Sunday, July 29, 2007

Easy Vinegar

After wasting a lot of time searching for "mother of vinegar" culture (which I found but decided wasn't worth the money or effort required to order it) and trying to make vinegar from unpasteurized store bought vinegar, I had an inspiration that had the combined effect at once causing me to feel clever and embarrassingly dumb.

A few weeks ago I was setting up to make another batch of sour dough starter. It's a mostly a no- brainer process that I've been doing weekly -for years. All I do is mix some organic flour, and water, let it sit on the kitchen counter (next to my stand mixer, of course) for 24 hours, then add more flour and water and let is sit for another 24 hours. During this time the yeast that is naturally present in the flour convert starches into sugar, carbon dioxide and alcohol, while the also naturally present lactobacilli convert some of the sugar into sour tasting lactic acid.

So I'm mixing the stuff up when I remember that there are going to be a lot more microorganisms in the flour than just one species of yeast and one of bacteria. Perhaps at the end of fermentation in addition to a lot of alcohol producing yeast, there would also be a lot of the alcohol consuming acetic acid producing bacteria that are used to ferment wine into vinegar?

In other words all I had to do to turn the bottle of funky Cabernet sitting in my pantry into vinegar was drop in a blob of fully fermented sour dough starter, aerate it everyday for a while and that was it?

Yeah well, it worked. So all that fussing, all the emails to colleagues asking for advice all the search strings for "mother of vinegar," "acetobacteria" and so on, were largely a waste of time.
The answer to the problem was sitting on my kitchen counter all along.


Tags said...

You felt clever and embarrassingly dumb? How about elegant? That was an elegant solution, after all.

Not a manly word, elegant, is that it? Sure clever is mildly manly, and heaven knows it doesn't get much more masculine than embarrassingly dumb, but when I come up with an elegant solution I go right ahead and feel elegant. I am that secure in my manhood.

After all, my wife has it locked away in a safe-deposit box in our bank.

blondee47 said...

i made vinegar once too, but with a mother and after about three weeks on my counter, during which i would often look lovingly at my vinegar-to-be, i woke up one morning to a flood of vinegar on my kitchen floor-somehow the bottle cracked and i never researched into it as a why.

that was my firs and last experience at homemade vinegar

Jennie/Tikka said...

Great info! I've tried to do it with leftover wine by just letting natural yeast find its way in by exposing it to air, but it hasn't worked very well.

I'm wondering now if dropping some dry active yeast will work, too?????

tyronebcookin said...

Hey Bob,

How long with the starter till you dropped it in the cabernet? The initial 2 days you said it sat?

And how long to leave it before it was the vinegar you wante?

I know that you have to let it breath, keep it out of light, keep it warm, etc...but was that necessary with this way of doing it?

I have a bottle of blueberry wine, yep, you guessed it...its from LA! (lower alabama) hahaha.

Simon said...

Steven Sando back at Rancho Gordo makes his own Pineapple vinegar:

Seems pretty easy, I would suspect doing the same thing with a bottle of wine would yield similar results...

Don Luis said...

So the natural yeast is in the flour? I aways thought it was in the air, and that's what give regional breads their distinct flavors.

Bob del Grosso said...

Active dry will not work neither will any yeast because yeast doesn't feed on alcohol (it "eats" sugar) or produce acetic acid. The stuff that ferments wine into vinegar is bacteria. So what you need to do is either purchase the bacteria in pure form, buy some unpasteurized and unfiltered vinegar (e.g. Bragg's cider) and hope there's enough bacteria in there to get it going or get a colony going yourself -which is what I did.


You can let the starter grow for three days. Then put some into the wine and shake it once a day for a week. It took about two weeks to ferment 16 oz of wine at 68 degrees F. The bacteria needs oxygen to do it's job so make sure the wine is in something with a loose lid. Or you could cover it with a cloth.

Don Luis
There's yeast is in the air and in the flour -but the concentration in the organic flour is typically greater.(Non-organic has been treated with fungicide so there's not much yeast.)
Years ago I had this idea to make starter by leaving some flour outside in the hope that I'd develop a completely local yeast colony. Well, I got the starter for sure. But then I realized that because there was already yeast in the flour before I ever put it outside there was no way it was going to be completely local.

Moreover, there was no way I could ever tell what the ratio of local to "foreign" yeast was without a lab and a degree in microbiology.

"Elegant" is absolutely manly when it is applied to me. :-)