This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
As the French vintners used to say, God loves to make vinegar...
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 1995 13:35:18 -0400
Subject: FAQ Making Vinegar
These directions show how to make vinegar at home using readily available
ingredients and supplies.
In the late 1800s chemists learned to make acetic acid. Manufacturers added
water to reduce its strength to 5%, colored it and sold it as vinegar.
Imitation vinegar is still manufactured and by law the label must state that
it is diluted acetic acid. Diluted acetic acid is inexpensive and lacks the
vitamins, minerals and esters found in fermented vinegar; its flavor and
aroma are also inferior.
It takes good alcohol (wine or beer) to make fermented vinegar. The
hit-or-miss method of making vinegar by allowing sugar and water to ferment
is not wise. The fermentation of sugar to alcohol by wild yeast is followed
by a conversion of the alcohol to acetic acid by wild bacteria. Chances of
failure or undesirable tastes and aromas are high. Control the process by
using great care in cleanliness and introducing chosen yeast and bacteria to
obtain quality vinegar every time.
Winemaking suppliers list acetobacter as "mother" or vinegar culture. These
cultures convert alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar). Most suppliers sell red
and white wine vinegar cultures. Some sell cider, malt and mead cultures as
well. Any culture may be combined with any type alcohol to produce vinegar.
Vinegar should contain at least 5% acid as required for preserving or
pickling. Specialty vinegar contains acid as high as 7%. Beer containing 5.5%
alcohol will yield about 5% acid. Wine containing 11 to 12% alcohol must be
diluted to 5.5 to 7% alcohol before using it to make vinegar.
Acid test kits, sold by winemaking suppliers, are used to determine the
acidity of vinegar. Acid tests are easy to perform and instructions come with
Sanitize utensils and containers that will touch the vinegar by soaking them
for 20 minutes in a solution of 2 tablespoons chlorine laundry bleach to 1
gallon water. Rinse everything well with hot tap water. Hot tap water is
relatively sterile after being held at high temperatures for several hours in
the hot water heating tank.
Vinegar Method I
3 measures beer, ale or vinegar stock (5.5 to 7% alcohol)
1 measure vinegar culture with active bacteria
Vinegar leaches molecules from iron and aluminum. Use sanitized glass,
enamel, stainless steel or stoneware containers less than two-thirds full.
Cover the container with a cloth or stopper it with cotton to keep insects
out, while allowing air to freely reach the stock. Store the mixture in a
Temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees are ideal. Low or fluctuating
temperatures slow the process. At 75 to 85 degrees F, it will take 6 to 8
weeks for conversion. At 85 to 90 degrees F, it can take 4 to 6 weeks for
conversion. Temperatures over 95 degrees F slow conversion; above 140
degrees F, the bacteria die.
An acetic film called "mother" will form. This smooth, leathery, grayish film
becomes quite thick and heavy. It should not be disturbed. It often becomes
heavy enough to fall and is succeeded by another formation. If the mother
falls, remove and discard it. An acid test will indicate when all of the
alcohol is converted to vinegar. Part of the vinegar may be withdrawn and
pasteurized. The remaining unpasteurized vinegar may be used as a culture to
start another batch. Living bacteria are in the liquid. A piece of the mother
is not necessary to start a new batch.
Add beer or diluted wine to the culture every 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the
temperature maintained and when most of the alcohol is converted to vinegar.
Adding more alcohol to the culture keeps it alive, prevents spoilage and
increases the quality of vinegar. If unpasteurized vinegar is exposed to
oxygen without alcohol present, bacteria can convert the vinegar to carbon
dioxide and water.
Vinegar Method II
2 measures dry wine (11 to 12% alcohol)
1 measure water (boiled 15 minutes and allowed to cool)
1 measure vinegar culture with active bacteria
Follow the directions in Method I. Purchased wine can be used, but some
commercial wines contain sulfites or preservatives that could kill the
Vinegar Method III
(For winemakers only)
Wine containing less than 10% alcohol is subject to spoilage. This formula to
make 7% alcohol is an ideal vinegar stock. Follow good winemaking procedures.
When the fermentation is complete (specific gravity 1.000 or below) this
low-alcohol wine can be converted to vinegar as directed in Method I.
1 1/2 pounds weight honey (or any sugar source to obtain a specific gravity
2 teaspoons yeast nutrient or energizer
4 teaspoons acid blend (7.5 ppt tartaric acid with an acid test kit)
1/4 teaspoon tannin
add water to equal 1 gallon
Dry wine containing 11 to 12% alcohol can be diluted after fermentation
(specific gravity 1.000 or below). It's important that the wine contain no
excess sugar. Excess sugar increases the chance of spoilage and formation of
a slime-like substance in the vinegar. The wine does not have to be clear as
this is accomplished when the vinegar ages. At the last racking, do not add
campden tablets or potassium sorbate. Dilute the mead as directed in Method
II and follow the directions in Method I.
To preserve vinegar, add 3 campden tablets per gallon of vinegar -or-
Heat the vinegar to 155 degrees F and hold the temperature for 30 minutes.
After pasteurizing vinegar add one tablespoon 80-proof vodka to each gallon
and age it. If desired to enhance the bouquet, up to one cup oak or beech
chips may also be added.
Pasteurized or sulphited vinegar can no longer produce more vinegar.
Pasteurizing kills vinegar bacteria and prevents the formation of "mother"
which could lead to spoilage. Pasteurized vinegar keeps indefinitely when
tightly capped and stored in a dark place at room temperature. Temperatures
above 160 degrees F cause a loss of acidity, flavor and aroma.
Vinegar has a strong, sharp bite when first made. It becomes mellow when
aged. The esters formed during aging, like those in wine, develop after a
period of six months or more when stored at a cool, steady temperature (50 to
60 degrees F is ideal). This undisturbed rest also allows suspended solids to
fall, making the vinegar clear and bright. Siphon the clear, aged vinegar off
the deposit of solids into sanitized bottles. Introduce as little oxygen as
possible. Winemaking suppliers sell attractive vinegar bottles. Use corks or
plastic caps to avoid vinegar contact with metal. If corks are used, the
necks of the vinegar bottles should be dipped several times into melted wax
to form an air-tight seal. The quality of vinegar improves for up to two
years and then gradually declines. Fermented vinegar can be sold without the
special permits or licenses required for alcoholic beverages. It costs the
same as a good bottle of wine.
This article is taken from "Super Formulas, Arts and Crafts: How to make more
than 360 useful products that contain honey and beeswax" Copyright 1993
Elaine C. White. All rights reserved. ISBN 0-963-7539-7-5. This book is
available by mail. Contact EWhiteVHP@aol.com for more information, or
contact: Valley Hills Press, 1864 Ridgeland Drive, Starkville MS 39759 USA.
In the US telephone 1-800-323-7102; other countries call 601-323-7100.