Wine Vinegar How-To
Calling all booze hounds! Or not. You could be a teetotaler who entertains and this would still be a kickass thing for you to make. Why? Because it takes a bowl, some stuff you were going to throw away and a touch of living vinegar (homemade or Bragg’s will do) to make something that will give your food a ton of flavor. Also, it’s not necessarily cheap to buy decent red wine vinegar, and this is virtually free to make.
We entertain a lot. Or we did, in the period between crazy and über-crazy (aka parts of the last two years). These days our gatherings consist of having a couple friends over for dinner when we can scrape together the collective energy to mop our floors and vacuum our couch. But our favorite kind of party is the kind that I used to blog about. We call it Brunch ‘Til Dawn. Although the title is somewhat self-explanatory, I’ll explain. We have a brunch to celebrate something, but we make enough food to feed 20-25 people two to three times because typically we start at noon and go to the wee hours. There is likely be some form of Kinect dancing, along with some karaoke, if I have my druthers. There could be jai alai in the street, depending on the hour and the mood of the crowd. There will definitely be copious amounts of food and drink. And inevitably, my husband and I will be too tired to do all the party clean-up before we crash out for the night/morning.
This lazy practice has led to more than one quarter-full bottle of decent or (*sobs*) excellent wine ending its life open on the counter for too many hours. But I’m nothing if not optimistic. When life (or my own bad habit) gives me wine that’s been exposed to too much oxygen, I make vinegar. I think you should too.
Yields ~1 cup vinegar (expect some evaporation). Can be scaled for any amount of leftover (or even just-opened) wine.
Contrary to what I’ve read in several places, you in no way need a physical mother of vinegar to make your own batch. Real, living (not pastuerized) vinegar will definitely do the trick as a starter. For my first batch I used Bragg’s, but ever since then I’ve used my own. I eventually made a batch of vinegar that spontaneously grew its own mother and now I get a new mother forming on the surface of my vinegar every so often, whether I use one to kick off a new batch or not. I like to make small quantities of this with whatever I have left after a fête. Give it a mix whenever you think of it. Air is your friend. The acetobacter (not a typo) responsible for vinegar fermentation are abundant in the air, and they need oxygen to survive, so mix those guys in and enjoy the tasty, tasty product.
- 1 cup wine
- 3 tablespoons starter vineagar, use a living variety. Homemade if you can get it. Bragg’s is good too!
- Pour your leftover (not from people’s glasses) wine into a vessel with a large surface area, such as a bowl or wide-mouthed jar.
- Add starter vinegar.
- Stir it all up, very vigorously
- Cover with a towel (secured with a rubber band or string) and let it sit at room temperature, stirring vigorously when you think of it (preferably daily), until a thin, gelatinous film starts to form on the surface. That will form into the mother. You will probably see it form 7-10 days after you begin the process. With small amounts like this, I start tasting it at 3 weeks. It can take longer than a month, though.
- Once it tastes more like vinegar and less like wine, move it to an airtight container, with very little surface area exposed. Swingtops and sealable wine bottles of the appropriate size work great. Although air is critical to the process of vinegar fermentation, continued exposure to air once you have your vinegar is a good way to ruin it/make it not be vinegar any more. (I have been storing my vinegar wrong for ages. I learned this in The Art of Fermentation. Which you should buy. Today.)