Did you know you can easily make your own vinegar from any partial bottles of red wine sitting around? Amazing red wine vinegar at a fraction of the price of those imported ones at the gourmet store, and just as good.
In fact, I think homemade red wine vinegar is miles better than the best commercial brand, and only takes a little patience on your part. As well, it a a “live food”, fermented by you. If you have leftover bottles of red wine after pouring a glass or two from the bottle (the wine really isn’t much good after a couple of days whatever method you use to preserve it), this is the way to reduce your waste and get something delicious from your kitchen. Not to mention the cost savings.
My initial crock of vinegar started because of the win of an “instant wine cellar” at an auction and benefit about 4 years ago. I won 100 bottles of wine, some of them very expensive from small boutique vineyards, quite a wonderful windfall. Hooray! Most of them were leftover from auctions and benefits of past years, we were very excited. But…they had not been stored properly; and many of them were “over the hill” or “corked” once opened and sampled. It’s discouraging to open three bottles of expensive wine just to get one that is drinkable. We ended up with dozens of bottles of spoiled wine (that should have been wonderful), but were starting to turn to vinegar. So, what to do? I couldn’t stand the idea of chucking them down the drain.
Enter My Pantry by Alice Waters, plus information from the internet. I was inspired.
Making your own red wine vinegar is easy, white wine vinegar…not so much. I don’t recommend mixing red and white wine together (although Alice does) when making your own vinegar. Start with a simple red wine vinegar. I understand white wine vinegar is much more difficult to get right and haven’t tried it yet. We usually don’t have as much white wine left over since I often use the remainder of the bottle for cooking.
This recipe takes something that you were going to throw away, plus a touch of living vinegar, to make something that will give your food a ton of flavor. No leftover wine? No problem. You don’t need expensive wine, just something hearty and full bodied for the best vinegar.
What you do need a starter or “mother”. What’s that? Mother of vinegar (MOV or Mother for shorthand purposes) is a fermenting bacteria culture used to make vinegar — an acetobacter that develops in fermenting alcohol and converts the ethanol into acetic acid (what gives vinegar its sour taste) in the presence of oxygen. If you have a friend who makes vinegar ask them to share their mother; otherwise do as I first did and use Bragg Natural Vinegar as a starter.
It was even on sale after the holidays.
You can make a small batch but why not make a lot.
I started with a large crock. But I had a lot of leftover, going bad, wine. You can scale up the following basic recipe.
For a smaller batch, say almost a bottle, go with:
- 2-3 cups wine (feel free to combine the dregs from several bottles)
- 1/4 cup of starter vinegar with mother.
- Pour your leftover (not from people’s glasses) wine into a clean wide mouthed jar or crock.
- Add starter vinegar.
- Mix it all up
- Cover with a clean fine mesh towel (secured with a rubber band or string) and let it sit at room temperature, stirring vigorously when you think of it, until a thin, gelatinous film starts to form on the surface. That will form into the mother. You may see it 7-10 days after you begin the process, the time be will dependent on the temperature where it is stored. Start tasting after a month but it may take longer. Be patient. My larger batch took almost 5 months but it is worth the wait.
- Once it tastes more like a smooth vinegar and is to your liking, strain (I use a coffee filter) it into bottles and seal. You can then add more wine to the leftover mother in your crock or jar or start with more Bragg vinegar to start the process again.
Note: Do not use cheesecloth to cover your fermenting container. The holes are too big and you will end up (as I did) with vinegar flies about the size of gnats in your curing vinegar. I had to throw the entire first batch out. I now use a clean tea towel tied securely around the top.
Your vinegar will be slightly cloudy, but that is because it is alive.