Last year, my friend Ritzy went apple picking and brought home about 40lbs of apples. That’s a lot! I told her to drop them to me and I’d take care of half of them. Using the recipe below, though on a much larger scale, I made a HUGE batch of homemade apple cider vinegar that lasted me all year. It lasts because I make sure to use it only in raw applications – cooking the vinegar kills the live microbes and probiotics that are so good for you.
THIS PROJECT IS WORTH THE EFFORT!
The resulting vinegar was apple-forward, and a bit tangy on the finish. While the nose was pretty vinegar-y, it would be great in a beverage – not offensive in anyway. It’s good to note that the I left one batch to ferment in the air for two months more after the initial fermentation period – the color was much darker, the flavor was stronger and it was a bit too alcohol-y and ferment-y, though it mellowed with age.
HOMEMADE APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Apple cider vinegar is a soft, round vinegar that is slightly sweet. Perfect for
dressing salads or using in pickles, this vinegar lacks the hard bite of traditional
white vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is also a decent replacement for lemons when
you don’t have any around, and works well in a gravy or sauce.
It is fairly easy to make your own homemade apple cider vinegar at home. You can use
scraps from apples—the cores and skins make great starters. Of course,
you can use whole apples, as well; just be sure to choose ripe ones, as they have a
higher sugar content than unripe apples. Choosing bruised apples, called seconds,
at the farmers’ market is an affordable option. This recipe forgoes any formal
procuring of brewer’s yeast, casks, and equipment, and sticks to using materials
found in most homes. Use a large nonreactive pot for this project—a large stainless steel
pot or a deep earthenware pot work well.
With vinegar-making, oxygen needs to be present—in order for alcohol to turn to
vinegar, it needs air. Oxygen on a liquid’s surface will help bacteria in the process
of converting alcohol to acetic acid, (the vinegar). You must watch for mold forming
on the surface of your solution. Mold is an indication that the balance of acid to
sugar is off; it generally will not form if the balance is correct. In the event that mold
presents itself on the apples’ surface, skim it off and keep an eye on the jar. If mold
develops again, toss the batch and start over—something may be off with the batch.
Scraps from 10 apples (cores and peels), or 5 whole apples, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups water
Put the apple pieces in a large pot. Dissolve the sugar in the water and pour over
the apple scraps; they should be covered completely. If they are not, make another
mixture of 4 cups water and 1/4 cup sugar and add to the pot, but only enough to
Cover the top of the pot with 4 layers of thick cheesecloth secured with kitchen
twine, and set it in a warm spot in the kitchen. The interior of a cupboard works
well, as does a countertop. (If you’re making vinegar in summer, secure the
cheesecloth tightly to prevent fruit flies from getting into the pot and laying eggs,
which will spoil the batch.)
Leave the mixture for 1 week to macerate and ferment. The liquid may darken
slightly and the apple mash will bubble—all signs of a good fermentation. After a
week, strain out the apple mash from the liquid by setting it in a mesh strainer over
a deep pot and allowing the mash to sit for 24 hours. Do not press the mash, as this adds apple solids to the liquid. After it has strained completely, compost the mash.
Return the apple liquid to the container, and cover it again with a
thick layer of cheesecloth. Put the container in a warm spot and let it sit for 2 to 3
weeks, allowing the sugars to convert to vinegar. Stir or swirl the liquid every few
days, to allow for air circulation and oxygen.
After 2 weeks, taste a spoonful of your vinegar for doneness. If the vinegar still
tastes fruity and not acidic enough, let it sit for another week and taste again. After
3 weeks total, the liquid should be completely converted to apple cider vinegar.
To store homemade apple cider vinegar, strain the liquid with a fine mesh sieve and pour it
into clean, sterilized glass bottles. Store vinegar in a cool, dark place. Do not use
homemade vinegar in canned goods, as acidity levels vary with each batch. Homemade apple cider vinegar keeps indefinitely.