Wild and Lazy Fermentation

Fruit Vinegars – Cherry Scrap Vinegar

 

Pink vinegar

Cherry scrap vinegar, new SCOBY forming.  Make sure and strain those SCOBY pieces out before storing your vinegar

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.

Cherry pits floating in a jar

The pits will float to the surface, so make sure you’re stirring regularly to help avoid surface mold. Air is your friend when it comes to making vinegar.

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.

cherry pits floating in vinegar

Side view of those pits. Most of the cherry pieces have broken up and dissolved into the mixture.

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 pits and vinegar

Straining out those pits. See the little SCOBY in there? It formed before I could strain. That’s not ideal.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

How-To

  1. Put your cherry pits and seconds in a quart or  (preferably) larger jar.
  2. Dissolve sugar into 3.5 cups of room temperature water. Add live vinegar.
  3. 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.
  4. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or breathable cloth and secure with a rubber band.
  5. 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.
  6. Re-cover the jar with the liquid in it and let it sit for 2-3 weeks, tasting after 2.5.
  7. 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 magic! chemistry).
vinegar bottle full

See how it’s filled to the brim? That’s what you want. Once fermentation is done, store as airlessly as possible until it’s all used up.

9 Comments

  1. Posted August 15, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    This sounds very intriguing. I definitely have some cherry pits I could do this with.

    I have a bottle of fancy vinegar a friend gave me a few years ago – I’ve noticed it’s grown a scoby, but the only way to get it out is to break the cute bottle.

  2. Amanda
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi Becky, Do it! So simple, seriously. I think you’ll really like it!
    As for your fancy vinegar, you might want to strain out the vinegar. If there’s a mother in there, it’s fermenting it which can definitely make for a more acidic vinegar than you might like, and eventually for a less-vinegary vinegar than you would want. If I have vinegars in my cupboard for more than a month, I always check and strain. Unless you pasteurize them, which will kill the good bacteria, or seal them super tight, like with wax, they will usually form a Mother. It’s not a tragedy :-).

    Let me know how it turns out if you end up doing it!

  3. Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I am lucky in that a local orchard sells pears for $5 for 20 pounds. I just picked up 80 lbs yesterday. I have a batch of pear preserves going and want to use my scraps to make vinegar. I purchased some vinegar mother. You didn’t mention that here. From research it seems that adding that speeds up the process but this will work with or without. Is that true?

    On another note, local olive oil places (I live where we have local olives) also sell fruit vinegars for $18 for 6 oz. I would love to make my own for nothing. : )

  4. Amanda
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Bobbi,

    Yes, making vinegar with a mother shaves about a week off the process in my experience, but it is definitely not necessary, and when you make vinegar, you’ll get a new mother every time. I hear you on the DIY cost savings. I get a big smile on my face at speciality markets when I see just about every ferment I make for 3 to 3000 times the price that it cost me!

    Happy fermenting!

    Amanda

  5. Maegan
    Posted October 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled upon your website while looking for solutions to my over-abundance of beets. I’m now looking forward to making pickled beets with cumin. I’m very excited and I’ve bookmarked your site so I can come back often.
    This last weekend’s project was applesauce. So Id like to try this vinager recipe. I’m not sure at what point you add the Braggs vinegar or how much. Can you clarify? Similarly once you have your own “mother” how do you use it to help make future vinegars?

  6. Amanda
    Posted October 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Maegan,

    First, thanks for the kind words! Second, thanks for the correction! I was indeed missing an ingredient in the ingredients list. It’s corrected now so it should be clear. Even a couple Tablespoons of live vinegar with be enough to get you going, but a 1/2 cup will really jumpstart things.
    As for the Mother, you just throw it in your next batch, preferably after you’ve strained out any solids (many people make wine vinegar, malt vinegar or cider vinegar that won’t have any solids in it, so in that case, you can put the mother in right away). Generally you don’t need a mother to ferment vinegar, but it will speed up the process.

  7. Nancy
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    Can you use frozen cherries? . . have a full freezer of whole cherries with pits still in them

  8. Amanda
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Should be fine, Nancy! The bacteria and yeast that make fermentation happen are mainly coming from the air, so just make sure to stir regularly to make sure they’re incorporated and able to eat those sugars!

  9. Lisa
    Posted December 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Is this the same as a fruit (or herb) shrub?

    Thanks

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