Did you know that you can make your own vinegar at home? It’s very cheap to do — all you really need is some time, some containers, some juice, and these delicious vintage vinegar recipes.
We’re not talking about just flavoring white vinegar, but actually fermenting fruits and herbs until they turn into something else entirely.
For instance, you can make your own apple cider vinegar, or use a bountiful harvest from a backyard orange tree or a you-pick-em farm to create one or more uniquely flavorful vinegars that will make for amazing marinades and salad dressings.
Vinegar is one of the condiments which every good cook regards as a necessity on her pantry shelves. Used with discretion, food to which it is added will be transformed into a relish and will give zest to an otherwise insipid meal.
The making of vinegar at home is a simple process, and not many years ago, was practiced by nearly everyone who could obtain the necessary fruit juice. With the present high price of vinegar, there has been a revival of this old household art. Those who have set up a vinegar keg or barrel secure a superior product, and at the same time, beat the old high cost of living.
Budget-smart tips: Fruits for vinegar recipes
Vinegar is usually made from apples, although grapes and oranges are also used to some extent. Certain other fruits, such as blackberries, figs, peaches, watermelons (after concentration of juice), sorghum and cane syrup have been used with good results.
Many wild fruits, such as the blackberry, elderberry and persimmon, which frequently are not completely or properly utilized, will make excellent vinegar.
As a matter of fact, any wholesome fruit or vegetable juice can be used for vinegar making, provided it contains sufficient sugar. Some fruits, such as the guava or Kiefler pear, contain only 5 to 8 percent sugar, which is not sufficient to make a strong, satisfactory vinegar.
Fruit used for making vinegar should be sound and fully ripe, for ripe fruit contains more sugar, and consequently produces a stronger vinegar. Partially-decayed fruit is no better for vinegar making than for eating, and should not be used.
Select sound, ripe fruit, wash thoroughly, and remove all decayed portions. Crush either in a machine made for this purpose, such as a cider mill, or for small quantities, a food chopper. Squeeze out the juice in a press and put into a clean barrel, keg or crock for fermentation.
Here are recipes to make your own fruit and herb vinegars at home, using foods such as raspberries, strawberries, cherries, pineapple, mint, onions, celery, tarragon and several others.
1. RASPBERRY VINEGAR RECIPE Six quarts water, six pounds sugar, and three quarts raspberry juice; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add two quarts of water to the berry pulp and one tablespoon and a half of yeast. Let stand until it is well worked up. Then add this to the other liquor [the raspberry/sugar mixture]. Strain and pour into vinegar cask. Ready for use in two or three months.
2. CHERRY VINEGAR Stem one pint of cherries. Add one quart of good cider vinegar. Let boil for one minute after it comes to the boiling point. Turn into glass jars and let stand three weeks. Then strain and bottle. Be sure to use new corks.
3. STRAWBERRY VINEGAR RECIPE Weigh the berries and add an equal weight of sugar. Mash, and to four quarts of berries add eight quarts of water. Then stand in a warm place. Let it ferment thoroughly and strain. Then bottle. Let stand four months before using.
4. ORANGE VINEGAR To two gallons of orange pulp and juice add one quart of Florida syrup. Mother will form in about three weeks. Cover the jar with a thin cloth while fermenting.
5. PINEAPPLE VINEGAR Place the pineapple fruit in a crock. Sweeten as for preserving. Cover and allow to ferment, skimming often. The parings may also be used. Strain through flannel and bottle. Let stand four months.
6. PEAR VINEGAR RECIPE Cook the pears, then mash and add sugar as for preserving. Skim often. When thoroughly fermented, strain and bottle. Ready for use in four months.
7. GRAPE VINEGAR Use wild grapes. Press out all juice and boil down to one-half the quantity. To four gallons of juice add one-half gallon molasses. Ferment by standing the crock in warm place. Strain after thoroughly fermenting and bottle. Keep in dark, cool place.
8. MINT VINEGAR Wash the leaves, shake them dry, and place in bottle. Fill the bottle with vinegar. Let stand a month. Strain and seal tight. This vinegar is used for mutton salads.
9. CLOVER VINEGAR Put a small bowl of molasses into a crock and pour over it nine times the quantity of boiling rain water. Let this stand until it is lukewarm. Then put in two quarts of clover blossoms and one cup yeast. Let this stand three weeks. Then strain and bottle.
10. ONION VINEGAR RECIPE Peel onions and run them through the small knife of the meat grinder. Use enough onions to make a pint of pulp. Season a quart of vinegar with a teaspoon salt and two of sugar. Pour in the onion pulp. Let stand for five days. Then heat and strain through a fine sieve and cloth. Bottle and seal.
