Learn to Make Your Very Own Apple Cider Vinegar

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I love to use apple cider vinegar (ACV) for so many things – in the kitchen, and also around the house for cleaning. Since I use so much of it I decided to figure out how to make my own. There’s not much to it, and the end result is definitely worth the wait.
I’ll share with you the simple process and some troubleshooting tips to help you along the way.

How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar

Choose Your Apple Base

You can start with either fresh apples or apple cider. If using cider, I recommend using organic unpasteurized cider. You want it to be unpasteurized so it retains the good bacteria. Don’t use apple juice because it has usually been filtered, which means you loose the good stuff.
If you use fresh apples, choose any variety you like. Although any kind of apple will work, some will get mushy faster. I choose varieties that will “hold a slice,” like for pie. Macintosh is one that goes soft very fast and probably wouldn’t be a good choice. You want the slices to remain firm so that the bacteria can work around them and not get trapped. If you stir your cider, then there is nothing to worry about.

Preparing the Apples

Skip this step if using cider as your base.
If using fresh apples, you’ll need to prepare them a bit. Peel and core them, then cut into chunks. I usually make mine about 1-2 inches across. The size you make them will depend on the bottle/jar being used. You can use a clean, up-cycled glass cider bottle or a glass gallon-sized jar (like this wide mouth jar).

Prepare A Bottle/Jar

Be sure to use glass for making ACV. Plastic will often retain odors and other residue from anything else previously made in the container. You may not be able to see or smell it, but it can still be there. It is very important that your container is absolutely clean; wash and sterilize your jar well. Don’t worry about the lid because you won’t be using it for the fermenting stage.

Time to get started

If using fresh apples:
Once you have a clean, sanitized container, begin adding apples. Pack it loosely, leaving enough room at the top for a weight if needed. The amount of apples needed will depend on the container being used. For a quart, use about three large apples.
Raw sugar, such as turbinado, will be needed to feed the “mother” once it starts to form. Mix about three tablespoons with about ½ cup warm filtered water just to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the apples and top with more filtered water. You can fill the container most of the way to the top. Do not cover with a lid – you can secure a piece of cheesecloth over the top to keep dust and bugs out.
If using a bottle, special tops can be purchased from your local home brew store or online that are made to allow gasses to escape, but nothing can get in. They are sometimes straight with a bell type device (a water lock) or sometimes S-shaped. Both work just fine.
You want to keep the apples under the surface of the water. Eventually, they will sink, but might not to begin with. You can use a jar filled with water as a weight. Just be sure the outside of the jar is very clean. I use a brick in a zip top bag, which works just as well. You may need a saucer or something flat to cover the surface and hold all of the apples down. Again, just be sure anything being placed in your container is clean and sterilized. Once the apples start to sink, you can get rid of the weight.
If using cider:
If using apple cider, omit the water, except what is needed to dissolve the sugar. You still want to use the sugar to feed the “mother.” The mother is the particulate you may notice in store-bought raw ACV that sinks to the bottom. You can also add some of this already prepared to speed up the process.

Allow Time for Fermenting

This is by far the hardest part – waiting. It will take four weeks at the minimum for your vinegar to start forming, and as much as a year in some cases. You can taste it after about a month to see how it is. It will likely be sharply acidic to begin with, but will mellow over time. I let mine sit about 3 months if I can wait that long. Your tongue will help you determine when it’s ready.
When it’s at the right acidity, you can strain the apples out of the vinegar. Use a stainless steel strainer or cheesecloth. Don’t worry about getting it clear – it should remain cloudy. This retains the good bacteria and keeps your brew at the right acidity.
Bottle the ACV and store in a cool, dark place. This will help it to keep the longest, although mine never lasts very long!

Troubleshooting Homemade ACV

Lots of things can potentially go wrong while learning how to make apple cider vinegar, but don’t panic. You rarely need to toss it out. Here are a few things you might see:

  • Black, green, or grey mold – this is a sure sign that something has gone wrong. There is no salvaging a batch that has gone moldy. Feed it to your compost and start over.
  • A chief reason for mold is equipment that hasn’t been properly cleaned. Be sure everything is very clean.
  • White scum on the top? Don’t worry about this. There may be a little or a lot. It is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process and can be ignored or skimmed and tossed.
  • Cloudy? This is normal too. Good ACV should never be clear.
  • Got fizz? Some fizzing is normal due to the fermentation process.
  • Sediment? That’s normal too. All good ACV should have some sediment on the bottom. This is the “mother” and helps the fermentation process.
  • Foul smell or taste? This is not normal. You should taste and smell nothing but the vinegar itself, or maybe hints of apple. It should never smell like rotten fruit or taste bad.
  • Alcohol? The first part of the fermentation process often produces a small amount of alcohol as the fruit acids start to break down. This is normal. After a few weeks, the alcohol is converted to vinegar.

That’s all there is to learning how to make apple cider vinegar. Want to try a flavored vinegar? When it’s done, add a few raspberries or basil leaves and let sit for a week or so. Strain and enjoy your very own flavored vinegar!
You can also use this vinegar for cleaning, just like any other vinegar you would normally buy. Give it a try, it’s so worth the wait!
What about you? Have you ever tried making your own ACV? If so, share about your experience in the comments section!
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Debra Maslowski

About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.

Learn to Make Your Very Own Apple Cider Vinegar was written by Debra Maslowski.

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