~2 cups mother of vinegar,
~1 - 750ml bottle of red wine
~2 cups filtered water
cork top (if necessary, see notes*)
Combine vinegar mother, red wine and water in your vinegar barrel. Remove the lid and instead, cover the top opening with muslin cloth and secure with a rubber band or twine. Keep your barrel in a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Try not to disturb the vessel. In approximately 4 - 8 weeks a new mother will form and produce something in the way of a thin film; a leathery-like veil.; or a thick and gelatinous mother. Your nose will be the best tool for assessing when the vinegar is done. Smell it and taste it. If it doesn't smell or taste quite like vinegar yet, let it continue to ferment for a few more weeks. (Though most usually ‘go by taste’, you can also use a pH meter or pH strips to check the acidity and to determine whether or not the acetic fermentation is complete.) While the vinegar fermentation may be complete in 4-8 weeks; you can ferment your vinegar for longer to enjoy the body and subtle flavor that the oak barrel will provide. Once it smells and tastes to your satisfaction, bottle a portion of your finished vinegar and reserve 10-25% of your remaining vinegar along with the “mother” culture for the next batch. Vinegar can, and should, be made as a continuous brew using the the basic ratio of retaining approximately 1 part “mother“ vinegar to 2 parts fresh wine and 1 part filtered water to brew batch after batch of vinegar. (After the first brew many people take the opportunity to use their entire first batch as the starter for a larger batch to fill their oak barrel.)
NOTES ON FERMENTING VINEGAR
Barrel Flavor: Your first use of the barrel will impart the strongest oak flavor. Do not be dismayed, your subsequent batches will mellow to a more balanced flavor!
Wine with Sulfites: Seek out "natural" wines that use minimal to no sulfites. If that option is not available, you can remove sulfites by stirring the wine continuously for about 30 minutes (quite the workout!) or add 1/2 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide (3% from any drugstore) per bottle of wine. The addition of hydrogen peroxide is harmless, and a popular trick to ensure home vinegar makers' success.
Temperature : Vinegar fermentation likes warmer temperatures with optimum conversion happening in the 70’s. Low or fluctuating temperatures will slow the process. Higher temperatures 85° to 90° will hasten the conversion and temperatures over 95° are too high.
Evaporation : If you live in an arid area, or are noticing excessive evaporation, use the included cork lid to partially lay over the top of the muslin cloth covering the hole of the barrel while still allowing for ample air/oxygen.
Removing the Mother : Older mothers will drop to the bottom and become dormant – as your vinegar is ‘live’, a new one will form on top. Remove the older mothers every six months or so.
Smells Like Nail Polish Remover : This is surprisingly normal, it’s simply one of the stages that the vinegar goes through in its conversion from wine to vinegar. Simply give it more time to complete the fermentation.
Too Robust or Acidic : Add a little water to create a more pleasing flavor. Or be patient. Once in bottle, the flavor will mellow as it ages.
Aging Vinegar : Vinegar has a sharp bite when first made (but still can be used for salad dressings or cooking). It becomes mellower when aged. Just like wine, the esters and ethers mature during aging and many of its finer qualities will emerge.
Bottling : Strain the vinegar through muslin cloth or a fine mesh strainer into the clean bottles. Fill the bottle as full as possible (to exclude oxygen from the vinegar) and cap or cork it tightly. The vinegar will continue mellowing in the bottle. Store the bottles away from light and extremes of heat or cold.
Sharing the Mother : In a small, clean jar add 1 cup of live vinegar along with a 2”-3” piece/chunk of mother. Give to friends and family so they may start their own tradition of making wine vinegars using our recipe!