Have you ever thought about learning how to make vinegar from scratch? The process is simple and the end result is tasty and unique. Almost anyone can learn! In this post, I’m going to show you how to create delicious fruit vinegars for your own kitchen!
But before I walk you through the process, I want to tell you why I myself began!
It Was Frugal
Yes, the very first thing that sparked my interest in making vinegar at home was money. Saving money, to be exact!
We were eating lots of hearty green salads at the time, and I was making nearly all our condiments from scratch. The key ingredient in each one? Lemons!
But when my man and I went on a money saving journey, I began looking for ways to cut back on expenses in the kitchen, while still eating a healthy diet! I knew lemons could be exchanged for fruit vinegar in my salad dressing recipes. Because we had access to free fruit, I decided to learn how to make vinegar from scratch. Starting with deep red, raspberry vinegar!
Homemade Vinegar Had Unique Flavors
Soon after I learned to create raspberry vinegar, I made a bold and delicious apple vinegar. Then a deep purple plum. Grape. Apricot. Elderberry and a number of other berry vinegars like purple mountain huckleberry, strawberry and blackberry.
The flavors were unique, something I certainly couldn’t source at my local grocery store!
And when we shared meals with our friends, I’d get compliments on my homemade salad dressings because of their delicious flavors!
Yes, I fell in love with the bold, fruity, robust taste of fruit vinegar! But it wasn’t all about the taste.
There Were Health Benefits
Did you know that Socrates (400 BC) used apple vinegar to doctor his patients? Today, we know why. Vinegar is a fermented liquid and many individuals claim it helps boost gut health. It contains anti-oxidants, minerals and polyphenols. Certain types of vinegar have been said to lower blood sugars and also help with weight loss. Though I have yet to experience the last one personally. 😉
To date, apple vinegar has received the most testing and research.
Vinegar Had Many Uses in the Home
When I first learned how to make vinegar from scratch, the only thing I wanted was a lemon replacement. However, I soon discovered there are many ways to use vinegar in the kitchen.
You can use homemade vinegar for the following purposes:
- To create refreshing sweet drinks on a hot summer day.
- As a meat tenderizer in your marinades; the flavor is delicious!
- In soaked grain recipes: a bit of vinegar will help cut through phytic acid
- A tablespoon of vinegar added to 1 C milk makes for lighter, fluffier quick breads
- To create delicious, immune-boosting salad dressings
- Make home remedies by infusing healing herbs in vinegar
- Add a spoonful to your water every morning for a wake-up and good health
- As part of a fruit fly trap; the scent of fruit vinegar is very attractive to them!
The only disappointment I faced? Fruit vinegar isn’t safe to use in your home canning! Without purchasing an expensive testing kit, there’s no way to ensure your acetic acid levels are at (or above) the 5% mark. Keep this liquid for other uses in the home!
The last reason I fell in love with traditionally fermented fruit juice?
It Was Easy to Make
I remember feeling both dumbfounded and elated the first time I made vinegar from scratch. The process was so simple! How was it possible that this knowledge had nearly been lost in our culture?
I’m so happy to have a part in reviving this traditional skill, to be the one to bring it to you and your home!
Yes. It’s time for me to show you how to make fruit vinegar in your own kitchen!
How to Make Vinegar From Scratch
Here’s how the process works! In order to create fruit vinegar, you need 1) fruit juice, 2) natural yeast and 3) acetic acid bacteria. The last two are naturally found in the air, so your job is to source 100% pure fruit juice!
Step 1: Source Your Fruit
If you live in fruit country and have access to a U-pick, or if you raise your own fruits and berries, the first step is easy! All you have to do is harvest your fruit!
Because berries are simple to work with and grow in both hot and cool climates, I’m going to use the example of raspberries (for northern dwellers) and blackberries (for you southerners). The following directions apply to both types of fruit!
Harvest sun-ripened berries (black or rasp) when they’re at their best: not under-ripe and not so over-ripe that mold spores may be forming. Take the fruits indoors and pick through them, being sure to remove bugs, stems and any sort of debris.
This accomplished, it’s time to create your juice!
Step 2: Extract Juice from the Fruit
There are numerous ways to extract fruit juice from berries. For the sake of keeping things simple, I’ll give you the easiest one today.
Line a large bowl with a cotton cloth. I like to use these ones here, but any type of cotton will do! Pour the berries into the cloth-lined bowl and grab an old school potato masher. Vigorously break up the fruit, until it becomes a thick, mushy mess. Gather up the 4 corners of your cotton cloth, tie them together and hang your homemade cloth bag so it drips into the bowl below.
When the dripping stops, you’ll have a beautiful collection of raw, extracted berry juice in the bowl below, ready for fermentation!
