-green mold.

Most blue-green mold won't kill you. If it is Aspergillus, it can cause ear infections. If it is Penicillium, it can cure them. But even in the best case, antibiotic salad dressing is pushing the term "health food" too far for my tastes.

* * *

What is the wildest thing you've found yourself doing in the name of sustainability?


Jennifer McNichols said...

My mom and I made red wine vinegar from left over bits of red wine a few years ago. She bought a "mother" which is a starter like a sour dough starter from a local homebrewing store. It was quite easy to make and turned out great!

Alison said...

I made sour kraut with a similar method, except that I was told to cover it with brine and skim any mold from the top. I did get some stuff that looks a bit like your picture, so I skimmed it off and let the cabbage continue fermenting. After about 4 weeks I had some tasty kraut!

Green Bean said...

Love the title. I've done some pretty crazy things in the name of eco though none come to mind right now. Not sure anything as gross as your moldy vinegar. ;-)

JessTrev said...

There was an article about this in yesterday's WaPo Food section - like Jennifer says, apparently you need a "mother" like a sourdough starter.

I also want to make vanilla extract....

Amber said...

Sorry to hear your experiment wasn't quite a success but great that you tried! I just found this article on how to make vinegar, and there is a tip about using Braggs Apple cider vinegar as a starter culture as, "the vinegar in the culture keeps out the other molds and bacteria until the vinegar bacteria have had a chance to take firm control of the juice."

Good luck if you do give it another go! I might try to make some myself.

In the meantime I'm going to use the vinegar jugs I do buy, to store emergency water.

I figure if the water sits for too long I can use it to water the garden or flush the toilet and just fill the jugs up again, and that way I won't need to buy bottled water!

organicneedle said...

My worms go on my crazy list. There are times when I am rearranging their bin, trying to identify a mold, my children are seeing who can get the longest one,and I take a moment...stop and look out the window and remember I am in the middle of NYC...worm wrangling and feel completely nuts.

Chile said...

That's what happened when I tried to make fruit scrap vinegar, too. Scared me so it went in the compost.

I bought some apple cider vinegar with "mother" in it but just haven't gotten around to trying to make my own vinegar with it.

Willa said...

I saved all those cores and peels from the drying process this year and made apple/cranberry jam with them. Actually, I save them every year, in plastic bags in the freezer, but THIS year I actually did something with them!

While we have made run-of-the-mill stuff like sausage, yogurt and cheese, we also tried made our own tofu. It didn't turn out well, and I haven't revisited the process to figure out what I did wrong. We did get tofu, a layer about 1/4 inch thick! If you would like to read about the experience, I wrote about it here:

Wine Tastings Guide said...

Good try, but making vinegar from fruit or juice takes two steps. Its easiest if you make it from left over wine. The alcohol is converted directly to acetic acid.

If you use juice or fruit, it has to ferment to alcohol first and then it ferments from alcohol to vinegar. I think you got into trouble because of this. Also, just the cores and seeds of tart apples probably don't have enough sugar to really ferment into a significant alcoholic cider.

If you want to try again, try with wine or hard cider to start with and get a mother of vinegar to be sure you have the right bugs working for you. Either that or innoculate it with an old bottle of vinegar on your shelf which has some stuff floating on the surface (that is the mother).

There are instructions how to do it here...

Cheers and good luck!

Wine Tastings Guide said...

Sorry, here's the link...

How to Make Vinegar


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