My Most Expensive Vinegar

A while back I received a very good, very expensive bottle of wine as a gift of thanks. It was even signed by the vineyard owner. It was a red wine, I usually prefer white but this was the perfect blend of fruit, chocolate and floral. It had wonderful flavor. I know because it was my job to create a dessert to pair with it. I have been saving my bottle for a special occasion.

When we moved the last of our things to reach the farm were a few miscellaneous boxes, garden and yard tools that were just stacked in the barn to be organized this spring. I went out in search of something the other day, what it was I don’t remember. What I found was a box labeled “fragile kitchen”. I had been missing a couple things in the kitchen but not enough to really think twice. Until I noticed the bottom corner of the box was purple.

My special bottle of wine had froze, and in doing so push up the cork and leaked all over. I was so disappointed. Having been expose to air, once the bottle thawed it would either need to be consumed immediately or left to turn to vinegar. I’m all for a bottle of wine but 10 am on a Tuesday, alone could be a bit questionable.

In it’s most basic form vinegar is just wine gone bad. Not bad like unusable bad but bad like not drinkable as wine. Wine left exposed to air will pick up natural bacteria and aromatic yeasts which will feast on the alcohol and leave acetic acid in it’s place.

The type of vinegar is distinguished by it’s source of alcohol. For example my excellent red wine will turn to red wine vinegar, Apple Cider vinegar comes from the obvious hard apple cider, Rice Wine vinegar from rice wine, you get the picture.

The most widely used is distilled vinegar made of grain. (Malt vinegar is also made of grain but the process is a bit different resulting in a darker colored and more flavorful vinegar than its counterpart.) The popularity of distilled vinegar is growing rapidly as people are again exploring it’s many uses. Try searching uses for vinegar, you will find more sites boasting 101 ways to use vinegar. Apple Cider vinegar is a close second for the same reason, everyone having 101 ways to use it.

The alcohol content of the wine will determine the amount of time the wine will need to age to turn to vinegar and the acidity of the finished vinegar. A very rough estimation of time would be about two weeks in a warm, somewhat humid environment and about five weeks in a cool, dry environment.

If you are making your own wine vinegar it is best to follow the steps of making good wine all the way to then. Let it age as if you were planning to use it for wine and then expose it to air and allow it to further ferment. (Wine is already a fermented product) Once the alcohol has been consumed by the yeast the process is done. The vinegar will be shelf stable (not needing canning or refrigeration). Vinegar is the end of the line so to speak, it won’t turn into something else if left to sit longer.  You can taste your wine every week or few days to check this.

Fruit vinegars are another fun kitchen experiment. Put your fruit scraps in a crock or jar, add a little sugar and enough water to cover everything and let this sit to ferment for 2 to 4 weeks. (Longer if you like) This technique works great with apple scraps. When we were in Mexico I talked to a chef and was introduced pineapple vinegar, in which the same process was used. Pineapple scraps, sugar and water. Upon more searching I found a recipe for this in the book “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Homemade vinegar tends to be a little cloudy unless it is strained or pasteurized because it contains “mother”. The mother of the vinegar is good. Pasteurizing the vinegar will kill the mother and some of the healing properties. It would be comparable to raw milk verse pasteurized milk; both have health benefits but the unpasteurized of the two will have good bacteria that aids the body in many ways.

Infused  Herbal vinegars are a fun thing to make as well. Simply collect herbs, flowers, fruits, (you can us stalks, stems, leaves, petals, or even root in some cases) even nuts chop them finely and put them in a jar. Fill the jar with vinegar leaving about an inch of headspace. Seal with a cork or a few layers of wax paper under your jar lid. If the vinegar comes in contact with metal is will act as a corrosive and will poorly flavor your vinegar. Allow this to sit for about six weeks. It can be left longer, it will continue to get stronger. After the desired amount of time strain out the herbs and your vinegar is ready to use. It can be used for and recipe calling for vinegar; marinades, salad dressings, added to steamed vegetables, stir fry, soup, anything! Don’t be afraid to get creative with your herbs.

You can make vinegar until the cows come home and use it just as fast, if you do all 101 uses. You may also lose a few friends or at least be demoted to phone conversations only; you can only sit with someone soaked in vinegar for so long. Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit, but you get my point. After reading a ridiculous amount of things you can do with vinegar I think I will just stick with the couple that I use regularly.

Distilled Vinegar
Cleaning, of course. It’s great at killing bacteria, mold and unwanted germs. With a little baking soda and vinegar you can clean anything! (I know there are a million “recipes” for cleaning with vinegar and soda, but there’s no real need. Just a dash of vinegar and enough soda to use as a light abrasive when there’s extra scrubbing required.
Laundry, I add about a cup of vinegar during the wash cycle sometimes. It does a lot in there, whitens, removes any soap residue, softens, helps to repel lint among other things.

Apple Cider Vinegar With Mother
Digestion help, I mix a shot glass of vinegar with a glass of water to aid in digestion. ACV works as an anti-inflammatory; having IBD, anti-inflammatory is good.  Also I have a very acidic body, the cider vinegar, though acidic itself actually helps to turn your system more alkaline. This is  good because cancer cells like an acidic environment, so keeping your body more alkaline helps keep cancer at bay. There are more health benefits to drinking the ACV but those are the reasons I like it.
Facial Toner, every other day I put some ACV on a cotton square and use it as a toner. It helps to heal tissues and again anti-inflammatory. If you plan to do any serious detox you will most likely get some acne and inflamed face due to toxins leaving your body. ACV will help heal and sooth this. Only use it until things are under control.  **Don’t use full strength daily, it is very acidic and even with it’s healing properties less is again more. If you would like to use this daily dilute it to at least a 50/50 mixture with water.
Hair Rinse, I mix 3/4 ACV and 1/4 water and pour over my wet hair every few days. If you’ve ever had well water you know that you can get some mineral build up on your hair as well as some soap residue sometime. The ACV strips this from your hair leaving it soft and shiny again.

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