Vinegar is one of those products that is present in every house and that we use frequently without thinking that we can do it ourselves. A pity, since doing it is very easy and can be an excellent way to turn the remains of wine, juice or any other leftover drink into something useful, in addition to ensuring that we enjoy an entirely natural product without additives. We will give you the necessary techniques about how to make homemade vinegar.
Making vinegar is as easy as taking any drink that contains ethanol, also known as alcohol (beer, wine) or sugar (fruit juice or just sugar water) in a clean, wide-mouthed container and store it in a dark place for several months. We are going to show you the process step by step. You dare?
What is vinegar?
Vinegar is the result of the fermentation and oxidation of an alcoholic or sugary liquid. The word comes from the French ‘vin’ (wine) and ‘aigre’ (sour). Indeed, it is the product of letting the wine sour, a chemical process in which ethyl alcohol undergoes partial oxidation that results in the formation of acetaldehyde. Finally, acetaldehyde is converted to acetic acid. Industrial vinegar is made by diluting acetic acid with water or by transforming ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, but we can do it starting with higher quality products and benefiting from a better taste and more natural qualities.
Vinegar can be made from a variety of original ingredients, each with its own unique flavors and qualities. Acetic acid is what makes vinegar unique, although it does contain other substances including vitamins, minerals, and flavor compounds. It is used primarily in the kitchen to flavor and preserve food and as an ingredient in salad dressings and marinades.
Vinegar and its high acidity make it a naturally resistant product to bacterial growth and deterioration, making it perfect as a cleaning product, for example in cleaning different metals such as coins. We can also use it for the elimination of all kinds of insects without using chemicals that can negatively affect our long-term health. A good example of this would be the use of vinegar in the removal of ants and to prevent them from appearing.
Types of Vinegar
Normally, we find two types of vinegar in shops: white wine and red wine, but there is an infinite variety of products since vinegar can be made with a multitude of ingredients that can be fermented (rice, cider, champagne, etc. ) and any type of flavoring agents such as garlic, herbs or berries can be added. The variations are almost infinite.
White wine vinegar is the most widely used, as it has a mild flavor and is suitable for a large number of dishes. The red wine is stronger and is used mainly to dress salads, although it is a matter of taste. It must be used with caution since it is more corrosive and can discolor some foods, damaging the appearance of our dishes.
The mother of vinegar
The mother of vinegar is a mass of bacteria that serves to turn the liquid into vinegar. Technically, it is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. In appearance it is a cloudy, slimy mass consisting of dozens of strains of beneficial bacteria, what we often call probiotics. The pasteurized vinegar we find in stores has been heat-treated and filtered to eliminate this culture, but we can buy organic vinegar that contains the mother.
Although vinegar is produced spontaneously in any wine that we allow to sour, its flavor will not be the same nor will it have the same nutrients as if we used the mother as a catalyst for the process. The mother can be purchased in specialized stores under the name of Mycoderma acetic. It is important that the mother is of the type that we need (for red or white wine, for cider, etc.) in order not to mix flavors. It is one of the most used materials to wash glass products.
Make vinegar step by step
- The first step is to choose and prepare the container in which we are going to make the vinegar. It can be a glass or ceramic jar, but it is important that the mouth is wide since the process requires a significant supply of oxygen. It is also necessary to wash it carefully and very hot water to avoid the presence of undesirable bacteria that can alter the flavor.
- We put the mother in the container and shake it so that the substance covers the walls of the container.
- We fill it to its widest point. It is important that if we use red wine it does not contain sulfites, since these can inhibit bacterial growth. The quality of the final product will be as good as the wine we use.
- We cover the mouth of the bottle with a piece of rag and a rubber so that the liquid can breathe.
- We choose a dark place where the bottle matures. The ambient temperature should never drop below 20 degrees Celsius. It is also important that it is well ventilated to ensure oxygen supply.
- After 3 or 4 weeks the mother grows to create a thin opaque layer on top of the liquid. We can use this mother later to create more vinegar or share it with a friend. We can add a little more wine to compensate for evaporation. Every time we add more liquid, it usually moves down and a new one will grow on the surface.
- Now we just have to wait. As a general rule, about three months for white wine and for red wine, another three months. The process can be accelerated or lengthened further depending on the ambient temperature. Avoid excessive temperatures such as those experienced in midsummer as they can kill the mother. The product will be ready when there is an intense vinegar smell that almost burns our nose. This will be the time when we will have to test it to make sure that it is ready for consumption.
- To taste the vinegar, we carefully slide a straw along the edge of the stem, trying not to break it. If the vinegar still tastes of wine, it is not ready.
- We only have to bottle it in a sterile container. We can boil it for ten minutes and bottle it tightly covered. In this way, it will last indefinitely as long as it is stored in a cool place and not exposed to light. If we do not pasteurize it, we can keep it refrigerated for a few months.
The result is totally natural and healthy with more subtle and complex flavor than any commercial vinegars.