Vinegar has a long, long history. And like garlic and honey, it has a long tradition in folk medicine for its nutritional and therapeutic benefits.
Recorded vinegar history starts around 5000 BC, when the Babylonians were using the fruit of the date palm to make wine and vinegar. They used it as a food and as a preserving or pickling agent. Vinegar residues have been found in ancient Egyptian urns traced to 3000 BC. As well, recorded vinegar history in China starts from texts that date back to 1200 BC.
During biblical times, vinegar was used to flavor foods, as an energizing drink, and as a medicine, and it is mentioned in both the old and new testaments. For example, after working hard gleaning barley in the fields, Ruth was invited by Boaz to eat bread and dip it in vinegar. (Ruth 2:14)
We had decided earlier this year that we wanted to make apple cider vinegar. We do a lot of pickling although we’ll need to insure an acidity of at least 4.5% acetic acid by using a vinegar titration process. We surface kill weeds and grasses with vinegar (Because vinegar is not a systemic, i.e., it is not taken into the plant, any plant that will regenerate from the root will not be killed by vinegar although multiple applications to kill green growth as it emerges thus preventing photosynthesis might work, maybe.) Since we have an apple orchard that is close to producing fruit, it seemed natural to make ACV.
So with 1 litre of the 4 litres of sweet cider that we have, I decided to make ACV. The process is quite simple and straight forward: sweet cider => hard cider => vinegar. Leave the sweet cider out at room temperature exposed to the air although covered with a cheesecloth or mesh to keep the fruit flies at bay. It needs to be uncovered to give it access to wild yeasts that start the fermentation process. As Sandor Katz in Wild Fermentation, The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods says on page 127 about making spontaneous hard cider:
When I took notes of the process, after 3 days it was “bubbly, mildly alcoholic, sweet”; after 5 days it had “lost its sweetness, still bubbly, not at all sour”; after a week “hard and dry”; and a day later “starts to have a sour edge.”
To get from hard cider to ACV, leave the container exposed to the air for a couple of more weeks and the fermentation process will continue. The more surface area that is exposed, the quicker the process. I decided to help things along by adding a couple of table spoons of organic vinegar. It hasn’t been pasteurized so it’s still alive. Because the fall days have the temperature all over the place, I put the container on a heating pad that is plugged into a thermostat controller set at 75 F.
There isn’t much to see yet although I’d echo Katz’s bubbly, mildly alcoholic, sweet observation. And there’s a definite fermented, yeast smell to it.
Having tasted home-made ACV recently – it’s a mild, delicate, fruity-tangy taste completely unlike the store variety – I’m quite looking forward to our own ACV.