Have you ever ended up with lots of odds and ends of leftover wine and thought to yourself ‘I really should make some vinegar?’
Well until recently, I hadn’t either. I was happy keeping our little leftovers in the pantry to use in risottos and stews.
I think my lack of enthusiasm for home made vinegar stemmed from the fact that back in my wine making days, one of our biggest fears was accidentally turning a barrel of delicious wine into vinegar.
But when I was pregnant and there was only one wine drinker left in the house, we started to accumulate a reasonable stash of ‘cooking wine’ that was too past it to drink. And since I didn’t have a barrel shed of wine to risk spoiling, why not give home made vinegar a try?
And so I did.
It took a while but most of that time I had forgotten about my vinegar project until last year when we were moving house. Without much hope, I took a tiny sample from my jar to taste.
What a surprise!
Delicious, winey and vinegary – in a good way. More along the lines of sherry vinegar (which I adore) rather than commercial red wine vinegar (which I find way too harsh).
It’s now my favourite vinegar. And I’m actually finding myself happy not to finish the bottle at the end of the evening and save the leftovers for my vinegar stash.
So making vinegar can be good for ones liver as well! Who would have thought?
I’m giving you a recipe here but really it’s just a rough suggestion to get you going. This isn’t the only way so I really encourage you to experiment and do whatever works for you. Remember the acetic acid bacteria naturally want to do their job so you have nature on your side.
If you’re not a wine drinker you could buy some wine for the sole purpose of making the vinegar. Since we’re going to be oxidizing the wine and basically spoiling it, no need to get anything fancy.
makes: 1 bottle
takes: about 6 months
1 large bottle or jar to store
1. Collect your wine. It’s fine to just designate a bottle and pour your leftovers in as they accumulate over the weeks or months. I think a mix of white, red and champagne makes things more interesting but just one type will still be amazing. The more air that goes into it the better so feel free to shake it as often as you think about it. I keep a lid on so I don’t end up with any flies. But keeping it open to the air with a cloth on top will speed things along.
2. When you’d got enough wine to fill your chosen storage bottle or jar about 3/4s full, it’s time to get serious!
3. The aim is to add enough air to the wine to ‘use up’ any sulfur dioxide remaining in the wine because this preservative will prevent our acetic acid bacteria from doing their job of turning the alcohol into vinegar (acetic acid). The best way to do this is to pour the wine from one vessel to another as many times as your patience allows. A funnel or a jug can make things easier but you could just use two wine bottles.
4. When you’ve had enough (try to do at least 5 pours), pour the wine into your large jar or bottle (the wider the neck the better for air transfer). Cover with some cloth or something that will keep flies out but allow air in.
5. Leave in a dark place until it tastes like vinegar. You can stir every few months (or transfer it out of the jar and back again a few times) to add more air and speed things along if you think about it. Or just do what I did and completely forget about it for 6 months.
6. When you’re happy with the flavour, transfer most of the vinegar to a clean bottle with a lid and start using it! I like to keep some to ‘seed’ my next vinegar batch.
Video Version of the Recipe
different alcohol – technically you can make vinegar from anything that contains alcohol such as beer or cider and the method is pretty much the same. The only thing is with high alcohol beverages like vodka, you would need to dilute to get the alcohol content below about 15% because otherwise the bacteria won’t be able to grow.
wine aerator – if you have one of those wine aerators like I do, they are great for helping to get the air into your wine. And the more air, the quicker you get rid of your sulphur and the quicker your acetic acid bacteria can grow. See the video for a demo of mine.
faster – the best way to speed up the bacteria is to get more air into the wine. Warmer temperatures will also help.
using a mother – The first time I made vinegar I just used wine, so no mother like I’ve described above. But using a ‘starter’ or a vinegar that has little floaty bits in it, also called the ‘mother’ to ‘seed’ your new batch of vinegar can help get things happening quicker…
organic – if you use organic or low sulphur wine, you won’t need to aerate as much. But you can’t really over-aerate so err on the side of more.
What do you think?
Did you enjoy this post about making vinegar? Would you like to see more on home made ingredients or do you prefer recipes for meals? I’d really love to know what you think so please share your thoughts in the comments below.