DIY RED WINE VINEGAR
There are three reasons to make red wine vinegar: taste, taste, and taste. And there’s a possible fourth reason: it’s so easy. Some culinary folks suggest that turning wine into vinegar is a good way to use leftover wine from dinner or a party. Leftover wine is an oxymoron; that doesn’t happen in my abode. So unfortunately, I have to start with a full bottle — less a glass, which is required, of course, to ensure quality. Homemade red wine vinegar is more delicate and has more complex flavors than mass-produced commercial vinegars. A good red wine vinegar is just hard to find in the supermarket.
The process of turning wine into vinegar is simple. The goal is to turn the alcohol and sugars in the wine into acetic acid by inducing oxygen and acidic bacteria or “Mother of Vinegar” into the wine. Here’s all you need to accomplish this magical feat:
- Find the Mother of Vinegar. Local wine- and beer-making shops often stock mother of vinegar, and there are numerous online suppliers, or better yet, snag some from a friend. A mother of vinegar is a slimy, gelatinous blob that encourages fermentation. If you have bought a bottle of raw apple cider vinegar, you’ve probably seen a leftover mother floating in the bottom of the jar. The cool thing about mothers is that during the process, they give birth to other mothers, which can be used for future batches of vinegar. The main thing about mothers are they are specific; if you are making red wine vinegar, it requires a mother specifically for red wine; likewise, white wine vinegar requires a mother specifically for white wine while a specific malt mother is required to make malt vinegar.
- A gallon or half-gallon glass or ceramic container with a wide mouth. Plastic containers are not recommended as plastic can interact with the vinegar. Yes, you’re right, commercial vinegar often is packaged in plastic containers; perhaps that is part of the quality issue.
- Cheesecloth and a rubber band.
- Patience! The process takes about 2 months from start to finish.
- 2 parts red wine
- 1 part water
- 1 part mother of vinegar
- Clean the container, be sure to rinse thoroughly, invert and let dry.
- Add red wine to container,
- Add water
- Add Mother of Vinegar, which jump-starts the fermentation. The container should only be filled to 2/3 to 3/4 capacity to provide surface area for oxygen to feed the mother.
- Cover container with cheesecloth or other cloth and secure with a rubber band.
Store the container in a dark, warm area; ideally, the temperature should be between 70-80º F. If you don’t have a dark area, you can cover the container with paper or cloth to keep the light out, but don’t cover the top because you want to allow the mixture to breath.
In a week or so a thin web-like veil will form on the surface. That’s a good thing; it means the mother is doing her job.
Feed the mother ever week or so with a cup of wine. When you are taking a sample to taste or adding wine, gently move the mother aside.
When is it done? The real test is when the vinegar tastes good. Then strain it through a coffee filter to remove any sediment and store it in an airtight sterilized glass bottle. You can also keep the vinegar in the original container and simply take what you need straight from the crock, while continuing to add wine (about a cup or so a week) to keep the vinegar going.
Bacteria in the vinegar container will multiply over time, creating new mothers that will be floating around. Old mothers will sink to the bottom over time and will take up room at the bottom of the container. They will have a sponge-like appearance and can be fished out carefully to provide space for more vinegar.
Once started, this process can be maintained for years by simply adding wine and occasionally cleaning out the mother from the bottom of the container.
Aged wine vinegar has a tawny reddish color, a clean but sharp aroma, and a subtly intense flavor. Red wine vinegars are a ubiquitous ingredient in salad dressings, stews or slow-roasted dishes.
Caution: don’t get carried away with vinegar madness or you’ll be bottling your tasty vinegar in adorable vintage bottles and selling it at the local farmers’ and flea markets.
Adapted from: “How to Make your own Red Wine Vinegar,” Bon Appetit, January 31, 2013. www.bonappetit.com//how-to-make-your-own-red-wine-vinegar