Apple Scrap Vinegar

Updated 02/16/18

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In my home, homemade vinegar has been the Holy Grail of scratch cooking. My daughter MK tried a few years ago and came very close, but flies invaded her apple scraps and ruined it. It sure smelled great though as I tossed it onto the compost. I have tried making vinegar a couple of times, but had no idea how to do it, so just guessed and failed.

In my fermentation bible, The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz tantalizingly mentions that you can make scrap vinegar from fruit used to flavor mead—if any sweetness remains—but I couldn’t find any instructions in there on how to actually make the vinegar 🙁

I can buy many foods in bulk near me, but not vinegar. I love to make as many staples as I can. It makes me more self-sufficient and reduces my dependency on Big Food. But vinegar seemed hopeless.

Then I stumbled upon the wonderful blog, Kitchen Counter Culture. Finally! I found instructions for making scrap vinegar. I’ve made it a few times now and am thrilled with the results. It takes very little effort, costs nothing and yields several bottles of vinegar. I’ve only used apples to date, but you can use other fruit scraps as well, such as pineapple.

apple crumble plus scraps
Scrap vinegar provides a good excuse to bake apple crumble or pie 😉

Ingredients

  • Peels and cores from 6 large apples
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • Enough water to cover the apple scraps (about 6 cups)

“But I don’t have six apples!” you may say. You can freeze peels and cores, squirreling them away in the freezer until you have a large enough pile to make scrap vinegar. I do this often. Heat will kill the microbes but cold just puts them to sleep.

I sort of hate to give exact measurements for fermentations. Think of these measurements as rough guidelines. Fermentation is pretty foolproof. The bacteria present on the apples perform the fermentation and the sugar—both the added and the sugar in the fruit—fuels the process. You can add more sugar if you like, but mine turned out with just a little bit. If you want to kickstart your fermentation with a bit of whey or raw cider vinegar, you can do that also, but you don’t need to.

If your tap water contains lots of chlorine, before starting this, pour some water into a vessel and leave it open to the air for many hours, or even a day. The chlorine, which can kill the naturally occurring microbes that perform the fermentation, will simply dissipate.

Directions

scrap vinegar started
You actually want to leave this open, covered with a thin cloth and exposed to the air

1. Combine apple scraps, water and sugar in a large, wide-mouth glass or ceramic vessel and stir. Cover with a thin cloth. With most ferments, you don’t want air to come into contact with your food. For vinegar, you do. Also, especially with fruit and sugary fermentations, explosions are a real possibility. Pressure builds up in a closed container while the bacteria create carbon dioxide as a byproduct of fermentation. If you choose to close your vessel, in the next step, you will open it several times a day to stir and this opening will also release built-up CO2. Just always remember this step every day.

day 7 bubbly
Day 7 of fermentation

2. Over the next several days, stir your fermentation several times a day when you think of it. Stirring aerates your ferment, encouraging microbial activity and helping prevent mold formation. I drink too much tea, and stir every time I go into the kitchen to brew another cup. After a few days, your concoction should start to bubble and smell slightly alcoholic. I took the above picture on day 7.

3. Once the ferment starts bubbling, I stir it less often—once a day. Ordinarily, when you ferment anything alcoholic, the last thing you want to attract are Acetobacter bacteria, which turn alcohol into vinegar when you expose your ferment to oxygen. Here, you want exactly that result. For this reason, a wide mouth vessel that exposes the surface area to the air works best. Fermentation times vary, but your vinegar will likely start to taste sour after about a week.

no bubbles
No bubbling
strain
Strain through a cloth-lined colander set over a bowl
squeeze
Squeeze out as much liquid as possible

4. Strain the fruit. Wait until the bubbling has subsided (about two weeks) to strain. Sally Fallon strains her pineapple vinegar after a mere three days BUT she adds whey, which contains microbes that kickstart the fermentation. At the point of straining, the fruit will have no flavor. Compost the spent scraps.

bottled vinegar

5. Bottle your vinegar if you detect zero fizz. Although you may see no evidence of bubbling, and believe the fermentation has ended, this may not be the case. To avoid messes—or worse, explosions—burp your jars regularly (i.e., open them). If you detect no fizziness, try burping them once every month or two just as a precaution. This vinegar keeps for over a year at least.

As the vinegar ages, the acidity will increase. My first batch is nearly one month old and it’s very acidic, but less acidic than cider vinegar. I have found many purposes for it:

  • Soup. I always add a splash of vinegar to soup. It adds a nice tang to chicken broth, and enhances the flavor vegetable broth. The other night I made “trash soup” for dinner (my coworkers warned me not to call it that on my blog, but I really did make soup from practically nothing). In chicken drippings I had saved, I sautéed a quarter of a cabbage that had seen better days. To that I added about 1/2 cup of whey left over from homemade ricotta cheese and about 1/2 cup of scrap vinegar. The resulting chicken-flavored vegetable soup tasted delicious.
  • Lemon juice replacement. I have used my scrap vinegar in a couple of recipes that called for a splash of lemon or lime juice, such as lentil dal or spicy black beans. Tastes great.
  • My hair. I wash my hair with baking soda followed my a cider vinegar rinse (the no poo method). On the weekend, I replaced cider vinegar with my scrap vinegar. The first time I rinsed with scrap vinegar, I used too much, thinking I needed more because of its lower acidity. Well, that was a mistake and my hair looked a bit fried. The next time I washed it, I used less and my hair looked fine. It had a bit of frizz (normal for me), so I rubbed in a minuscule amount of coconut oil. My hair looked great. (My head is like a salad.) I feel I have taken no poo to a whole new level…
  • Cleaning. I have always cleaned my toilet with vinegar. Now I use scrap vinegar. It works well. I have also mixed my scrap vinegar with baking soda to clean the kitchen sink and wash a pot I boiled dry with beans in it (oops).