11. CELERY VINEGAR One teaspoon salt, one tablespoon sugar, and one- fourth cup celery cut up fine. Add a pint of boiling vinegar and boil one minute. Let stand two or three weeks shaking the jar or bottle often. Then strain and bottle.
12. CELERY SEED VINEGAR Put one and three-fourths cup of celery seed into a two-quart jar or bottle. Fill with boiling vinegar. Shake every day for three weeks; then strain and bottle.
13. HORSERADISH VINEGAR One and one-half cups of freshly-grated horseradish mixed with two tablespoons of sugar and two teaspoons salt. Pour over this one quart boiling cider vinegar. Let this stand ten days. Then strain and bottle.
14. SPICED VINEGAR Put these spices into a cheesecloth: two tablespoons chopped or minced parsley, thyme, mustard, and celery seed, and the same amount of sweet marjoram; then add one tablespoon of allspice, cloves, peppercorns, and mace. Cover with one quart of boiling cider vinegar. Let stand forty- eight hours and strain through cheesecloth. This vinegar may stand a day longer if it is not strongly flavored enough in two days.
15. TARRAGON VINEGAR RECIPE Add four peppercorns and four cloves to two quarts of coarsely chopped tarragon leaves. Pour over these one and one-half quarts cider vinegar. Cover tightly and keep in a cool place. Strain in three weeks. Then bottle and cork tightly.
16. NASTURTIUM VINEGAR Gather enough perfect nasturtium pods to fill a quart jar. Cover with good cider vinegar. This may be used in three weeks after straining through a fine cloth. Nasturtium blossoms may also be used. A few peppercorns may be added, also a clove of garlic.
More tips & tricks for making vinegar at home
Great care should be taken to have all the utensils thoroughly cleaned, and to handle the fruit in a clean manner.
If old kegs or barrels, especially old vinegar barrels, are used, they should be cleaned thoroughly and all traces of the old vinegar removed. If this is not done, the old vinegar will interfere with the alcoholic fermentation and possibly spoil the product.
Fermentation to make apple cider vinegar and other flavors
After the juice has been squeezed out, add a fresh yeast cake to every five gallons of juice. A good fermentation often results from chance inoculation with the wild yeast of the air. This is the method ordinarily followed in making cider vinegar.
Experiments have shown, however, that a much stronger vinegar can be made by using yeast to start the fermentation.
Work the yeast up thoroughly in about one-half cupful of the juice and add to the expressed juice, stirring thoroughly. Cover with a cloth to keep insects from it and allow to ferment.
The best temperature for fermentation is between 80 and 90 degrees. Do not put in a cold cellar, or the fermentation will be too slow. At 80 to 90 degrees, alcoholic fermentation will usually be complete in from three to four days to a week, or when “working” starts, as indicated by the cessation of bubbling.
The next step in the process is acetic acid fermentation, during which the alcohol is changed into acetic acid.
After the bubbling stops, it will be found advantageous to add some good strong vinegar in the proportion of one gallon of vinegar to three or four gallons of fermented juice.
Usually, however, no vinegar is added and the inoculation of the fermented juice with acetic acid bacteria is left to chance. This chance inoculation generally produces a more or less satisfactory product, but if the vinegar is added, the results are much better.
Instead of vinegar, one may add a good quantity of so-called “mother.” If “mother” is used, however, use only that growing on the surface of the vinegar. Vinegar “mother” which has fallen to the bottom is no longer producing acetic acid.
Keep your homemade vinegar in a dark place
After adding the vinegar, cover with a cloth, and keep in a dark place between 70 and 90 degrees. Do not disturb the film that forms, for this is the true “mother” and does not exclude the air.
Taste the juice every week, and when it ceases to increase in acid, or is as sour as desired, siphon off and store in kegs or bottles.
Fill full and stopper tight. If this is not done, the acid will gradually disappear, and the vinegar will “turn to water.” The same bacteria that produces the acid will also destroy it if allowed to grow unhindered.
If the directions are followed, especially as regards temperature, the process will usually be completed in six weeks to two months, where only a few gallons of juice are used.
Many fruit juices are turbid after fermentation, while others, particularly apple vinegar, may clarify themselves spontaneously. One of the simplest ways of filtration to use in the home manufacture of vinegar is to thoroughly mix about a teaspoonful of fuller’s earth or animal charcoal with a quart of vinegar and filter through filter paper.
It is a common practice with many people to make household vinegar from fruit parings and cores, cold tea, and even from the water in which potatoes or other vegetables are boiled.
Sugar, of course, is added, just as in the case of fruit juices that do not contain sufficient sugar.
Editor’s note from 2018: Compressed yeast cakes were about 0.6 ounces each, and some modern sources suggest that a 0.25 ounce packet of dry yeast will work as an equivalent.