This summer, I've been busy making vinegar. Thanks to Christine, I've got some mère de vinaigre, or mother of vinegar, or just "Mom"" as we call it at La Maisson du MothersKitchen. According to that bastion of truth, Wikipedia, mother of vinegar is is a substance composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids.
In actuality, it is a blob of something that looks like a piece of pale liver. When I met Christine at Sweetwaters in Kerrytown a couple months ago, she handed me a small baggie full of something that looked like it belonged in the butcher shop. She told me to just add any leftover wine I might have to it and in a couple weeks, I'd have wine vinegar!
I was perplexed. What would I grow this thing in? I wasn't sure what vessel should be used. Furthermore, I wasn't clear on what "leftover wine" is....at our house, there is never any wine left over. But I was intrigued - I love vinegar and use it often. Wouldn't it be great to make my own vinegar? I headed over to Downtown Home and Garden to find an appropriate home for "Mom".
Like considering having your own mom move in with you, the living arrangements are important. I wanted some place where "Mom" could feel comfortable, but yet stay out of my way. I thought she'd like it cool, like my own mother, who was prone to hot flashes but yet hates air conditioning. Maybe she'd like it dark so she could take a nap when I wasn't home? A small 1/2 gallon size crock was the answer. I headed up to Downtown Home and Garden and they hooked me up with just what I needed.
I put the piece of what looked like afterbirth in the crock, 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.
Christine said the soon-to-be vinegar needed to be covered in a dish towel. Like my own mom, evidently she was modest. I was looking for something to hold the dishtowel down and keep the fruit flies out (they like "Mom") and one of my very own mother's elastic headbands worked perfectly! I put her up in a cupboard and left her to do her work. When it is ready, it will really smell vinegary. Pour some out and taste it, and if it is sour enough, pour it off and put it in a jar in the fridge. Keep adding wine or apple cider, and you can keep harvesting.
A couple weeks later, voila! I had red wine vinegar. Since that time, I've added a splash of rose wine, some white wine, and more red. Like my very own self when I became a mother, "Mom" has gotten HUGE. It is time for her to get back to her prepregnancy weight, so it's time to divide her. If there are several *layers* that make up the mother, you should keep the top layer and get rid of the rest or you'll eventually end up with all mother and no vinegar. If you don't see any layers, remove it from the crock, cut it in half and put one piece back and give away the rest. Tomorrow, I will be back at the Ann Arbor Farmer's market, sharing my mother with some food blogging friends: Farmer's Marketer, The Hungry Masses and Teacher Patti.
You can use this vinegar just like you use all other wine or cider vinegar, except for canning. Canning requires a consistent acidification, this homegrown will likely vary so it’s not safe for canning. I'm a real stickler for food safety when it comes to canning.