Making vinegar and other raw ferments at home can seem pretty intimidating at first, but it is honestly really easy to do. Once you get a knack for a few different fermenting methods, you can experiment and make a wide variety of things. Raw apple cider vinegar and other homemade vinegars are wicked wholesome, multi-functional, and super simple to make. Not only are they easy, but they are far more delicious and nutrient dense than what you can buy from the store. Best of all, you can make apple cider vinegar practically for free with table scraps from your applesauce making.
Although I do make other varieties of vinegar, apple cider vinegar is my favorite because it is basically free to make, and I have learned that you can use A-C-V for just about everything from skin toner to cleansing vinegar tea. Vinegar can be made in a variety of ways and no one really does it exactly the same. For me, the easiest way is simply fermenting apple scraps or fruits and letting them turn into a fresh wine. Basically once your wine has gone too far you have vinegar. In this case we are “ruining” the wine on purpose and making a beautiful acidic, detoxifying liquid that I like to use in dressings, beverages and every day cooking.
You can make your own vinegar at home a few ways. Basically, you can do it with a starter or without a starter and you can use apple scraps or apple cider. Your apple scraps essentially make a cider to ferment but if you don’t process apples in bulk it might be easier to just use cider for you. Either way you can make delicious, drinking quality vinegar yourself with little to no effort.
Making your own Mother culture: Much like kombucha has a mother SCOBY, (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) vinegars have a culture of their own. Before I began making my first batch apple scrap (cider) vinegar I prepared my own starter with just raw apple cider and a few cups of apple cider vinegar. (with live mother culture) If you have a friend who makes vinegar you can ask them for a few cups of their homemade vinegar and starter or of course you can make your own mother at home like I did. (For best results give it at least a month to ferment.) Once you have prepared just a quarts worth of your own starter, you are ready to make a gallons worth of vinegar. A mother starter is absolutely not necessary, but if you plan to make a giant batch of vinegar it is best that you have enough good bacteria to consume the sugar efficiently. I think having a good head start is just easier, once you have made a few batches, your homemade vinegar will be potent enough to use as a starter on it’s own and you will have a culture “mushroom” that you can throw into every new batch.
-Do not use metal when fermenting, always use glass. I prefer never to use plastic for storage or fermenting but that is a matter of personal preference. Use what you have, but nothing metal.
Homemade Apple Cider Mother Starter (1 Quart)
- 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar (with live mother)
- 3 Cups Organic Cider (Additive Free, Preferably Un-Pasteurized and Un-Filtered)
In a quart sized glass jar combine raw apple cider vinegar and organic apple cider. (Fill the jar with juice to about 1/2″ from the rim.) Tighten a clean towel around the top of the jar with a rubber band or string. Allow the culture to grow at room temperature for approximately one month. If left unattended, you will develop a thick, squishy, slimy, spongy growth that looks a bit like a hippie jelly fish with dirty tentacles, this is your mother. She will grow thicker and thicker with time and she can be divided among multiple batches of vinegar if needed. Add this mother with a few cups of the swampy vinegar starter she lives in to what you want to make vinegar with. You can make your apple scrap vinegar, or simply add it to un-filtered apple cider that is free of additives and ferment it until it tastes like vinegar.
Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
- Homemade Vinegar (With the Mother Starter)
- 2-3 Teaspoons Maple Syrup, Raw Honey or Sugar (optional)
- Apple Scraps, Peels, Chopped up Cores, Squishy Apples etc.
- Water To cover
- Save your peels and cores from apple sauce making, baking, or snacking. As you use them toss them into a jar filled with some raw vinegar and water. (I chop the cores into about 3 or 4 pieces just so they break down faster)
- Once you have acquired a good amount of scraps, consolidate them into one larger jar. (or just make sure you cover them all up appropriately)
- Toss the apple scrap and vinegar mixture into a large jar. Try to fill the jar at least half way with apple scraps.
- Pour your homemade vinegar starter over top of the apple mixture. You will want to add about 4 cups per gallon along with a piece of the “solid” mother culture. If this is your first batch just use the entire bottle of starter you made. If you don’t have a mother culture you can simply use a few cups of raw organic vinegar that contains the mother within the bottle, or even skip the vinegar entirely but be sure to add something to feed the ferment. (sugar) I really prefer just filling my jars half way with living vinegar. It reduces the risk of spoilage and gives the ferment a good head start.
- Cover jar with a clean towel and tighten a band or string around the rim.
- Ferment at room temperature for 4-6 weeks. (68-78 degrees F is perfect)
- After a few weeks you can strain away the apples, it doesn’t matter if you go too long, but if you don’t go long enough you will not really get all of the love from the apples. Be sure to really squeeze out the apple mush when you are straining so there is no waste!
- Place strained liquid (and the dodgy looking starter slime that formed at the top) into a clean jar and cover it again with a towel and band.
- Ferment again at room temperature for a few weeks or until it tastes like vinegar.
To continuously brew the apple cider vinegar I like to remove about half of my vinegar and bottle it, then I replenish it throughout the year with organic raw cider. This keeps the vinegar fresh and it insures I never run out in between harvests!