I've been meaning to make my own cider vinegar since i first saw a recipe in the New Zealand Lifestyle Block magazine in April 2015. It has taken me until now to get around to it, and if it weren't for this blog i might still not have managed it. This time of year is very busy, with gardens to bed down for the winter, and much fruit and veges to bottle and preserve or otherwise store. However most years i bottle apples, (either on their own, or as a combination with quince, feijoas, gooseberries or blackcurrants), and the bottling of apples creates peels and cores, which is what you need for making cider vinegar. So i should have managed to get around to it before now.
Maybe it was just that it was one more thing to think about, and although not a great deal of effort goes in to the making of cider vinegar, you need to be a little bit prepared. This year i was so determined to make some that i ended up bottling apples as a by-product of creating peel and cores, rather then the other way around.
The slight problem i have with making my own cider vinegar, is that the apples that i use (from our own two trees and from a variety of roadside trees) tend to be quite "buggy", and the cores often look rather unsuitable for any form of human consumption, being full of bugs and bug poop. My sister-in-law makes her own cider vinegar each year, and tells me she is not too fussy about the buggy bits, but i'm assuming her apples are less buggified than the ones i've been using. And she makes her cider vinegar from pressed apple juice, which provides a better apple to bug ratio. I guess you don't want to be thoroughly fussy, as you want to be introducing some wild yeasts to do the fermenting, but at the same time you want to taste apple and not bug. (for the entomologists among you, i'm using the term 'bug' in its most generic and un-technical form to encompass any form of invertebrate that chooses to inhabit my apples). Anyway, it is now 10 days since my cider vinegar was started, and it is bubbling happily away in the laundry closet. Hopefully things will continue to progress as per the instructions!
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Kristina Jensen in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine,
Peel and cores of 15-20 apples
2-3 litres of boiled, cooled water
2 large tablespoons good quality honey, brown sugar or molasses, dissolved in 1 cup boiling water.
1 cup organic cider vinegar, preferably with the 'mother' in it.
The mother is the slimy brown stuff that forms at the top or bottom of a cider vinegar bottle, or can also take the form of a mushroom. This is the good bacteria that causes fermentation.
Place cores and peels into a wide mouth container that's been sterilised with hot water - a big glass jar or small plastic bucket.
Pour in the water until it is covering the apple, plus a bit more. Stir in the sweetener and the cider vinegar with the 'mother' in it.
Secure a clean cloth over the container with string or rubber-band. Leave in a dark place close at hand so you can keep an eye on it. It should start bubbling after 7-10 days, but if none occurs you may have to add half a teaspoon of bread-making yeast to help it along. If white mould forms on the surface within the first month you can do one of two things: if it bothers you, you can skim it off gently without disturbing the contents, or you can leave it alone.
After 4 to 6 weeks the bubbling should have stopped and souring will begin. After 8 weeks, taste the vinegar (for acidity) and smell it. Hopefully it tastes and smells like vinegar!
Strain all the cores and peel through two layers of cheesecloth and pour the vinegar into bottles, ready for use. Dilute with water if it is too strong.
At some point anpother mother may form just below the surface of your vinegar. Remove carefully and keep in a sterilised jar in a bit of vinegar for the next batch. It is okay if your vinegar is cloudy - that's just the mother growing.