How To Make Vinegar From Fruit
Vinegar is one of the most common food preservatives in existence. Look at the wide range of products on store shelves that contain it. Mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, steak sauce, hot sauce, pickles, salad dressing… It’s in so many of our foods. It’s not only for flavor, but for its preservative effect. In fact, many of our condiments were invented as a way to preserve things like tomatoes (ketchup), peppers (hot sauce), and vegetables (cucumber pickles and other pickled vegetables).
In difficult times, vinegar can not only help us preserve food, but it can be used as a disinfectant, and insect repellent, a cleanser, a de-odorizer, a more!
Its a good idea to stock up on vinegar, but those stores aren’t going to last forever, so it’s a good idea to learn how to make your own!
There are lots of ways to make vinegar. Most people make it from alcohol–most often wine. Some use fruit juice. But you can also make it from fresh fruit, which is great survival situation you can often forage for fruits.
The best type of fruit to use for making vinegar is any type of fruit that has “bloom”, or the white, waxy coating that often appears on fruits like apples, grapes, plums, and elderberries.
The process of making vinegar starts with yeast consuming sugar and converting it into alcohol. Then a bacteria known as acetobacter converts the alcohol into vinegar. You can keep alcohol from turning to vinegar by keeping it away from oxygen, which is why wine is corked. And if you’ve ever had a bottle of wine go bad, it was most likely because the cork was damaged in some way, allowing oxygen to assist in turning it into vinegar.
Making vinegar is actually a very natural process, so it’s not difficult. You can make it from lots of different fruits, and the fruit you use will affect the flavor of the vinegar. You could make strawberry vinegar to use in a strawberry vinaigrette. You could make plum vinegar to use as a condiment on Japanese food. (The Japanese use pickled plums called umeboshi.) And apple cider vinegar has dozens of popular uses.
So let’s take a look at the process of making fruit vinegar:
- Cut the fruit into chunks and crush, or just crush them if they are already small, like grapes or elderberries.
- Remove any pits or seeds, especially from fruits that may have poisonous seeds, such as apples or plums.
- Place fruit into a clean canning jar. Fill the jar to approximately 60% full with the crushed fruit.
- Mix sugar and water together in a 1:4 ratio–20% sugar and 80% water. Add the sugar water to the jar until it is about 90% full, leaving a little space for expansion during fermentation.
- Place the top on the jar and screw the lid on very lightly. This will keep insects and bacteria out, while allowing fermentation gasses to escape.
- Leave the jar in a warm area, at least 70-80 degrees (F). Heat aids fermentation, but you don’t want it to be excessively hot.
- Tighten the lid and shake the jar a couple of times a day, but make sure to loosen the lid again after shaking.
- You should see some bubbles in the mixture within 3-5 days. This means fermentation has begun.
- Once you see a significant amount of bubbles, strain the liquid into another clean canning jar. Discard the fruit.
- Place a lid lightly on the new jar and place it in a warm area, shaking it a couple of times per day, and let it ferment for approximately two weeks.
- When fermentation is almost complete, after about two weeks, remove the lid, place a clean paper towel or cheesecloth across the top of the jar, and screw on the band, but do not replace the lid. This will allow oxygen into the jar, which will allow the acetobacter to do their job.
- Keep the jar in a dark place. After 2-3 weeks, check the vinegar. It should have a gelatinous coating on the surface. This is called mother of vinegar.
- Remove the mother of vinegar from the jar and add it to beer, wine, or hard cider to make another batch of vinegar. You can keep using this mother of vinegar over and over to make more batches of vinegar from alcoholic beverages.
- Store the vinegar in clean jars or bottles.
Your vinegar should taste better and better the longer it ages, so don’t worry about it “spoiling”. You might want to get an acid testing kit to make sure your vinegar is ready. Ideally, it should be at least 4.5% acetic acid, which is the percentage it should be to ensure any harmful bacteria are killed off and that your vinegar can safely be used to preserve foods.