As a homesteader and traditional foodie, I use a lot of apple cider vinegar.
Last year we used 2-1/2 gallons and that does not include what I used for canning. This year I aim to make 4 gallons. Two are already fermenting away.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider is essentially apple juice.
Add sugar and it ferments into alcohol (wine) then, add the right bacteria and it turns to acetic acid (vinegar).
Vinegar has a long history of being used for medicinal and aesthetic purposes.
Apparently Hippocrates mixed it with honey for coughs.
Why Make Your Own Vinegar?
Organic raw apple cider vinegar can be very expensive, sometimes in excess of $20 a gallon!
I just couldn’t justify spending that kind of money which is why I decided to figure out how to make it on my own.
Homesteaders are always looking for ways to save money, right?
I make what is known as “apple scrap vinegar.” This is a little different because it doesn’t start with actual juice, but apple scraps.
Where do you get apple scraps?
Two of the easiest sources are cores and peels from making applesauce or the crushed apple bits from cider pressing.
Make Apple Cider Vinegar
You can make a small batch or a huge one, depending on your supply of scraps.
- Large jar or crock
- Apple scraps
- “Mother” from store-bought raw vinegar or your previous batch
Place your scraps into a clean jar or a ceramic crock. I use the 6 gallon ceramic crock I inherited. This is the ONLY thing I use it for because the vinegar bacteria will live in the porous ceramic lining and affect anything else I attempt to ferment in this vessel.
Add water until the apple scraps are covered.
Cover the vessel with a towel or similar cloth, making sure it is secure as it needs to keep bugs and dirt out. It needs exposure to oxygen, so don’t use a screw on lid or something similar. Cloth is preferable.
Set aside for 2-4 weeks. It will start to ferment and bubble a bit, which can get a little smelly. Therefore, I recommend keeping it in a garage or outbuilding during this time.
Strain liquid from the apple scraps. If you’re doing a large batch, this can get a little complicated. I usually start by scooping off apple scraps with a slotted spoon. Once I have more room to work with, I will use a large measuring cup or pour off the liquid into a 1 gallon jar using my canning funnel and a fine mesh strainer.
Once all the liquid is strained off or your jar is full, add the mother, cover with a cloth, and allow to sit in a dark place for 3-6 months, maybe more depending on the temperature of your storage location.
Test if it is ready by mixing 1 tbsp vinegar with 1 tbsp baking soda. If it reacts, it is sufficiently acidic!
How to Use Your Homemade Vinegar
I use my homemade vinegar for SO many things. I don’t even use white vinegar any more. White vinegar is made from distilled grain alcohol, most likely with GMO corn.
Homemade vinegar is great to use in cooking, especially in marinades, sauces, and dressings. It can also be used for soaking grains to reduce phytic acid.
Used in homemade electrolyte drinks and switchels (aka Haymakers punch) it adds so much flavor.
It can even be used to soothe a sunburn! I keep some in a spray bottle just for this purpose. A little lavender essential oil helps too.
Let your food be your medicine! Infuse vinegar with herbs and use that in salad dressings. Or make fire cider to help keep cold and flu season at bay.
Another great use is for homemade cleaning products. Infuse it with a little lemon or orange peel and it smells so good!
One thing I do NOT use it for is canning. Homemade vinegar is not safe for canning unless you are sure the strength is above 5%.
This is a costly and laborious process so I opt to buy vinegar specifically for canning and use the homemade for everything else.