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Happy Day that Goes Sour ...if I'm Lucky
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:38 am    Post subject: Happy Day that Goes Sour ...if I'm Lucky Reply with quote

This story starts with a bottle of red wine vinegar that developed a mother all on its own. When something fortuitous like that happens you've just got to respect it and roll with it. So, when I saw a store in NoCal that was selling oak barrels for wine, I stopped in and, lo!, they had a cute little 1 gallon barrel. ...for a mere $100. Shocked

Well, that was, clearly, not my answer. So I started looking online for a vinegar fermenting medium. I found one distilling supplier that was selling a water jug that was on another site for $20 for $95. It wasn't very attractive anyway so I didn't want it at $20 or $95.

I found this French beauty for $75 (and was sorely tempted)
http://www.artisanbarrels.com/allvinegar.htm Is that a beautiful thing?!?!

All of them seemed pure indulgence when I've got half a dozen flavors of vinegar in my cupboard already.

Today, I was on my way back from the DMV (because I lost my wallet with my driver's license and all my credit cards) and I just stopped into a kitchenwares store because I'm rarely in that vicinity. I saw a small (maybe 2 quart jug) for lemonade with a spigot for just $20. I was ready to get it when I realized the spigot was metal and — for some reason I don't understand — metal in contact with fermenting vinegar is a big no-no. But, lucky day!, on a last tour of the store waaaaay back in the sale corner (so far back I could hardly get it out over all the handle-less teacups and leftover Valentine's Day stuff) was a vinegar fermenting jug.

This little cutie is heavy stoneware to keep the vinegar cool with a wide top for getting the mother in and out intact. It's got a cute little wooden spigot. And it sits on an adorable three-legged wooden platform with a little cut-out that will allow me to get a measuring cup under the spigot. It was originally $45 but it was marked down so many times that you could barely see all the prices on their way down to $18. As a final piece of luck, the clerk gave me another 50% off. Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

Oh I'm so happy! And my new mother will have a new home as soon as I condition the spigot to swell up so that it won't drip. I guess that will give Steve time to drink a bottle or two of red so I can pour what's left into my vinegar jug.

Now I just need to wait a couple months for this lovely piece of luck to go sour on me. Wink

PS Anyone know about fermenting vinegar? If I acquired a piece of suitable oak and threw it into the jug would I get the nice mellow flavor note that I'd get if I'd been able to ferment it in oak?
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please explain the term "mother" as it relates to vinegar!

Last edited by gingerpale on Thu Aug 31, 2006 7:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Mother" is a colony of beasties that (forgive me, David, this is your territory but it's the only way I can describe this thing) form a kind of vinegar snot that convert the alcohol in wine into vinegar.

The first time you see it you can't pitch that vinegar fast enough. Shocked When you realize it's a living thing that will make vinegar for you forever, you gotta get a little excited. Cool

Here are a couple links that have more info than I can provide:

http://www.solutions.uiuc.edu/content.cfm?series=3&item=295&Parents=0%7C28

http://www.gangofpour.com/diversions/vinegar/vinegar1.html

http://www.wam.umd.edu/~asmith/emsarapay/intro.html
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 4:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow
I love this. Must go read more.


Last edited by gingerpale on Thu Aug 31, 2006 7:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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georgia



Joined: 16 May 2006
Posts: 456
Location: california

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey,

I've been making my own vinegar for several years now, and I suspect I bought my initial "mother" from that same store in NoCal that you checked out. Non-pasteurized vinegars were nowhere to be found, and none of my wines were cooperating. They supplied a small bottle of vinegar with mother in it, and it's been chirping along ever since.

I went through the same search you did to find a suitable container, discounting several--usually for cost. I settled on a large (5 gallon, I think) glass jar/vessel with a brass spigot and a removable glass top. I think it's probably meant for iced tea, but it works just fine. I took the top off and covered the opening with a clean linen kitchen towel for good oxygen flow and ventilation, and wrapped it around with kitchen twine. I keep it in the basement and cover it with an old towel because I'm told it shouldn't be in the light. If my container weren't glass, I guess I wouldn't have to worry about that.