Step 3: Pour Juice into a Food-Safe Container
You’ll want to use a food-grade container to hold and ferment your juice in. It could be a wide mouth glass jar, stoneware crock or a (food grade) plastic bucket. For berry vinegar, I prefer to use 2 quart (1.8 litre) glass jars. To keep dust bugs at bay, you’ll want to cover the mouth of your container with a cloth or paper towel. It should be tied down with a string, elastic or canning band.
Why can’t you use a lid?
There are two reasons you shouldn’t use a lid: fruit flies and acetic acid bacteria. Let’s talk about fruit flies first.
Fruit flies will be drawn to the smell of your fermenting fruit juice. And they’re capable of creeping through the tiniest spaces. If your lid isn’t a perfect fit, you’ll soon find hundreds of tiny, white maggots swimming in your fruit juice.
The other reason is this: if your ferment is sealed off without airflow, airborne acetic acid bacteria won’t be able to flourish and grow. Let me explain how it works!
Step 4: Understanding the Fermenting Process
The first stage of fermentation is a result of natural yeasts. These yeasts are airborne and can also be found on the skin of your fruit. It’s likely they are already present in your juice!
As your juice sits in a warm room (60-80F or 15-26C), these yeasts will become active and feed on the juice’s natural sugars. As they feed, they convert sugars to alcohol, releasing carbon dioxide. If you see bubbles on the surface of your liquid or the sides of your container, it’s a sure sign natural yeasts are in action! This first phase of fermentation is called the “alcohol” phase. Because of, you know, the alcohol.
But it doesn’t stop there. While these natural yeasts are busy consuming and converting the sugars to alcohol, an air-borne bacteria slips in to do its job. That’s right! This is why you can’t cover your fruit juice with a lid! If you seal it up, it will remain in alcohol form.
The air-borne bacteria takes the alcohol produced by the natural yeasts and slowly, converts the alcohol to acetic acid. That’s right! The very thing that makes vinegar what it is!
Step 5: Understanding the Length of the Fermenting Process
If you are fermenting no more than 2 quarts (1.5 litres) of berry juice, the first stage of fermentation will take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, a time during which your ferment will omit a light alcohol-like aroma.
Not so with the second stage! When acetic acid bacteria arrive on the scene, you’ll notice a distinct, pungent, vinegar-like aroma wafting up from the liquid. This aroma will continue to grow, until all the alcohol has been consumed!
And when it has? You’ll have nothing but a pure, raw fruit vinegar, ready to be put to use in the kitchen!
Step 6: Finishing Off Your Fruit Vinegar
Now that you’ve learned how to make vinegar from scratch, there are few things you need to be aware of when storing and keeping your fermented fruit juice!
Safe Storage Containers
When the time comes to bottle your finished vinegar, make certain you use food grade containers. Also see to it that your lids aren’t made of metal. Due to it’s acidic nature, vinegar can be corrosive and will eventually rust out metal lids, dripping unwanted metals into your fermented goodness! If you are storing your vinegar in glass jars, I recommend using these white, wide mouth plastic lids.
In my home, I prefer to use glass bottles for smaller batches and glass gallon jugs for storing large amounts of vinegar. For lids, I like to use corks. They add an old-world feel to my kitchen. Plus, they’re eco-friendly, pretty and can be reused over and over again!
Should you be interested to browse through my favorite options, I have a collection of them here for you to view at your convenience.
But wait. Before you go, we have to talk about testing your vinegar before sealing it up!
How to Test Vinegar Before Sealing It Up
It can be difficult to tell exactly when the bacteria has transformed all sugars to acetic acid. As a result, you’ll want to display caution when it comes to sealing up your “finished” vinegar. You see, if it isn’t actually finished, it will still release small amounts of carbon dioxide. If you seal that up, the results can be explosive!
The best way to tell whether or not your vinegar is ready to be sealed up is to seal it up! That’s right! Put it under tight seal and then check it in 1-2 day’s time. Was there a release of carbon dioxide? If so, you know it’s not ready quite yet. Let it sit for another 14 days, then try sealing it up again.
Don’t tuck it away in your cupboard just yet! If there wasn’t a release after day 1, seal it back up and let your fruit vinegar sit for 2-3 days at room temperature. No release? It’s ready to be tucked away in a cupboard for when you do need it!
Now you know how to make vinegar from scratch! I wish I had space to give you troubleshooting tips, recipes and hand you more details on how to use fruit vinegar in the home. But I’m afraid this post is too long already!
If you want to learn more, you may be interested in buying my 60+ pg, beginner’s guide e-book: “How to Create and Use Traditional Fruit Vinegar.” It’s jam-packed with information and contains far more detail than I could fit in one single blog post!
All the best as you venture into the world of traditional fruit vinegar! And if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!