Making homemade vinegar is a good way to make use of fruit scraps and it is so easy to do. Of course, we are all familiar with apple cider vinegar but don’t stop there. You can make vinegar with almost any fruit: pears, apricots, peaches, plums and even pineapple.
What Fruit to Use
Vinegar is the result of sugar fermentation. So just about any fruit that is high in sugar but low in moisture will make a vinegar. For stone fruit, remove the pits and coarsely chop into pieces that are about cherry-size. For other fruit (pears, apples and pineapple) you can use scraps. Save the peelings and cores from your canning. I use the chopped up apple pulp left over from making apple cider.
Just put your chopped up fruit and scraps into a jar. The size and kind of jar is entirely upto you. I make mine in one gallon batches, but you can start small with just a quart or a half-gallon jar. The scraps of a pineapple take up a little more than a quart, so use a large pickle jar or half-gallon jar. (Or put the scraps of two pineapples into a gallon jar.)
Start the Fermentation Process
Make a sugar mixture of 3/4 – 1 cup of sugar to 1 quart of water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the sugar water over the fruit till it is covered and you have about 1/2″ of sugar water above the fruit.
Now here’s the only tricky part: the fruit needs to stay submerged under the sugar water. Exposed fruit tends to mold and you definitely don’t want mold. So find something to weight the fruit down. For gallon jars, I like these glass weights. For half-gallon or wide-mouth quart canning jars, these inserts (or these, for regular mouth canning jars) are perfect for the job and are very affordable. Or you can use a clean rock (boil it for five minutes to make sure it is sterile) or a small glass filled with water, anything that will keep the fruit below the water. I found a couple glass saucers at a thrift store that were just the perfect diameter. They cost just 25¢ each.
Now cover the mouth of the jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band. This should be a tightly woven fabric, like a scrap of fabric. The mixture needs air to begin its fermenting process, but you want to keep bugs, dirt and other floaties out. Cheese cloth is too porous for this. I use a tea towel or cotton fabric cut into a scrap large enough to cover the mouth of the jar.
Now just wait
Now just set this mixture in a dark place where it will be warm (65°-85°) and undisturbed. Too much light will encourage bad bacteria growth. The back of a kitchen cupboard or a broom closet will do. Let it ferment for about three weeks. Mark the date on your calendar so you don’t forget.
At the end of three weeks, strain and discard the fruit. Put a clean cloth on the mouth of the jar again and secure with a rubber band. Return the jar to it’s dark, warm corner. Let it ferment for another 3-6 weeks, until it has reached a good acidity. The warmer it is, the quicker the fermentation process. You can use pH testing paper to test the acidity of your vinegar. It only costs $2-3 and one packet lasts a long time. Or, if you want to be really precise, I like this digital pH tester. When the pH is 2.7 or less you have yourself a good batch of vinegar. Transfer it to clean jars or bottles, put a tight-fitting lid on it and store it in a cool place, like an unheated basement or the fridge. Just don’t store it right next to the stove.
The Mother of Vinegar
Your vinegar will produce a gelatinous substance that floats on top of the liquid or it may settle to the bottom of the jar. This may look like mold, but it’s actually the mother. The mother is a combination of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria and it’s what turns wine or fruit juice into vinegar. You can tell if it’s a mother because it is somewhat firm to the touch and holds together, whereas mold will just dissolve into the vinegar when it’s disturbed. You can leave the mother in the bottom of the jar. Or you can strain it out and use it as a starter in your next batch of vinegar. It will keep in the fridge for 4-6 weeks. If you are not going to be making vinegar anytime soon, you can put it in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid and store it in the freezer.
Using Your Vinegar
Of course we all know to use vinegar in salads and other cooking. But homemade vinegar has live cultures that have all sorts of health benefits. Put a tablespoon or two of plum or apple cider vinegar in a glass of water for a healthy and refreshing drink.
Pineapple vinegar has a mild fruity taste that is perfect in vegetable salads. Experiment with the different flavors to find the perfect uses for your variety of vinegars.
And if that isn’t interesting enough, try infusing your vinegar with herbs for a more savory flavor profile. Fill a jar with your favorite herbs and pour vinegar over them. Allow them to steep for 3-6 weeks, then strain and discard the herbs.
Impress your family and guests with a variety of flavors that come from vinegar made with a variety of fruits. They’ll never believe how easy and inexpensive it is to make.