Easy to follow step-by-step process for making apple cider vinegar
- Find a wide-mouthed container that will hold a sufficient volume of liquid for you. (The wide mouth is so that there is sufficient surface area to facilitate oxygen absorption.)
- Sterilize the container and then fill it to two-thirds full with hard apple cider.
- You now need to add a little unpasteurized and unfiltered apple cider vinegar—this will still have live bacteria in it. Alternatively you need to add some “mother of vinegar,” which you will be able to buy from most health shops or brewing stores.
- Put the container in a dry, clean, dark, out-of-the-way area that is stable in temperature and cover the top with a cheesecloth. The cheesecloth will allow oxygen in while keeping insects and other contaminants out.
- Wait for four weeks, and then taste it—yes, you need to taste it! This is the centuries-old foolproof method to see if the vinegar is ready. You should not be able to taste any alcohol when the process is complete. Alternatively, for those less adventurous souls, you can use a wine testing kit to tell you when the acidity levels reach 5 or 6 percent.
- Do not be tempted to test the vinegar too soon, and when you do, try to disturb the layer of “mother of vinegar” as little as possible. Some of the bacteria may sink to the bottom of the container when disturbed and decompose, which will affect the taste of the vinegar.
- When the apple cider vinegar is ready, you can strain it through a paper coffee filter to remove the “mother of vinegar” or you can carefully remove it using a fine mesh spoon or a large serving spoon. Either way keep some of the vinegar with some bacteria in it to start your next batch.
Make apple cider vinegar from whole apples
- You need two glass bowls, one larger than the other, and as many apples as will fill the larger bowl.
- Wash and quarter the apples, then place them in the larger bowl. Leave them to brown and then fill the bowl with water until the apples are covered. Cover the bowl with the apples in it with a cheesecloth and leave it in a warm, dark,and clean place for six months.
- When the six months is over, you will notice a grayish scummy film on top of the water. This means that the process has been successful.
- Now strain the liquid from the bowl through a coffee filter into the second bowl. Cover the bowl again with cheesecloth and leave it in the same place as before for another four to six weeks.
- When the apple cider vinegar is ready you can strain it through a paper coffee filter again to remove the “mother of vinegar,” or you can carefully remove it using a fine mesh spoon or a large serving spoon.
Commercially, the producers of vinegars have tried to hasten the above processes and increase the volume of batches by using many inventive means. With what has become known as the Orleans method or the field process, manufacturers, originally in France and now most commercial cider vinegar producers in the world, use fifty-gallon wooden barrels filled to half capacity and laid on their sides to maximize the surface area exposed to air. Holes, covered in mesh to keep contaminants out, are usually drilled in each end to aid airflow. The manufacturers also need to speed up the fermentation process, so they do this by adding an oxygenating substance such as wood chips or corncobs to the barrel.
In 1823 the German, or fast method, was developed for making vinegars. With this method fermentation takes place in a tower packed with charcoal, corncobs, and wood shavings. The cider or wine is trickled into the top of it and air is fed in through the bottom. The result of all of this is vinegar in weeks, not months.
Even Louis Pasteur, the famous French scientist, got involved in improving the production and quality of vinegar. In 1858, he invented a wooden raft that would float on the surface of the vinegar and stop the “mother of vinegar” from sinking to the bottom. He also wrote extensively on the bacteriological processes involved in the making of vinegar thus improving the understanding of what affected the quality of the product.
The most modern method of producing vinegars is the submerged tank method, which uses a man-made “mother of vinegar” called acetozym. The vinegar produced by this method, however, is dead, meaning it has the required sharp flavor and acidity characteristic of vinegar, but nothing else. It is precisely the natural fermentation process and the work of the “mother of vinegar” that provides the multitude of health benefits that we seek from this veritable panacea.