Today marks Day 7 of my October posts, so I am going to use this opportunity to join with my Trim Healthy Tuesday posts to share a project I have been working on for weeks now…making my own apple cider vinegar!
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is awesome! I am specifically a fan of Bragg’s brand, because they keep the mother contained, and it is delicious. Not that you will really “drink” apple cider vinegar, but you could and many people do. The help benefits of this seeming tonic are widespread. Here’s an overview for those interested to learn more about ACV’s health benefits.
Trim Healthy Tuesday: Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar (FP)
First, if you are not able to find or use organic apples, make sure to do a thorough cleaning to wash off as much yucky stuff as possible. A simple water and vinegar rinse works well for this. I filled a container with water and poured about 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup of vinegar in and let several apples soak in it at a time for about 10-15 minutes. I then switched to the next round of apples until all my apples were washed. If you can stop up your sink, fill it and use that entire space, it might be worth it…we don’t have a stopper.
To get started, you will probably want to focus on using the extras of apples. Me? I have been getting a bushel (40 lbs) of apples every two weeks, so I wanted to try to use up every last bit of these apples and get as much out of my investment as possible. Apple Cider Vinegar seemed an awesome addition to the apple processing plan. As I cored my apples to prepare them for their various processing ends I set aside all the cores to be used in my vinegar. If you don’t have tons of apples at your disposal, you could also just hold onto all the cores from apples that you use in your household and freeze them until ready to use (I have another gallon sized Ziploc all ready to go when I finish this first batch). The other option is simply using whole apples, diced and thrown all together to make the vinegar. The choice is up to you.
To do the fermenting, you will need a container that is not going to have problems with the fermentation process. I have a large stock pot, but I was not sure of the reactions that might take place, so I opted for an extra 5 gallon food grade plastic bucket I had in the house. You can find these for a few dollars at Lowe’s, Home Depot, or a farm supply store.
Dump your supply of apple cores, chunks, or pieces (whatever you decide to use) into the bucket or container of choice, and begin pouring a sugar water solution over them until fully submerged. You will need 1/4 cup of sweetener to 4 cups of water. I used sucanat, which I have a supply of right now, but honey would work, or even white regular sugar. This is to help boost the activity of the fermentation and feed the bacteria. At this time I would not recommend trying to make a go of it without the added sugar. Thankfully, though, it is not a substantial amount.
Remember, this thing is going to be working through a fermentation process, so it is going to begin creating some smells over time. These smells will attract little flying visitors that you do not want coming into your vinegar, so now is the time to plan out a way of effectively covering the top of your container. My genius husband worked out a solution for me when I explained that I had no rubber band large enough =0) Here’s what we used: a $0.79 IKEA tea towel and a bungee cord…worked like a charm!
Here comes the hard part…waiting. You will want to take a wooden or plastic spoon or spatula to give the apples and solution a good stir every day to help resist any mold growth. Within the first 24 hours I saw fermentation bubbles in my mixture, so I was one happy woman! Sometimes it takes a little longer though, depending on weather conditions and warmth, etc, so do not be discouraged if it takes a couple days.
After one to two weeks, you need to drain the apples out of the vinegar. This can be kind of tricky, and since I have such a large batch going, I did not try to do anything too fancy. I used a mesh wire spoon to remove as many large pieces as I could and then strained the entire thing through a tea towel lined colander that drained into a large bowl. Sadly, I did not think to snap a picture of this set up, but the goal here is not to lose the liquid. You want to get rid of the apple pieces, NOT the vinegar! Figure out a way to collect the liquid so it does not go down the drain!
Now, pour the vinegar back into the original bucket and resume the same covering that you previously used. Again, the hard part begins…more waiting. Once the apples are strained, you will need to let the vinegar sit for 2-4 weeks or more. It is going to go through the transition of Hard Cider (alcoholic) to apple cider vinegar (not so much….) You will want to stir the vinegar every few days to ensure no mold is growing on top. If it is, quickly remove and trash the mold. Once it is removed, stir everything up.
It is during this time that you are likely going to find yourself in a strange place of confusion. “What is growing on my vinegar? Is that mold? What is that?” I had one heck of a time trying to determine what the whitish thin film was that covered my vinegar. I have since learned that this is my homemade, home grown mother! WHOOP!!! You will find the mother growing in stages, so do not be alarmed…be thrilled! Here’s generally the look of what I found.
As you can see, it looks slimy and when gently moved almost mushroom like (similar to a kombucha scoby). I was not very careful with the mother when it was originally forming, but now that is is the size it is I take a bit more care when I mix to not rip it apart. The mother has sunk to the bottom and also formed more on top, so I have quite a bit of mother here now. So cool!
The final part is just taste testing the vinegar. You can let this sit for several weeks to get to the flavor you want, and then strain out most of the mother and bottle up your vinegar. Vinegar is shelf stable, so no need to worry about refrigerating your batch. Use as you would store bought apple cider vinegar, except for in canning because of variant acidity levels (I have not used vinegar in canning before, but I get the idea).
What About You?
I hope you have been motivated to give homemade apple cider vinegar a go of it! If for no other reason, bragging rights…helloo?!! ;0) If trying to make it homemade is not quite your thing, there’s always store bought Bragg’s.
Do you think you will make a go of it and make your own apple cider vinegar? If not, why?