Unfiltered apple cider vinegar, with the “mother” still in it, is expensive. But you can make it yourself!
What you need:
- Wide-mouth mason jars and rings
- A warm location
- Sugar and/or storebought ACV to speed up the process, though these are not necessary
First, cut up your apples.
But here’s a hint… you only need the peels or cores. That’s right… Make your apple pie or dried apples, and save the peels and cores for your vinegar. We used our peeler-corer-slicer, and dehydrated the centers.
Place the apple trimmings in a bowl, with enough room on top to completely cover with water. Fill the bowl with water. You can add sugar to the water to speed up fermentation, if you wish. Place a plate on the bowl, to completely push all of the apples down into the water, preferably a plate that will fit well over the top and seal out fruit flies.
Place that bowl in a location that can stay around 75 degrees or higher for a week. I used one of my laundry room cupboards, with the door closed.
When the water bubbles out around the plate, you’re ready for your next step. This will be alcoholic at this point.
This step led up to an in-depth discussion with my 11-year-old daughter. She didn’t want to make alcohol, but I explained that the alcohol was an important step in the vinegar-making process that can’t be skipped. We would just not drink the alcohol.
Strain the apples out of the fermented water, and throw them away. Do not give them to your chickens, unless you want drunk chickens. (Really, I don’t know if they’ll even eat them. I didn’t try it.)
Fill wide-mouth jars with the fermented water. You want wide-mouth if possible, to increase airflow to the vinegar. At this point, you can add a drizzle of existing apple cider vinegar, or part of the “mother” from another batch, to inoculate this water. However, though this does speed up the process, it is not necessary. Alcohol plus too much air makes vinegar.
Cover the jars with cheesecloth or other loose-weave cloth. Secure it in place with the canning ring, or a rubber band. Place the jars in a warm, dark location, like the inside of a cupboard, for 2-4 months. Again, we used our laundry room cupboard.
Fruit flies will try to get in this, so be sure that cloth is on tight, and the cupboard door is shut, to avoid an infestation. While the alcohol turns to vinegar, you will notice that a slimy layer rises to the top. This is the “mother,” and it’s completely normal. It’s actually a cellulose layer that separates during the process. Don’t throw that away. It helps seal off the rest of the vinegar from contamination.
Don’t worry much about bacteria during this point. Alcohol and vinegar have been used for millennia to protect against bacteria.
The longer you wait, the stronger your vinegar will be. When you are ready, remove the mother and either throw it away (or in the compost!) or use part of it to inoculate a new batch. Strain the vinegar from the solids that have sunk to the bottom.
At this point, you can use the vinegar, seal it up, or even add herbs for flavored vinegar. Do not use this for canning other foods!!!! Safe canning requires a specific acidity, and homemade vinegars often do not reach that acidity.
Apple Cider Vinegar Syrup
Take some of your homemade apple cider vinegar and pour it in a saucepan. Turn it on to medium or lower. When it starts to simmer, let it keep simmering until it has cooked down into thick syrup. If desired, add some apple juice to this mixture for sweeter syrup, or some spices.
This syrup is excellent on top of apple-cheese blintzes! A family favorite!