A couple months ago we began making homemade vinegar, and really it could not be easier – dump some culture in a pot with some left over wine, cover, set in a dark area, and forget about it.
Well, now that the vinegar has had time to steep, it’s time to see about using it.
Before I am able to can with my vinegar I have to get set up for testing homemade vinegar.
First off, when I brought the jar up from the basement it smelled very stout – but smelling is pretty subjective. If you are going to use your vinegar for food preservation it must be 5% acid.
This is different than pH, but for simplicity sake I used pH strips from the brew shop.
The Difference between pressure canning and boiling water canning is high or low acid foods – this cut off is a pH of 4.6 anything less than a pH of 4.6 is considered a high acid food.
I have read that botulism cannot reproduce at a pH of 4.4 or less BUT remember, that the food you can, as well as the moisture from it will change the pH by diluting your pickling solution.
I do not consider my vinegar to be vinegar until it reaches at least a pH of 5, but I wait until it is at least a 4 on the scale before I use it for canning (but I will make refrigerator pickles with a pH of 5)…
To test, I just poured out a sample, stuck my test strips in the liquid, and then compared it to the picture on the jar. The set of strips was a reasonable cost – around $7 for a jar full of strips. However, you need to know that the FDA doesn’t allow commercial canneries to use pH paper to test both because comparing colors is relatively subjective, and that the accuracy can degrade over time.
Some of my vinegar made the cut, and I stored it in a brand new plastic milk jug (HDPE #2), the rest was topped off with “fresh” wine and left to feed.
Many folks that make their own vinegar have one continuously fed batch – as they use it, they refill it. That is basically what I do, as I use mine, I just top it off with whatever leftover wine I have around. In today’s case I used half a bottle of homemade red wine left over from the sister in law visiting, and the last bit of wine I bottled in mason jars when I just started winemaking.
In a perfect world, you should feed your vinegar regularly, as it needs the alcohol from the wine to keep the culture strong. In this batch my mother collapsed and sunk to the bottom because I only fed once when I began making the vinegar. Once it ate all the alcohol it basically went dormant.
The batch brewing right now (about a month later) has a much stronger, thicker mother, floating on the top of the wine, because I have been adding about a cup or so of wine every couple weeks.
My plan is to filter and bottle my vinegar as I get full gallons worth. That’s mostly because I have a case of milk jugs from my honey adventures, and realized how long it will take me to fill 40 gallon jugs of honey from 4 hives (and how much slower gallons of honeys sell compared to pints).
Making vinegar isn’t really all that hard, and it is so much more fulfilling to cook with vinegar I made from wine I fermented from fruits I grew…. It may just be me, but mustard made from my homemade vinegar is so much tastier than store bought…