Saturday, January 9, 2016

Oh Mother

Mother of vinegar. What is it? Where does it come from? And can you get some for yourself? Well, yes, you can get some, by making your own vinegar. What? You can do that!


 New batch of vinegar

I made a batch of vinegar recently, which I will describe how to soon. The "mother" of vinegar is just cellulose, which is created by the harmless bacteria in vinegar. You can see it, in the above picture, floating on the surface of my new brew.

Mother created, from old batch of vinegar

Taken from the surface of the old brew, you can see this mother has several distinct layers. The top layers are thin, slimy and pink. I didn't have any mother to colonise my old brew, so it basically had to start from scratch, which is why the top layer isn't as healthy.

The layers underneath are a lovely healthy white however, and they easily peel away from each other. I took the last layer and placed it on my new batch of vinegar, to help colonise it faster. If you make consecutive batches of vinegar, like I do, be sure to keep some of the mother from the old batch, to help colonise the new batch of vinegar, faster.

So how to make vinegar?

Three stages of processing

It's really easy. You just need some leftover peelings, or even fruit which has gone soft. I regularly use the peelings and cores of apples, pears and pineapples. I've even used a bunch of grapes I forgot about, at the bottom of the fridge.

You put them in a jar which can fit them comfortably, add water until an inch before the top, and depending how big your jar is, add some sugar. For jars over a litre, I use 2 heaped dessert spoons. Smaller jars are one heaped dessert spoon, and for something around (or under) 500mls, I might use a heaped teaspoon. Then you simply place a breathable cover over the top, secure with an elastic band and let sit for several weeks, out of direct sunlight.

In the above picture, you can see on the left, a jar of peelings I was about to add water and sugar to. The middle jar has been sitting for several weeks, and the last jar (right) was my brew jar, which was about to receive the strained contents of the middle jar.

Ready to go to the bottom of the pantry

I love my brew jar, its big and came to me, missing a lid, so it was perfect. It carries several litres and was recycled from my husband's workplace. For new readers, he's a chef.

I generally try to make batches of vinegar, so when my brew jar starts to run low, I can add new fermented batches of vinegar to it. What I need vinegar for (mainly to use as rinse in my washing machine) comes from this main brew jar.

Strained jars and remaining solids

These were two jars I strained recently, to add to my brew jar. I just use a strainer over a bowl, lined with cloth and pour the liquid out. The cloth in the strainer catches any solids. Then I pour the contents of the bowl, into my brew jar.

I try not to use the contents of the brew jar for a couple of weeks. When I see the mother on the top, growing more and more layers, it tells me the vinegar is ready to use. The liquid will also become clearer, and not so cloudy.

The plastic white vinegar bottle you can see in the above image, I add to a separate bottle, just for my washing machine rinse. I fill most of this bottle with my home made vinegar, adding about a quarter to a third of the processed stuff. This helps me to spread my costs so I'm buying less processed vinegar, but I'm also using household fruit wastes in a different way.

If you have a range of sizes of jars, like I do, you can make a batch of vinegar, according to how much peelings are made. So if you're living by yourself, you can still make vinegar. You just make it in smaller batches. I've been known to even add peelings to a new ferment, the very next day, because I ate an apple. The vinegar jar was closer than the compost bucket.

So give it a go. Then you can claim you made your own mother!


  1. I have tagged this page - I am SO doing this....

    1. It's weird at first, but then you get used to seeing weird stuff growing in your pantry, on your kitchen bench, or just about anywhere you can fit of brew of home made vinegar. ;)

      I also use the top of our fridge, if there's no room in the pantry. So long as it isn't sitting in direct sunlight.

  2. It's THAT easy? Wow!

    I've been reading for ages and I didn't know David was a chef! Fancy that!

    1. It's real easy - the challenge is finding the time to learn how to do it.

      Hopefully David won't be a chef for much longer. Like in a few years he's hoping to change careers. ;)

  3. I have links to others' posts about making apple cider vinegar, but you make it sound so easy! I'm definitely swapping out those links. I usually feed my apple cores and peelings to the goats, but next time I make a batch of apple pies to freeze, I will definitely try this. Thanks Chris!

    1. There are two ways I know to make vinegar, one from wine, or you can ferment your own fruit to make wine/vinegar, which is basically the method I've outlined. I understand the wine method of making vinegar to be a little more complicated. Or at least from the material I've read about it

      I also make my vinegar when I make large batches of apple and rubarb. So apple pie (yum) would be a good time to try making vinegar too.

  4. Interesting. I am still working on mine and felt reassured reading this-I got a mother and it broke apart when I poured from one jar to another-I didn't think to remove it first because it looked really solid to me. Live and learn!

    1. It takes a bit of practice, working with something so alien looking. I harvest from my mother whenever I add more to the brew jar (several months in between) and feed it to my chickens. Being sure to save some of the mother, to keep in the vinegar too.

    2. Alien is a good word for it. I have nothing to do with my mother besides compost it.


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