The Musette: home-made vinegar

Who knew? All it takes to rustle up some delicious home-made vinegar is a little beer or wine, a clean jar, and some cheesecloth to let microbes in (for fermentation) and keep nasties out.

When I’m cooking, I find that a teaspoon of vinegar is often the missing link in a too-salty soup or overly spicy sauce. Also, a tiny bit of a fruity vinegar works just as well in dishes that I might be inclined to finish with a squeeze of lemon.

I started making vinegar with left over wine, generally stuff we’ve opened but haven’t enjoyed. I’ll often cook with it but sometimes I end up with too much, so hello vinegar! I just leave it to ferment in my kitchen et voilà!

You can easily check on the vinegar’s progress either by using pH strips or by tasting it. I prefer the latter method because as the vinegar ferments, any pathogens that make their way into the liquid will be killed either by the alcohol or by the acidity of the vinegar once the alcohol has transformed. I tend to age my vinegar for months rather than weeks as the flavour will keep developing as the liquid pulls in yeast and bacteria from the air.

Typically after a couple of weeks sitting on the work top in a jar, my leftover wine will stop smelling like leftover wine and start smelling faintly but familiarly like the vinegar. Finally, my outstanding ability to abandon and ignore is beginning to pay off.

Of course, once you’ve graduated from the most basic forms of vinegar-making, you can turn almost anything into vinegar. Aside from wine vinegars – red, white, sherry, or champagne –  beer is a great starting point, particularly a beer that’s low in hops (since all that bitterness will remain in the final product) but high in sugar and alcohol (which will ferment quickly).

Even with a minimal amount of effort, essentially cracking open a bottle of ale, covering the top with cheesecloth, and waiting around, you’ll end up with your own unique vinegar. Two vinegars made with the same method, and even using the same original beer, can taste wildly different depending on the flora and fauna of their environment.

I use most of my home-made vinegar in my pickles – recipes coming soon!

Ingredients

  • 1 ltr (4 cups) beer (6%-12% ABV)

Turning beer into vinegar is an ancient tradition made popular by the Brits to sprinkle on their fish and chips (malt vinegar).

One thing to bear in mind when you begin making this vinegar, is that after you mix everything together, and as time goes on, you’ll notice a layer of what looks like gelatin growing on the surface. This is the vinegar mother. Without it, the alcohol won’t be converted into vinegar.

Make sure to use a beer for this that is 6 to 12 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). And don’t use one that is too hoppy, or your vinegar will be bitter.

Method

1. Wash a 1 litre (1-quart) wide-mouth glass container in hot, soapy water, then rinse and dry thoroughly.

2. Pour the beer into the container. Stir with a spoon to dissipate the carbonation, and then let it sit for 30 minutes. You want the beer to be flat and not fizzy.

3. Cover the container’s opening with cheesecloth, securing it with a rubber band.

4. Let the container sit in a cool, dry, dark place for at least two weeks though longer is better. Then give the mixture a taste; if it’s sharp, tangy, and sour (like other vinegars you’ve had), it’s now vinegar (It’s perfectly okay to taste; no pathogens can survive in either the alcohol or the vinegar.) If you prefer, you can also judge its progress by using pH strips; I shoot for a reading of 4 or below on the pH scale.

2 thoughts on “The Musette: home-made vinegar

  1. Yes, please! Any tips on how to use these would be appreciated; I’m sure they can be used to replace lemon juice in savoury recipes, or any recipe calling for vinegar; but have you found any particular combination that’s especially good (e.g. beef with beer vinegar vs. red wine vinegar), or one to avoid? Thank you for sharing this idea! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.