Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Homemade Vinegar

I attended a vinegar making class at the Hollywood Library on Oct. 23rd.  Author, Jean Johnson, of Hippie kitchen : a measurefree vegetarian cookbook taught the class.  She also has a blog: Measure Free Hippie Cook.  Jean is one of those people who light up the room.  She spoke with enthusiasm and inspired everyone!  I sum up a lot of what I learned from the class below:

-To make homemade vinegar, you need a mother culture.  This "mother" will multiply in your solution and you can divide it whenever you start another batch (kinda like sour dough starter).  Only a speck of "mother" is enough to inoculate an entire jar. Jean mentioned that when she was a young girl (in the 60's), all vinegar purchased at the store had "mother" in it.  She remembers seeing the hazy, filmy, layer resting on the bottom of the jug.  When pasteurization became wide-spread, the "mothers" were killed under the high heat.  Each attendee at the class was given a "mother" to start their own vinegar at home.  If you don't know someone with homemade vinegar, then you can get some mother from unpasteurized vinegar from the grocery store.

-To make vinegar, you only need peelings and cores from fruit.  Apple, pear, and pineapple peelings are excellent.  Since I have only made vinegar with pears and apples, I don't have an inclusive list of fruit, sorry.

-Just to be on the safe side, don't use homemade vinegar for canning or preserving.  Botulism is not something to mess with, and when pickling, the acidity levels need to be spot on!

-Once the vinegar is to your liking, you can add raspberries, herbs, and other flavorings.  I haven't done this, but I suppose you would add the fruit or herb and let it marinate for a few weeks.

-You can use the vinegar for cooking and cleaning.

How to make vinegar: 
-Sterilize the jar you will be using.  Any jar will do, but select a jar that will leave about a 1 inch head space when full.
-Add fruit peelings and cores.  Do not include bruises or wormy spots---they can taint the flavor.
-Add enough water to cover the fruit and then some.
-Add the "mother" to the jar.
-Add sugar to the jar if you prefer.  Sugar will speed up the fermentation process but it's not necessary.  The sugar in the fruit should be enough.  The sugar will probably add a little flavor too.
-Cover the jar with cheesecloth and put a rubber band around the rim.  To keep fruit flies out, be sure to overlap your cheesecloth layers or use a t-shirt if you don't have cheesecloth.  Airflow is important here---without it, you can't make vinegar.
-Set the jar in a dark place where there is adequate airflow with temperatures between 65-80 degrees.  I leave mine on the counter behind my mixer because I don't have any other place in my house that is out of the way and receives adequate air flow.
-When the fruit darkens (about 3-4 weeks), remove the fruit and let the mixture sit with "mother" all alone.
-When is the vinegar finished and ready to use?  That all depends on how strong you like your vinegar.  Jean says 6 months or so.  She knows hers is finished by how it tastes.
-Mother can be removed once the vinegar is finished or it can be left in the jar.
-If you remove the mother from the finished vinegar, it can be stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator with a little vinegar in it so it doesn't dry out.

I started out with one apple core and a little mother in a quart mason jar...  

Then I decided to make a large amount of vinegar by using the squished apples from the cider press

Here is the finished vinegar!

This is what the mother looks like.  It's kind of like a Kombucha pad. 

What can I do with vinegar?  I am constantly learning about things I can do with vinegar.  My main use is for cleaning.  I use it on my tile and hardwood floors, countertops, mirrors, windows, walls, etc.  I mix 1/2 cup vinegar with 5 cups warm water.  I always dilute it and it seems to work just fine.  

Ironically, one week before I took the vinegar class, a Yahoo headline was all about vinegar.  I listed the article's uses for vinegar below, but for more detailed information about each item, go here. 
  • Condition hair
  • Kill weeds
  • Remove underarm stains
  • Soften fabrics
  • Remedy sore throats
  • Deter ants
  • Soak sore muscles
  • Freshen air
  • Remove stickers
  • Cure hiccups
  • Clean crusty paintbrushes
  • Dissolve rust
  • Eliminate stale odors
  • Remove mineral deposits
  • Neutralize spice in foods
  • Prolong the life of cut flowers
  • Clean glass, plastic, chrome, and floors
  • Treat fungal infections
  • Tenderize and kill bacteria in meat
  • Open drains and freshen garbage disposals


Jenn Mer January 22, 2012 at 2:07 PM  

It's so nice to see your process of making vinegar. When we buy products at the store, we think the process to create those goods is so complicated. I find there is a joy in creating your own basic products at home. Now that I see how you've made vinegar, it seems a lot easier than I had imagined. I had never seen a "mother" before and love the photos. Will you continue to make your own vinegar?

Holly January 23, 2012 at 11:29 AM  

To make moving easier, I ended vinegar making and haven't decided whether or not I will start it up at our new house. I agree, there is something satisfying just knowing we can make things ourselves.

Jill April 25, 2012 at 9:00 PM  

Wow! I've used vinegar for years to clean just about anything. I never thought to use it on meat.

Holly May 3, 2012 at 7:58 AM  

I just discovered another use for vinegar! It removes wallpaper really well. Once the top layer of vinyl is off, the vinegar removes the sticky paper underneath. I put the vinegar in a spray bottle, sprayed it on the paper, and then peeled it away with a putty knife. Simple!

Courtney - Maui Jungalow July 23, 2013 at 6:38 PM  

Awesome Jean! I am making or trying to make homemade vinegar using Hawaiian passionfruit (we call it lilikoi) on Maui. I'll be blogging about it eventually on I've only found 3 helpful posts on making vinegar from fruit juice or fruit. Most of them say to start w/ apple cider or wine! My mother of vinegar looks like yours. I'm relieved that it looks the same. My vinegar is not in a dark place, but I'll move it.

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A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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