Apple season is upon us. Time for cider, pie, and applesauce. For my family, it’s a fun time picking from our favorite wild apple trees and comparing them to the varieties we find at the university orchard.
This has been an odd year for apples. Many of our favorite trees were hit with a late frost while others were devastated by the lack of rain. I can only hope the orchards had better luck and, from what I see, that is true. Instead of throwing out bad apples, I use them for making apple cider vinegar. Most of the time, I use scraps leftover from canning. The scraps can be raw or cooked. And to be honest, they don’t even have to be apples to make this type of vinegar.
How to Make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
Clean the Apples
I always start my apples in a vinegar bath, 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water. For wild apples, this encourages the worms to vacate the flesh while cleaning off the dust. For store or orchard apples, this clears away anything that might have been done to them. When I buy them from the grocery store, I’m apt to give them a wash with a mild soap just in case they have been waxed (click here for Jennifer’s homemade veggie wash).
Pick a Container
Add your scraps to a clean and sanitized jar. I like to use gallon jars to make vinegar but you can use any size you desire. They should be glass or ceramic. You can use plastic but it’s not my favorite. Plastic can absorb all sorts of funky flavors and you never know what it might leach into your vinegar. With that said, I’d rather you make vinegar with what you have instead of worrying about not having the perfect vessel.
To sanitize my jar, I either run it through the hot cycle on my dishwasher or fill it with boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes. My jars are always thoroughly cleaned before being stored so this step is just to catch anything that might have fallen in.
No matter what, no metal of any kind should be used when making vinegar.
The recipe proportions are up to you
The amount of apple scraps used is up to you. The more scraps, the better your finished product will taste. This is one of those “recipes” that gives you a lot of creativity.
After your apple scraps, the remaining ingredients are water and sugar. For every 4 cups of water you use to cover the scraps, add ¼ cup sugar. This jar took about 10 cups of water. Since I like to give my fermentation a little boost, I added ¾ cup of sugar. If you are worried about the sugar, be aware that the natural yeast that turns this into vinegar will consume the majority of it.
Place your jar in a plastic bowl or tray to catch any drips. Every time I ferment something and forget to place the jar in a tray, I end up with sour water everywhere. So trust me, you don’t want to miss this step.
Keep the ingredients submerged
The fruit will mold if it floats above the water. You can purchase fermenting weights and maybe someday I will invest in some. But in the meantime, an easy solution is to cover the fruit with a zip top bag and add water. I open the bag and use my fingertips to press the plastic under the rim of the glass before I add the water. Add enough to keep the water line above the fruit without spilling over the top.
Find a place in your home that has fairly consistent temperatures and that doesn’t get direct sunlight to set your jar. It will need to sit, undisturbed, for a full week. Now, if you live in an apartment like I do, finding space can be tough. Not a problem. If the weather is cool, I set my jar anywhere I can and then cover it with a paper bag. But during the summer, the sunlight is too hot for that so this particular jar found coveted space on my counter. The first ferment is just for a week so don’t stash your jar somewhere you might forget it.
After that week is up, strain out your fruit scraps. Return your “cider” to your jar and cover with cheesecloth or a coffee filter. We buy cheap coffee filters and attach them with a rubber band. This time the fermenting is up to you. The longer it sits, the more vinegary it becomes. This will depend on the temperature in your home. Summer ferments can go much faster than winter ferments. I like to taste test about every 3-5 days.
If you are impatient, you can always add a vinegar mother. Personally, I don’t see a reason to invest in something that will grow naturally but not everyone feels the same.
There are some things to note with making your own vinegar. The acidity will not be consistent like purchased vinegar. You can test the acidity if you need use it in recipes that require a certain amount of acid. At this point in time, I have yet to make enough vinegar to move it from being a special ingredient to an everyday ingredient. We love to add our homemade vinegar to dishes. We’ve played with our kombucha by adding different fruit vinegars (our kombucha recipe calls for vinegar). We use it for salad dressings. I bet it would be amazing in shrubs, a beverage made of fruit juice, sugar, and other ingredients.
No matter what recipes you use your vinegar in, it will add a wonderful fruity note. More importantly, you’ll know you made it.
Making apple cider vinegar from scraps is like getting gold from trash. I encourage you to try various fruits, like pear or pineapple. Any fruit that will ferment into wine can be used to make vinegar. Feel free to share with us what flavors you have created and what you used them for. Meanwhile, I’m heading to the orchard.
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