Last October, someone left a bottle of cheap red wine at my house. It was too gross to drink. I thought of freezing it or cooking with it, but there was too much of it for that. And yet I didn’t want to pour it down the drain, in part because this is hardly the first time this has happened to me. For some reason, I often end up with cheap bottles of wine that no one wants to drink.
Then it occurred to me: since I had a free source of wine, why not turn it into a free source of vinegar instead?
I looked up making vinegar and discovered it takes is something called Mother of Vinegar. This is a bacteria that eats the alcohol and converts it to vinegar.
There are different mothers for different vinegars–in this case, because I had red wine, I would need a red wine mother. You can make vinegar without the Mother of Vinegar (more on that in a moment), but it takes longer. I purchased Mother of Vinegar from a local hobby store for $8. You can also buy it online.
To make the vinegar, I combined 2 cups of wine, 1 cup of water, and the mother in a sterilized 5-gallon jar. Then, because the vinegar needs air to convert, I covered it with a cheesecloth and a rubber band to keep the dirt out, like so:
I stored it in a dark place for three months. At the end of that time, I had vinegar.
Over the three months the Mother of Vinegar had turned into this weird, gel-like stuff that you can reuse to make more vinegar. So after I decanted the exiting vinegar, I added more cheap red wine and started a second batch.
Here are the pros of making your own vinegar:
* It tastes better. The homemade vinegar has a rich depth of flavor that is remarkable considering the cheapness of the wine. It will be great in cooking, salad dressings, and anything else that calls for vinegar.
* It’s easy. Combine everything in a clean jar, cover, and wait. Simple.
* I have a never-ending supply of vinegar. I can keep making vinegar for as long as I want–all I have to do is keep adding more wine, waiting three months, and decanting.
* It’s frugal. I paid $8 for the Mother and everything else I used was free. Considering that I can reuse the Mother, it will quickly pay for itself. Even if you don’t have a regular source of free wine like I do, wine can be bought for as low as $2.
I was so pleased with my red wine vinegar, I decided to make apple cider vinegar, this time without buying the mother. A friend had an old bottle of apple cider vinegar with bits of naturally formed Mother floating around in it. I combined it with homemade apple cider and put it in a jar with cheesecloth over the lid.
In a couple of months, we’ll see if I have apple cider vinegar too.
Here’s a video on making vinegar that shows you the Mother of Vinegar. I like that the woman reuses the wine bottle–I wish I had thought of that.