Better Basics: Red Wine Vinegar!

Posted on September 10, 2011

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Vinegar

Red Wine Vinegar: Make Your Own!

In the latest series of crazy projects, we’re making vinegar.  We just inherited a vinegar crock and after realizing that a local brew supply shop had Mothers of Vinegar in stock, we’ve decided to just go for it. We’ll be posting updates of our go at this so you can see what a mother looks like.

I’m sure there’s a learning curve to this, though Food & Wine‘s instructions make it seem like a fairly simple (and worthwhile) waiting game.  It’ll be neat to see how it turns out and how it compares with the store-bought red wine vinegar.

Here Goes!

  • Crock, with spigot
    • UPDATE: Our crock is quite large. Even at the full recipe for Vinegar Round #1, we were barely above the spigot line. As the mother formed, part of it grew into the spigot.  Cleaning that out was a chore, but not that big a deal. For Vinegar Round 2, we haven’t had this problem yet and have been able to decant through the spigot as planned. Lesson learned: making larger batches to keep the waterline (wineline?) high is a good idea. [Apr. 2012].
  • Cheesecloth
  • Mother of Vinegar (We got this for $19.95 from a local brew supply shop. It’s possible to find cheaper mothers online, but the shipping costs were high, so we just went with this one).
    • UPDATE: After the mold disaster — see January Update — we started anew with a bottle of Bragg unpasteurized apple cider vinegar – this is much cheaper (under $5, depending on shop/shipping) and is working well [Apr. 2012].
  • Bota Box – Old Vine Zinfandel (On Sale: $16.99)

Cost-wise, for the curious, this comes to $36.94 in all, for 92 oz of vinegar. That’s just shy of 3 quarts of vinegar, or, 40 cents per ounce. Fancy vinegars from gourmet shops often runs around $1+ per ounce. And the good stuff is what we’re aiming for here. (Grocery-store level stuff will run $0.99 for 16 oz, but we’re hoping to get to a much higher quality here).

Granted, your initial costs might go up if you buy a crock or cheesecloth.  But, you could also just get a little creative — you can use other containers, like a large glass jar, and a tea cloth/ old tee-shirt can often sub in for cheesecloth.

Vinegar crock

Cleaning out the crock

Step 1!  Tonight we cleaned out the crock, checked the spigot, and tested for leaks. All looks well in crock-land, so Mother time it is.
Red Wine Vinegar - Day 1

8 oz. Mother + 16 oz Wine + 8 oz Water

We’re starting with an 8-ounce Mother of Vinegar from a local brew supply shop (the culture itself is from Presque Isle Wine Cellars).  There was no sign of a mother in the bottle, but after feeding it some wine and water, we should start to see something.  I think. We’ll see. It’s hard to know what it’ll all look like. But that’s why we posting this, for you.

The Food & Wine article and the Presque Isle label both recommended starting by adding 2 cups of red wine and 1 cup of water to the mother.  (We used filtered, from the Britta, hope that’s what they meant by filtered. We have very hard water, I hope that doesn’t matter in the end.)  As you can see here, the wine mixture looks clear (well, you know — no … growth or cloudiness yet).

Vinegar

Have cheesecloth, will ...wait?

We’ve covered the crock with a double layer of cheesecloth. I suppose this is to keep dust and/or creepy-crawlies out.  For now, I put the plastic rim that came with the crock over the cheesecloth to hold it in place. I’m considering also fastening with a rubber band, for a more solid seal, but the plastic is pretty snug, so…

Vinegar

All set!

On the theory that our basement area will have the most consistent temperatures (especially re: overnight low temps), we’re stowing the crock downstairs.  Our room temperature tends to fluctuate by 20 degrees come winter, so I’m banking on the basement’s relatively-steady sorta-warm temps will be best (the storage room is near the furnace and tends to be warm as a result).

Today, it’s registering mid-70s and about 80% humidity. A little low temp-wise, according to the Presque Isle Mother’s instructions (they said 80-90 degrees) — but we’re still within the range listed on the Food & Wine instructions (70-90 degrees), so I’m optimistic.

In future batches, we might use whatever red wine we have around the house. But, since this is our first go at it, we’re going to try to keep things consistent by using same kind of wine throughout the process. A Bota Box makes sense as a way to make sure we have the same stuff around.

Plus, their Zin is good and now I can be silly and tell people I’m making Zinegar. Hehheheh. Yay! Wordplay!

Next steps: (Sept 2011) After 1 1/2 weeks, we’ll start adding wine (three 2 1/2-cup installments over 1 1/2 weeks till the crock is  two-thirds full). Updates to follow!

Update: (Jan 2012) “Too Many Cooks: Vinegar, part II” … in which we learn some lessons about vinegar, yeasts, and mold.

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Posted in: kitchen