Starting vinegar without a mother
I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of making my own vinegar. In fact, the first copy I ever bought of The Art of Eating, now one of my favourite food journals, was issue 68, which I ordered specifically for its excellent article on homemade wine vinegar.
What’s held me back until now, though, is the lack of a mother. A vinegar mother is comparable to a sourdough starter: it’s a population of microorganisms used to improve your chances of getting good results. Commercial vinegar mothers can be purchased, but I’ve never been able to locate a Canadian source. A mother will also develop naturally in unpasteurized vinegar, but the only unpasteurized vinegar I can find is cider vinegar, and I’m too much of a purist to be satisfied by a cider-red wine hybrid.
So finally I decided to throw caution to the wind, and try starting vinegar without a mother. I took some red wine – Cave Spring Gamay, if you must know – diluted it to 10% alcohol to promote the growth of Acetobacter, and put it in a mason jar, being sure not to fill it more than halfway. (The process is dependent on having ample amounts of oxygen.) A screw-band and some cheesecloth to keep out fruit flies, and that was it.
According to the book Lost Arts, it can take as long as 6 months for the vinegar to be ready, but I can be patient. In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of all the other kinds of vinegars I’ll make, if this works: malt vinegar, cider vinegar, maybe even some pineapple vinegar…
Have you ever made your own vinegar?