I suppose you can make this all as scientific and precise as you care to, but I mostly just keep the odds and ends of red wine bottles, periodically draw off however much vinegar my jar decides to yield, replace it with an equal amount of leftover wine, and sit back and wait. It usually takes from between 3-6 months to develop into vinegar, and I judge readiness purely by smell and taste. Whenever I start a new batch, I stick a small label with the date on the container, just to remind me when the current process got going.

I found some guidelines on the internet, but it was so long ago that most of them are no longer posted. If you can find a copy of Lynn Alley's book from 1995 entitled "Lost Arts" (Ten Speed Press), it's a good reference for making vinegar and lots of other stuff, too (like goat cheese or olives). By the way, she does suggest that if you want that oakey taste to your homemade vinegar, throwing a few oak chips into the container will do the trick.

Homemade vinegar will certainly be stronger than most varieties you could buy. Sometimes mine is merely pretty good; other times it's truly fabulous. I follow the same procedure each time. The results are up to the Vinegar Gods, and that's part of the fun. Good luck and enjoy!
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without a drop of knowledge about vinegar, and "motherless" of course, I raced to my cupboard to look for any cloudiness (or snot!) in my stash. No luck-- white vinegar (cleaning)--clear
cider vinegar (Heinz)--clear
malt vinegar (fish & chips)--clear
red and white wine vinegar (cheap)--clear
the only hope was the tarragon vinegar (3 drops of this in a pan of scrambled eggs is WONDERFUL)--it seemed cloudy, but I think it was only disintegrated leaves.

I have a big ol' "country living" cookbook by a woman named Carla Emery (anybody familiar?). She has a page or two on homemade vinegar--sounds like great fun. Celery and garlic vinegar--homemade-- wow to that!

Rainey said no metal should be in the chosen vessel, but georgia has a brass spout? The mother can be used in anything--wine, fermented fruit--it is just a catalyst, with no taste or quality of it's own?

Nice to know that oak wood chips will work as an oak container would. I love vinegar that is mellow, rather than sharp.

Rainey losing a wallet full of $ and info must have been awful--how in the world did that happen--lost, not stolen?


Last edited by gingerpale on Thu Aug 31, 2006 7:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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georgia



Joined: 16 May 2006
Posts: 456
Location: california

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I missed Rainey's note about no metal (slid right over my aging eyes and mental capacities). Obviously, I didn't know that metal + vinegar is a no-no. I can only tell you that it hasn't seemed to be a detriment in my efforts.

Now that I've seen that gorgeous half-barrel that R. posted, however, I'm thinking I've got something to put on my Santa/birthday list (even though I've sworn off acquiring any more possessions at this stage...I'm trying to get rid of stuff instead of adding to...)
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

georgia, I'm so grateful to be able to borrow from your expertise!

Gotta tell you a funny coincidence: I took a wonderful cooking class from Lynn Alley and had an autographed copy of Lost Arts (that someone borrowed and never returned). It was such a fun class! We went out through the farmers' market in Santa Monica (which is THE BEST!) and bought whatever looked wonderful and then put it all together. I believe we made a soup, a dish with green flageolet beans (I'm sure I've misspelled that) and a desssert with little Japanese strawberries I've never seen again (they had the cutest little snowy white tips). As you can guess, we bumped into some of the chefs from Santa Monica's four-star restaurants mining for their menus. Wink

I have found toasted oak cubes on the net. Do you know how dark I'd want them toasted? Is there an advantage to having French, American or Hungarian oak? Would I have to pretreat them with the barolkleen that a barrel would require before it's first use?
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georgia



Joined: 16 May 2006
Posts: 456
Location: california

PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey, I do like your Lynn Alley story. For a few years, I helped coordinate a good cooking class program and thus met many terrific teachers and chefs. Unfortunately, she wasn't among them, and I'd have loved to have met her. If you can't find another copy of "Lost Arts" and would like the vinegar chapter, let me know and I'll xerox the pages and mail them to you. Her advice is pretty simple and straightforward, but I think it covers most of what you'd need to know.