I haven’t tried salad dressing yet, but I will. I don’t eat much mayonnaise, but I could try substituting vinegar for this in mayonnaise. My daughter adds a bit of vinegar to her pastry crust recipe—another recipe to try…The possibilities are endless. If you enjoy DIY projects, you’ll understand my excitement.


Apple Scrap Vinegar

Yields about 7 cups

Ingredients

  • Peels and cores from 6 large apples
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • Enough dechlorinated water to cover the apples (about 6 cups)

Directions

1. Combine apple scraps, water and sugar in a large, wide-mouth glass or ceramic vessel and stir. Cover with a thin cloth.

2. Over the next several days, stir your fermentation several times a day when you think of it. After a fews days, your concoction should start to bubble and begin to smell slightly alcoholic.

3. Once the ferment starts bubbling, stir it once a day.

4. Continue to stir daily. Fermentation times vary, but your vinegar will likely start to taste sour after about one more week. At this point you may strain the fruit out and compost the spent scraps.

5. Bottle your vinegar if you detect no carbonation. Although you may see no evidence of bubbling, and believe the fermentation has ended, this may not be the case. To avoid messes—or worse, explosions—burp your stored vinegar regularly. This vinegar will keep for at least a year.

121 Replies to “Apple Scrap Vinegar”

  1. Frank Duvenhage says: Reply

    Hi ZWC! Started a batch of your apple scrap vinegar three weeks ago, was out of town for 4 days. Mold started ontop. Can i save it or start over?
    Thanks!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Frank,
      Oh no! It’s been a while since you commented so you may have tossed it already (sorry I’m slow sometimes at responding…). It may be kahm yeast, which is harmless. You can scrape it off and the vinegar will be okay. Then again it might be mold. If it’s mold, it will look like mold–black or green or white and maybe furry. I’d say if in doubt, start over. You will have only wasted a bit of fruit and water.
      ~ Anne Marie

  2. I’m definitely trying this tonight! Do you have a recipe for your apple crumble by any chance? Might as well put those apples to good use. 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Isabelle,
      I use a Martha Stewart recipe for peach crumble and just substitute apples for it. This isn’t exactly the recipe but it’s very close: http://www.marthastewart.com/354972/peach-crisp I don’t add water and I use butter not oil. Also, I don’t add extra sugar to the fruit.
      ~ Anne Marie

  3. […] Make Apple Cider vinegar our leftover apple pie scraps. […]

  4. I’d love to use this to replace the vinegar I use for cleaning! I can’t seem to find vinegar in bulk that isn’t top dollar. But I don’t use a lot of cleaning solution anyway so my fear is that it might go off. How would I be able to tell? And does it matter if it has expired because I won’t be eating it?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Flora, I have kept mine for at least a year and it doesn’t go bad. I have even found baby scobys it it to make more vinegar! You can also use kombucha vinegar to clean. You brew kombucha to the point of vinegar. I use both for cleaning and sometimes put a bit in the washing machine with my laundry too. ~ Anne Marie

  5. […] learned we should never throw fruit scraps out with the plethora of uses there are for them! Here is a recipe for apple scrap vinegar (also works well with pineapple).Use cherry pits to make a […]

  6. Kristina Martens says: Reply

    I forgot to stir! Its been sitting for a few days. Also have only the cores of six apples no peeling and used much less water. Should I pitch and start over? Thanks. For the help and awesome inspiration!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Kristina, If it doesn’t have any mold on it, I would start stirring it now. It should be fine. Stirring helps prevent mold. ~ Anne Marie

  7. Hi Anne Marie, first of all: Thank you so much for this inspiring blog! I guess everyone on their journey towards zero waste sooner or later hits your site and is amazed by all the thought and trials you save them from having to go through. That’s at least my case…
    Wanting to start making vinegar soon I have one question: Can I use previously frozen fruit for this? Or does freezing kill all the microbes? I eat one or two apples a day and would like to collect the stems in the freezer to have a big batch of them to start the vinegar with.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Mara, Thanks for the kind words 🙂 Absolutely you can freeze the peels and cores until you have a pile big enough to make the vinegar. I do this often. Only when I make a pie or crumble do I have enough for a batch. Heat will kill the microbes but cold doesn’t. I think they take a little nap 😉 ~ Anne Marie

      1. Great, thanks for the quick answer. And even what I wanted to hear… 🙂 Vinegar, here I come!

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        My pleasure. Enjoy!

  8. Hi Anne Marie! Do you know if I can dechlorinate water by boiling it?
    Thanks!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Ada, just pour water in a vessel and leave it open to the air for a day. The chlorine will dissipate. If you have a lot of chlorine in your water, you will be able to smell it. If you don’t smell any, you should be okay. ~ Anne Marie

  9. Thank, Anne Marie, for your detailed directions on all things fermentation, including apple-scrap vinegar. I’m in day 8 of making my first batch, so we’ll see how it goes. I added some kiwi scraps to the batch. After reading your blog, I’m reassured that I’m ‘doing it right.’

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      My pleasure, Janice. Enjoy your vinegar 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  10. Thanks for posting this! Do I need to refrigerate after bottling the vinegar?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Leah, you don’t need to refrigerate it. I keep mine at room temperature. I have had some bottles for well over a year. The only thing that may happen is a vinegar mother (a scoby) might grow in the vinegar. You can add this to the next batch. ~ Anne Marie

  11. Hi! That looks great! On instagram I read that you also tried to use mango scraps. Did it work? How many mangoes did you use? Thanks!

  12. […] reference, I do already have some red wine vinegar and apple vinegar – I recently made a roasted garlic vinaigrette (the most expensive ingredient being the red […]

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