Vinegar fermentation is becoming more of the rage everyday. Often overshadowed by other fermentations, vinegar is coming to its own as a new generation of homemakers and hobbyists eagerly make their own.
This is great and I suggest everyone try it at least once. There are a couple of techniques that are common and popular I want to give my own personal advice on to ensure success.
A cheap way to make apple cider vinegar is from submerged apple cores and skins in water with sugar (judiciously) added. Same with pineapple vinegar using rinds and adding sugar to the water it is submerged in. For an authentic Central American flavor, use piloncillo brown cane sugar cones like you can find in many Latin American markets.
This is a great experiment and usually works very well. In short the wild yeasts in the fruit ferment the sugar to alcohol while the wild acetic acid bacteria simultaneously ferment the alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar).
Many websites detail this method and I have nothing against it. I would just advise a few things that are not often mentioned or suggested.
- Cleanliness – obviously wash out the jar first with soap and water. I would also sanitize by filling it with water and adding 3/4 teaspoon of unscented bleach per quart of water and allowing it to sit for 30 minutes.
- Here is where I might ruffle some feathers – I am generally not a huge fan of wild, uncontrolled fermentation, especially if you are not measuring quantities like pH, acidity, etc. to monitor progress. I suggest successive fermentation as well. First, after adding the apple cores to the empty jar, I would heat the water to cover them to at least 160 F or even up to boiling and then pour this on the apple cores in the jar. Obviously this kills the wild yeast and vinegar bacteria, but it also kills spoilage bacteria and most mold spores. Make sure the cores or rinds are completely submerged to prevent opportunistic mold growth.
- Use one packet of store bought brewing (not baking) yeast and “activate” the yeast by adding it to a small amount of lukewarm water in a separate cup. After the water in the jar has cooled to room temperature, add the activated yeast slurry. Cover the top with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.
- It will take a couple of days but the yeast will ferment the sugar rapidly to alcohol until they stop fizzing. At this point you have your “hard cider”.
- Now add mother, it can be ours or the raw apple cider vinegars (Bragg’s, Heinz, Fleischmann’s, private label, etc.) Add about 1/4 of the volume of the jar in mother. After a week or two a mother should form on the surface. From here the fermentation will progress until you have good vinegar. Keep the top covered as fruit flies love vinegar.
The above apply equally to pineapple vinegar. These steps will help the fermentation proceed faster since the commercial yeast and mothers work more rapidly. It also prevents stuck fermentations, contamination, mold, and other issues that come up hoping that the wild microbes do the trick. Granted, apples and pineapples have malic and other acids who should lower the pH and prevent spoilage on their own but unless you are measuring pH and controlling sugar, you can be rolling the dice on how well it works.
As a final note, if you are not actively measuring the acidity (using titration) do not use vinegar made in this fashion for canning. Canning requires 4%+ acidity vinegar, 5%+ to be safe. If you are using vinegar that “just tastes right” it could fall dangerously below these standards.