I grew a healthy, thick mother of vinegar (MOV)—actually, my pineapple scrap vinegar grew it—and I used it to brew fabulous white wine vinegar. Why brew your own wine vinegar? Why not brew your own wine vinegar?
I add vinegar to many savory recipes (and sometimes to sweet ones). A flavor-brightening splash of vinegar in soup makes all the difference. The fruity pineapple vinegar that began this adventure tastes fabulous in fried rice. And if you’re Canadian like me, you will want high-quality vinegar for homemade French fries (or chips, as my mother calls them… my mother as in the mother who gave birth to and raised me, not my mother of vinegar…).
Step 1: Brew scrap vinegar, which may spawn a mother of vinegar
(Don’t worry, you can still make wine vinegar without a mother.)
This latest kitchen lab experiment began back on Memorial Day weekend at the end of May. For an appearance on The Weather Channel’s backyard cookout, I brewed tepache, a fermented Mexican drink made from pineapple peels and cores, water and sugar. The pineapple fruit itself went into Any-Fruit Crunchy Crumble (the topping calls for a bit of nutmilk pulp, if you have it, for further waste-reduction points). You can find the tepache and crumble recipes in my cookbook.
After making two batches of tepache from one set of pineapple peels and cores, I started a large batch of fabulously fruity pineapple scrap vinegar. After about a month, the scrap vinegar had grown an impressively thick, beige rubbery layer on top. The few holes you see in the pic down below resulted from her growing around pieces of pineapple peel floating near the surface of the brewing vinegar.
My fruit scrap vinegars often grow what I had thought were thin SCOBYs (symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast that brew kombucha). I recently read in Homebrewed Vinegar, a wonderful new book from Kirsten Shockey, that they are actually vinegar mothers, however.
Both SCOBYs and MOVs contain bacteria that secrete cellulose to form a biofilm. A MOV contains more acetic acid bacteria and less yeast than a kombucha SCOBY; a kombucha SCOBY contains quite a bit of yeast and lots of lactic acid bacteria. Given enough time, these jellyfish-like blobs can form spontaneously—a SCOBY in quality raw kombucha and a MOV in alcohol such as wine that has turned vinegary. (My pineapple scrap vinegar fermented first into alcohol, then into the vinegar which spawned my MOV.)
Step 2: Make wine vinegar with leftover wine and the MOV
Leftover wine and mother of vinegar in hand, I followed Kirsten’s “Universal Wine Vinegar” recipe in her book. Because sulfites (which this wine did contain) can prevent fermentation, the recipe calls for a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide to remove them. If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide, the book provides alternate instructions—simply stir the wine vigorously to mix in some air.
I poured the wine into a clean jar, stirred it up for a couple of minutes and added about 1 part water to 3 parts wine, along with the MOV. I then covered the jar with a tightly woven cloth, fastened with a rubber band. Within about three weeks, the white wine had transformed into fabulous white wine vinegar. The hot weather we’ve experienced here—and the fact that I started with an open bottle that had already begun to transform—sped up the brewing process.
02/04/22 update: I’ve also made vinegar with leftover craft beer! Follow the same method but omit the water.
I filled a bottle with the finished wine vinegar up to the top of the neck to cut the bacteria off of oxygen. This will prevent the oxygen-loving microbes from consuming my vinegar. I chose a flip-top bottle with a strong, air-tight seal rather than a jar with a metal lid that will corrode. In order to easily grab a piece of mother when I need it, that and a bit of vinegar went into a wide-mouth, flip-top jar with a rubber seal, also with as little oxygen as possible. I’ve stashed both the vinegar and mothers in a dark cupboard.
After straining my pineapple vinegar, an additional MOV developed near the surface of the liquid. I placed that in my mother jar and filled another narrow-neck bottle close to the top with the scrap pineapple vinegar to reduce the amount of oxygen in the bottle. The additional MOV layer that grew across the top of the brewing wine vinegar has also moved in with the other mothers.
If your mothers begin to overtake your kitchen, give them to friends who would like to brew vinegar. I gave one away this week when I spoke with Slow Food South Bay. Our hostess gave me a bottle or rosé that her neighbor had made and bottled with grapes he grew himself! I’ll have to make at least a bit of vinegar with some of that.
“What if I don’t have a mother of vinegar?”
You don’t need a mother to make wine vinegar but it will speed the process up. However, if you grow one, as I’ve done here, that process will slow your vinegar making down by at least a few weeks as you wait for the mother to form (if it forms at all).
If you don’t have a MOV, don’t worry! Add raw vinegar, such as Braggs, to your wine to kickstart the vinegar-brewing process. For your next batch, use either some of the raw wine vinegar you’ve just made or the MOV if your vinegar grows one.
White Wine Vinegar
- 3 parts white wine this will work for any type of wine or a mixture of wines (see Note)
- 1 part unchlorinated water
- 1 mother of vinegar or 0.5 parts raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized vinegar
- Pour the wine into a clean jar and stir for a couple of minutes to help remove sulfites. (See Note.)
- Add the water and the mother of vinegar (MOV). Cover the jar with a tightly woven cloth, fastened securely with a rubber band or string to keep out impurities and bugs.
- Place on the counter or another warm spot (75° to 86°F).
- After about a month, taste the vinegar. Kirsten recommends testing the pH, which should be 4.0 or lower.
- Fill a clean, narrow-neck bottle with vinegar close to the top. A flip-top bottle with a rubber gasket provides a strong, air-tight seal that won't corrode like the metal lid of a mason jar. Make a new batch of wine vinegar with the mother or store it to make more vinegar later. Use the vinegar immediately or allow it to age and mellow.
Find the tepache and 74 other recipes in my cookbook!