Tag Archives: Vinegar

Making Vinegar

11 Nov

Making vinegar is easy. At a simple chemical level, alcohol + bacteria from the acetobacter genus + oxygen + time -> acetic acid (vinegar).

There’s acetic acid bacteria floating around in the air, so red wine or cider left open over time will eventually turn to vinegar (the sugars in cider first fermenting to alcohol), but unpasteurized and unfiltered commercial vinegars may already contain “mother” (a significant amount of acetic acid bacteria + cellulose) that can be harvested to kick-start a new batch of vinegar (and ensure the acetic acid bacteria quickly becomes the dominant player and lowers the pH to a range where they are heavily favored).

In my case, I mixed a small bottle of organic unfiltered red wine vinegar and the remnants of a few bottles of left-open-too-long red wine, swirled/shaken together in a jar with cheesecloth over the top.

After two months of checking in, it finally tasted like a good red wine vinegar– so I tapped off two large bottles (one for now, one to age another year+ before using), and what’s left will be the starter for future bottles of unfinished red wine.


Shrubs (drinking vinegar)

27 Dec


A shrub (a.k.a. “drinking vinegar”) is a mixture of fruit, sugar and vinegar. It was popular in Colonial America as it was a way to easily preserve fruit pre-refrigeration, and has enjoyed a resurgence in the past few years as a non-alcoholic apertif or as an element in cocktails.

I was first exposed to one a few years ago at the Whiskey Soda Lounge in Portland, OR, and loved the tart/acidic flavor, but didn’t realize it was part of a broader movement. Fast forward to this fall and I got a shrubs and cocktail syrups lesson from Kelly McVicker , at Workshop, and then over the holidays made two more batches.


Made at Workshop: a small batch involving strawberries, cider vinegar, szechuan pink peppercorns, and lemongrass (the glass on the right is a mint-and-peppercorn-syrup julep):


And in my kitchen, after finding organic meyer lemons and blood oranges in a local market:


Macerating the sliced lemons in sugar along with basil, straining, then adding a mix of cider and white vinegars. I let the fruit macerate for four hours but could have given it a day. This is the “cold shrub” style of preparation, letting the sugar draw the liquid out of fruit (I came back after a few hours and the bowl was almost full of liquid), which I hear keeps the most clean fruit flavor– the other approach is to cook fruit in sugar and make more of an infused simple syrup.


Another one involved blood oranges soaked in a mix of brown sugar and Maine maple syrup made by my sister, with star anise and cider vinegar:


And because any food preservation project also has to turn into a craft project, trying out a few quick label designs (with the usual milk-as-label-glue).


I’d initially planned to draw the fruit on the label, but when the shrub itself is so colorful,  why hide it?

These both turned out quite well, and different– the lemon is great on its own or with soda, the blood orange is probably better in a more robust cocktail or in cooking.