Wine aficionados claim that a bottle of wine should be consumed within 36 hours before the perishable liquid inside starts to deteriorate. Once oxygen is introduced, the wine begins to change. Recorking or sucking the air out of it will only deter the deterioration by a matter of hours. Putting the bottle in the refrigerator might help keep it for up to a week, but after that, it’s time to make wine vinegar!
Vinegars are so easy to make, it’s almost a crime to not make them with your leftovers. In a glass jar combine 2 cups of leftover red wine with a cup of distilled water and some “mother” from a previous organic vinegar you’ve finished and cover the jar with cheese cloth or a clean piece of cotton cloth so air can get in and dust stays out.
“Mother?” You ask.
If you look closely at the contents of the bottles above, you’ll find my 3 mothers. They’re from blackberry, apple, and pear vinegars, respectively, and I’ve been hanging on to them so I can use them as a starter for the next vinegars I make. A vinegar’s mother is a gelatinous mass that usually sits at the bottom of your vinegar bottle. It’s a sign that your vinegar is likely organic because it houses a lovely live culture. The mother is actually a type of acetic acid-producing bacteria called “acetobacter” and it consumes the alcohol in your wine, converting it into delicious vinegar.
If you don’t have a mother with which to start your homemade vinegar, you can find some in the bottom of a jar of Bragg’s Unfiltered Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Until I started making my own apple cider vinegar, this stuff was an essential ingredient in our home. It’ll cure you of any cold and is an excellent rinse for your hair. Save that mother and you’re ready to start making your own vinegars.
What about fruit vinegar? I make my own throughout the year from scrap apple peels and cores when making pies and apple sauce. Blackberries from our vines also make an incredibly delicious vinegar. Simply put your fruit scraps in a jar with some water and a “mother” from another vinegar and cover with cloth so the vinegar can breathe.
If you get mold because your fruit is on the surface and exposed to air, take the offending mold out and make sure your fruit is totally submerged in the water/mother mixture. Check on your jars periodically, but it’ll take a few weeks for the fermentation and culture to reach its peak. I always go by feel. After about a month I run the vinegar & fruit mixture through a cheesecloth, separating out the fruit but I retain the mother and place it and the filtered vinegar into a pretty bottle and cork it. And as the vinegar ages, like me, it only gets better.
Vinegars make great gifts, so you can never make too many bottles! Do you make your own vinegars? Please share your thoughts and let us know what your favorite fruit or wine varieties are.