Vinegar is transformative in just about any dish. The best thing about it is that if you have sugar, you can make it from almost anything! I do. I make it from whatever scraps I have lying around the kitchen. I’ve got several versions brewing right now, and hopefully I’ll have the chance to tell you about them all. It’s summer after all. The cool thing about having lots of little vials of vinegar around is that they take the work right out of being a creative cook. I’m not a lazy cook. I love to try new things in the kitchen, but I will admit that our weekday meals tend to follow a very simple formula: lots of veg, some kind of grain, maybe an egg or two or some beans. It’s up to the seasonings (aka ferments, in my house) to make these meals jump out and shake their jazz hands. So that’s where all of these vinegars come in. My cupboards look silly, and sometimes an especially small bottle will get lost at the back of the pantry, but I think it’s worth it.
I often hear all fermentation grouped into the “lacto-” category. That’s an inaccurate descriptor for lots of fermented stuff, including vinegar. If you want an “o” at the end here, you’ll have to go with “aceto-.” Vinegar is basically a super-cool process that involves two types of fermentation. First, you have yeast fermentation. That basically takes the sugar in your liquid and converts it to alcohol (among other things), giving you wine. It gets really foamy and exciting, and you can even drink it for a hit of low alcohol wine within the first week, although I personally think that’s a waste of good vinegar for anything beyond a tasty teaspoonful. Quickly, though, the acetobacter that are basically part of the air we breathe, start to turn that wine into vinegar, via acetic fermentation. Once the SCOBY, or mother, forms you kind of want to leave it alone, and let it finish up. In the summer, it’s a good idea to start tasting on the early side (like 2.5 – 3 weeks). If a vinegar over cooks, you get something very acidic, but without much character. I like my vinegars to have a little hint of what they were made from. If I wanted just any old acid, I could squirt some lemon juice on there and be done with it, so I usually err on the side of under-fermented, that way, I can leave it in my cupboard a bit and let it ferment a bit more, if need be.
Vinegar fermentation will produce a mother. As I mentioned in this old wine vinegar how-to, you definitely do not need a mother to make vinegar, but it makes the process go more quickly. You should start with a little bit of living vinegar, though. If you aren’t in the habit of making your own, just grab some Bragg’s. They got me started on my first batch.
CHERRY SCRAP VINEGAR
Yields about 2.5 cups of cherry vinegar, and one vinegar mother
Did you read my post yesterday about making a delicious, cherry, fruit cocktail? I hope you saved your pits, because this is how you use them. Flesh to pit fermentation, y’all! You can do this with just about any fruit. I’ve made a wide variety of fruit and herb vinegars and they are pretty much my favorite thing ever.
- The pits and “seconds” of 2 lbs of cherries. Exclude cherries with mold on them, or cut out ALL of the mold, but soft ones are totally fine
- 1/4 cup of sugar (this will be gone by the time you consume your vinegar, so no worries, sugar-fearers)
- 1/2 cup live vinegar, such as Braggs
- Filtered water
- Put your cherry pits and seconds in a quart or (preferably) larger jar.
- Dissolve sugar into 3.5 cups of room temperature water. Add live vinegar.
- Pour liquid over pits and cherry bits, ensuring that there is at least some space at the top of the jar. Vinegar fermentation is one area where you want as much air as possible getting at your fermentable material, so the more room in your jar, the better.
- Cover the jar with a coffee filter or breathable cloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Swirl it around every so often for a couple days. And after 5 days, drain the liquid into another container and compost the cherry parts.
- Re-cover the jar with the liquid in it and let it sit for 2-3 weeks, tasting after 2.5.
- Once it tastes like vinegar, you are good to go! Strain it into a container that closely fits the quantity you have left, being sure to remove as many scraps of excess yeast and wispy mother as possible. Air was your friend during fermentation. After fermentation, if will ruin your vinegar, and eventually turn it into water (like