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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

How to make your own vinegar

Vinegar is easily made and useful not only as a condiment but as a preservative and cleaner. Vinegar is an environmentally safe alternative to chemical cleaners which can be used to remove mould, kill germs and bacteria. 

Vinegar is made by over-fermenting alcohol, as sugar ferments it produces alcohol but as alcohol ferments, when exposed to the air, it turns into vinegar. Although any crop which includes sugar and starch can be turned into a vinegar, the main crops used for vinegar making are grapes for wine vinegar and apples for cider vinegar. 

The vinegar process is started by washing the grapes or apples thoroughly and then extracting the juice. After measuring the volume of juice obtained, straining your juice into a sterilised container. Brewing yeast is then added, sufficient for the volume of juice used and an airlock is put in place.

The juice is left  to ferment and turn the fruit sugar into alcohol. Once fermentation is completed, expose the liquid to the air which will permit acid making bacteria to convert the alcohol to vinegar. This process can be speeded by adding half a cup of organic vinegar to the liquid. 

Whilst the process is taking place a cover, such as cheesecloth, over the container to keep out insects or dirt. The liquid needs to be kept at between 15c and 25c and stirred daily during fermentation which takes between 3-4 weeks. 

Your vinegar is ready when it smells and taste like vinegar. Once fermentation is complete, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth several times to remove any remaining yeast  and stop the fermentation process. To permit long term storage your vinegar must be pasteurised by heating to 75c, use a cooking thermometer to determine the temperature, for about 10 minutes.  Pour your vinegar whilst still hot into sterilised glass bottles and store out of direct sunlight in a cool area. 

If your vinegar tastes too strong it can be diluted with water. 

Flavour can be added to your wine vinegar by adding herbs or spices such as garlic, rosemary. basil, oregano or hot peppers. 

Let the flavours infuse the vinegar for about six weeks and then re-strain before storing. 

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