I’ve been making my own vinegar since 2008, ever since I met up with some food blogging friends at our local farmer’s market and was handed a small plastic bag that contained a blob of something that looked like a piece of pale liver. My friend told me to just add any leftover wine I might have to it and in a couple weeks, I'd have wine vinegar!
It was mother of vinegar, or mère de vinaigre, as it is called in France. Mother of vinegar is a substance composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids. It is similar to a SCOBY, or the Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast used to grow kombucha, but the acidity in vinegar kills off the yeast that is a part of a kombucha SCOBY.
I raced home from the farmer’s market and put “Mom” in a half-gallon canning jar topped with a piece of cheesecloth and then opened a bottle of wine. It felt a little bit odd (but not unheard of) to start drinking at 10:30 AM on a Saturday, but I had to do it for Mom. I poured her some in her crock, and poured myself a glass. Why not? Cheers! Now, whenever I open a bottle, I always make sure to pour Mom a glass, too.
If you don’t have a friend to give you some vinegar mother, you can use any brand of natural apple cider vinegar (such as Braggs) that contains the mother.
I use my homegrown vinegar for cooking, including my famous vinaigrette (recipe below). You can use this vinegar just like you use all other wine or cider vinegars, except for canning. Canning requires a consistent acidification. Homegrown will likely vary, so it’s not safe for canning.
Homemade Wine Vinegar Recipe
• A large jar. A half-gallon canning jar or recycled pickle jar works well
• Cheese cloth, muslin or other fabric
• Rubber band, string or canning ring to secure
• 1 cup (or more) of wine. Wine can be red, white, or of a fruit variety.
• 1/4 cup vinegar mother or natural apple cider vinegar with the mother.
1. Pour the wine into a clean, glass jar and add the mother. Cover the jar with fabric.
2. Leave the jar undisturbed in a dark place at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks, checking regularly to see that a vinegar mother is growing on the surface. It will look like a gelatinous translucent disk that will form layers over time. You should begin to smell vinegar after a few weeks, and can taste it every week or so to monitor the fermentation.
3. The beauty of making your own vinegar is that you can make it as sour as you like it. For me, it’s at least after about 2 months. I always give “Mom” a splash of wine whenever I open a new bottle. When my jar is full, I strain it and put it in a wine bottle topped with an olive oil top for all my cooking needs.
4. You can save the mother to begin a new batch, and separate a few layers of mother to share with your friends and neighbors, just like we did when I got mine 12 years ago.
Mom’s Best Vinaigrette Recipe
In our house, we don't like bottled salad dressing very much. Besides being lots cheaper to make, homemade dressings taste better, too. We like our salad dressing tart and lighter, and so we use a 75-to-25 ratio of vinegar to oil. This recipe uses dried herbs from my spice rack, so I can always make it whenever we need it.
• 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 4 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed
• 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
• 1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
• 1 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Combine in a jar with a lid and shake. Refrigerate for at least a day before using. Bon appétit mère de vinaigre!
Cynthia Hodges loves cooking and the lost domestic arts of home canning and sewing — those skills they used to teach in home economics. She’s been keeping her home economics blog, Mother’s Kitchen, since 2006. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook at Mother’s Kitchen and Michigan Inspired. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.