I'm afraid I've got no good advice about oak chips as I've never used them--though I'm thinking now, with this discussion, that I'll look into it. Alley just says to get some from the wine supply store and toss in a few. Nothing more specific than that. I think I'd start slowly, if I decide to go this route. Too many bottles of too-oaky chardonnay have nearly turned me against that wine. I wouldn't want the same thing to happen to my vinegar palate!
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RAiney- I laughed so hard I practically spewed chocolate milk out my nose!

Wow what a cute jug!

Never entered my mind that one would make one's own vinegar!
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gingerpale



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 1324

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yet another charming image from David! (David please see tamarind story I left for you in Pad Thai thread.)

Rainey or georgia--Is the spout purely for convenience? Could you just make vinegar in a glass jar, if you were willing to ladle it out?


Last edited by gingerpale on Thu Aug 31, 2006 7:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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georgia



Joined: 16 May 2006
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Location: california

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gingerpale, i don't see why not, but you'd have to be careful to draw from the top layer and not disturb the mother, etc. since vinegar is usually made in some sort of barrel or jug with a narrow opening or hole for pouring in the wine-to-become-vinegar, "ladling" isn't an option--it's just too small an aperture. i suspect i'm in the minority regarding the container i use. most folks do go the barrel or stoneware jug route.

rainey, have you read anything that would preclude using a non-spigot container?
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
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Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm with georgia but note that the spigot is strategically located not to disturb the mother if it's at the bottom (where it resides when it's digesting alcohol) or to draw up any of the dregs and also not to disturb the mother when she's up at the top (done with her fermenting and sealing the vinegar in).

So, it's a convenience but a helpful one.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gingerpale, I missed an earlier note.

The mother that developed in my vinegar was from a bottle of Spectrum red wine vinegar. I mention that because on Chowhound there's a note that it happened to someone else too when they were using Spectrum. What this would seem to mean is that they don't pasturize their vinegar so all the little helpful bacteria are still in it.

So, one option would be to buy a bottle of Spectrum, open it and put it in a dark place and see what happens. OR mothers are available online and at wine-making stores (who also have all kinds of supplies for making vinegar, beer and sometimes cheese as well). Finally, if you check online you'll also find directions for getting a mother started.

As to the confusion about I said/georgia said, if you look at vinegar making instructions around the web you'll find a lot of contradictory information. People seem to have very clear ideas of what works for them that are quite different from what others believe did the job. I'm working on the assumption that this is like compost where we get very excited about our part in it when it's really Mother Nature at work. ...and we all know, if we opened a bottle of red and didn't drink it all it went sour — which is exactly what the word vinegar means vin (wine) aigre (sour). But what I didn't realize until I did further reading was that it's steel or iron that actually interfere with the conversion. I bet aluminum would leach into the acids of the vinegar too as it does when tomatoes are cooked/stored in aluminum.

As for the wallet, I'm happy to say I didn't lose any cash (tho I had to get my paws on a pile of it to keep me going once I closed out all my accounts). Since I was on Katrina relief and could only carry what I could fit in my pockets, I've used a nifty little aluminum sleeve that holds half a dozen credit cards and a folded bill. It's great. But it's also (apparently) easy to lay down and walk away from/slide out of a purse unnoticed/get "picked" from a purse. I dunno what happened. I just know it's gone. No matter. All the proper people are notified, new cards are on their way and I had the luck of finding my vinegar jug.

The spigot's almost fully wet and swollen to effectiveness and I'll christen it with a bottle or two of red over the weekend. Very Happy
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Donna



Joined: 14 Oct 2005
Posts: 827
Location: Oakland, CA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2006 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would be happy to come down and drink part of a bottle of red wine with you, Rainey! Cool Always happy to make a contribution! I tried making vinegar years ago - with absolutely NO IDEA what I was doing. I think my German Oma had given me a stoneware crock and suggested it was good for making pickles, sauerkraut or vinegar - so I tried them all. The pickles and the sauerkraut turned out fine - the vinegar less so. But, as I say, that was years ago so I am going to be racing home today to check my Spectrum vinegar for vinegar snot!! Laughing

I am back at school Crying or Very sad - kids come back next Wednesday. I can't believe my summer fled by so quickly! I can still look forward to the balmy evenings we get in September and dinners on the terrace! Let me know when you're coming up and I'll plan something fun! Laughing
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