Got scraps? Make vinegar!

November 22, 2021

Earlier this fall I found myself in possession of bushel upon bushel of apples. After I had peeled and cored, sliced and chopped more than I care to admit I had a revelation: “I wonder if I can make vinegar with these scraps?” I had been dropping the cores and peels into the compost, which is all fine and good. But I go through a fair amount of apple cider vinegar annually, and I thought that if I could offset an expense, albeit a small expense, it would be worth a shot.

After a quick search online, I ran across several recipes and blogs concerning the matter and decided there was nothing to lose. If I failed, I’d be out nothing but a few minutes of my time, and I could simply compost the evidence. As you can probably guess from the headline, my vinegar making efforts were successful!

So how did I turn this “trash” into a treasure?

First, I saved the peels and cores from apples that weren’t “buggy.” No one wants worms in their vinegar, unless you’re really into the whole Survivor thing a lot more than I am. I filled a clean glass jar about 3/4 full with these scraps and topped it off with fresh tap water, leaving about an inch of headspace. (I have good quality well water. If you have city or county water that is chlorinated, you’ll want to use filtered water or distilled water for this.)  Finally, I wrote that day’s date on a napkin and secured it to the top of my jar with a rubber band. This would allow air into the jar to facilitate the fermentation process, without the worry of those ever-annoying fruit flies.

Left: One strained batch of vinegar, still fermenting. Right: preparing a new batch of vinegar.

That was it.  It was really that easy.

For the next 2 weeks, the jar sat out of the way in a shaded corner of my kitchen. Every day or every other day I would stir the scraps around gently to keep mold from forming on pieces that were possibly exposed to the air too long. There was a lot of bubbling going on inside that jar, by the way! After 7 days, the scraps dropped to the bottom and stirring was no longer necessary at which time the bubbling had also stopped.

Bubbling is a sign that the first stage of fermentation is underway!

Once the scraps sank, I noticed a thin white film forming across the top of the liquid and that a mild alcohol smell was present. A quick taste test confirmed that the fermentation process had indeed begun, but the taste was more that of a dry wine than of vinegar. The white translucent structure I had noticed was the “mother*” beginning to form.

This thin white membrane is the “Mother.”

After around 2 weeks had passed, I skimmed off the mother, strained the apple parts out of the vinegar, secured the napkin to the jar’s mouth with a rubber band again, and let things continue to ferment in the darkness under my kitchen sink for several weeks more. (I made sure to return the mother to the vinegar jar after straining.)

Left: freshly strained vinegar. Right: finished vinegar.

After a month had passed, I checked the jar again to find the mother beautifully formed on the top of the liquid, and the odor was definitely vinegary this time. One more taste test assured me that my vinegar was nearly complete. I will allow it a week or so more to continue fermenting before removing the napkin and placing a solid lid on the jars.

I can’t believe I’m showing you under my kitchen sink… Vinegar finishing its fermentation in the dark.

My original batch produced one quart of vinegar. After that batch was strained, I began a second larger batch which yielded slightly less than 3/4 of a gallon. Between the 2 batches, that means I will have successfully fermented nearly a gallon of apple scrap vinegar.  It literally cost me nothing extra to make and will have taken a maximum of 30 minutes combined over the course of 2 months. One gallon of apple cider vinegar “with the mother” costs over $20 to purchase (November 2021 pricing.) So, I’ve saved $20 and learned a little bit about fermentation along the way.

The apple scrap vinegar is a WIN!

If you find yourself working up a peck or a bushel of apples (or pears!) save the scraps and give this simple, frugal, and heathy project a try. Maybe you’ll end up like this crazy lady and have gallon freezer bags filled with apple scraps hanging out in your freezer; right next to the bags filled with chicken and turkey bones. But that’s a story for another day…

*The “mother” is a thin layer of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that converts sugar and alcohol into vinegar (dilute of acetic acid) with the help of oxygen in the air. The mother can be removed and placed into another substance such as cider or wine in order to convert it to vinegar. Mother of vinegar is comprised of living microorganisms known as probiotics which may improve digestion and overall gut health when ingested regularly. I am prone to indigestion: drinking vinegar with the mother mixed into a glass of water eliminates any traces of stomach upset or heartburn in my personal experience. You can read more about the amazing benefits of raw vinegar HERE.

I’m not a doctor, so consult with yours and don’t sue me if the vinegar doesn’t cure what ails you. Some folks just need more help than others. Ha-ha!

There is a lot of fascinating science behind making vinegar, the stages of fermentation and the chemical reactions involved. Because this isn’t a scientific blog, I’ll refrain from getting into all of that, but if you have the time you should read about it. I’m still learning more on the topic, and it truly intriguing.

Published by Severt Hives and Homestead

Striving to live a more intentional, self-sufficient lifestyle through modern homesteading; finding joy in simple country living!

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