Why Not Make Your Own Vinegar?

You can have fun and save a little money by making your own vinegar. Here’s how.

Whether you just like the idea of saving some money or you’re trying to make your life a little greener, one way to do it is by making your own homemade vinegar. Believe it or not, it’s pretty straightforward–as long as you’re willing to follow some instructions and put in a little effort.

So What Have We Got Here?

Vinegar is a mainstay of cooking, and as every kid knows it’s also used in the egg-dying process immediately prior to Easter. But vinegar also has a number of uses around the home, not the least of which is as an herbicide for weeds. Pour it on an errant thistle, and that thistle will soon die.

One the other hand, interestingly enough, any bronze-colored or white vinegar can also be gently applied to sunburn as a natural organic remedy; it eases the pain wonderfully.

Chemically, vinegar is a weak solution of acetic acid, which can be produced chemically (that’s where all that white vinegar comes from). But some vinegar is basically sour wine, which means it’s fairly easy to make at home. In fact, you can use stale beer or beer dregs as an ingredient, along with old wine or cider.

The Mother of All Vinegar

All you need other than the dregs mentioned above is a container to put the ingredients in, a warm place that’ll stay between 75-85 degrees for several months, and a piece of what’s known as “mother of vinegar”–a gelatinous mass of acetobacter bacteria.

The “mother,” which converts alcohol that would otherwise go to waste into acetic acid, is generally the hardest vinegar ingredient to acquire. But if you can find raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar at your local organic food store, it’ll probably have some “mother” at the bottom of the container.

If you can’t find any, then you may be able to get some “mother” from a friend, or from a health-food store. It may take a little calling around to find it, though.

Worth Every Minute

Beware: the organic way of making vinegar (a.k.a. the Orleans method) takes quite a while, and like beer- or winemaking, it can be somewhat labor intensive. You can find a detailed process, along with lots of Q&A, here.

By all accounts it’s worth the time and effort: properly done, the result is delicious, far better than anything you can find in a store. Improperly done, the botched vinegar can still be used to kill weeds, at the very least!