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Yes, you can make your own apple cider vinegar at home! This page shows you how. Homemade vinegar is excellent in salads, cooking, or freezer and refrigerator pickled products. Vinegar contains many vitamins and other compounds such as riboflavin, Vitamin B-1 and mineral salts from the starting material that impart vinegar with its distinct flavor. But because the acidity of homemade vinegars will vary, do not use them in foods to be canned or stored at room temperature.
The overall process is:
Apple juice or apple cider is the starting point for making apple cider vinegar. You can make your own, or buy it ready made, fresh, bottled or frozen. You can use a mechanical or steam juicer to produce the juice / cider. To make your own juice (which is the same as plain unfermented apple cider), see this page. Keep in mind that you want to select sweet apples, like Fuji, Delicious, Mutsu, Gala, etc. Green, unripe and unsweet apples (like Granny Smith) do not have enough sugar to make good cider vinegar.
Apples used for cider don't have to be flawless. They do, however, have to be free from spoilage. You can use blemished apples and small sized apples. You can mix apple varieties together or use all one variety. The only rule is to cut out any spoilage areas on otherwise good apples. Spoiled areas will cause the juice to ferment too rapidly and will ruin the cider. Don't use apples that appear brown, decayed or moldy. Apples should be firm and ripe. Green, undermature apples cause a flat flavor when juiced. The best cider comes from a blend of sweet, tart and aromatic apple varieties. A bushel of apples yields about 3 gallons of juice.
Adding yeast to activate fermentation is not essential, but will speed up the process and can produce a higher quality. Special cultivated yeasts are available for this purpose at wine-making shops and biological labs but bread yeasts are not recommended. To make a starter, crumble one cake of yeast into one quart of cider and mix. This makes enough starter for 5 gallons of cider; double the recipe proportionately when making more.
Pour all of the juice or cider into one or more containers to about three-quarters capacity; do not close the lids on the containers. Instead, cover the openings with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band or string.
Stir the mixtures daily, making sure the cheesecloth is put back in place. Keep the containers away from direct sunlight and maintain the temperature at 60 to 80 degrees F.
Full fermentation will take about 3 to 4 weeks. Near the end of this period, you should notice a vinegar-like smell. Taste samples daily until the desired strength is reached.
When the vinegar is fully fermented, filter the liquid through several layers of fine cheesecloth or filter paper; a coffee filter works well for this. This removes the mother of vinegar, shown at right, preventing further fermentation or spoilage of the product. Mother of vinegar is completely harmless and the surrounding vinegar does not have to be discarded because of it. It can be filtered out using a coffee filter, used to start a bottle of vinegar, or simply left in and ignored.
The vinegar is now ready for storage in separate, capped containers. Stored vinegar will stay in excellent condition almost indefinitely if it is pasteurized. To pasteurize, heat the vinegar before pouring it into sterilized bottles, or bottle, then place in a hot water bath. In both cases, the temperature of the vinegar must reach at least 140 degrees F to pasteurize the product, and should not exceed 160 degrees F. Use a cooking thermometer to ensure the correct temperature is met. Cool the containers and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
Flavoring can be added to homemade vinegar just before bottling. Good examples of additives include green onion, garlic, ginger, or any combination of dried or fresh herbs. To make flavoring, place material in a small cheesecloth bag and suspend in the vinegar until desired strength is reached. This will take about 4 days, except for garlic, which takes only 1 day.
For every 2 cups of vinegar, use ONE of the following:
Other good flavorings include:
Adjust the amounts to taste, but be careful not to overload the vinegar. Too much vegetable matter can destroy the acid and ruin the preservative quality of the vinegar.
Some flavorings may not go well with cider vinegar's distinct taste and color. When flavoring store-bought vinegar, use more delicate or decorative flavors. When flavoring store-bought vinegar, you will still need to pasteurize it and use sterile bottles.
Flavored vinegars taste great and have a beautiful color, making them excellent for use in salads. You will be tempted to display flavored vinegar; however, be sure to keep your bottles out of direct sunlight, which will destroy the flavor, acidity, and color of the vinegar.
This recipe is based on a recipe developed by Ohio State University Extension Service,
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