Saturday, September 29, 2018

Apple Cider Vinegar

Photo of a quart bottle of homemade apple cider vinegar with assorted apples and apple cores next to a fall flower arrangement.

#VeganMoFo18 Day 29 - Apple Cider Vinegar

Photo of assorted red, yellow, and green apples in a bowl.
Assorted Apples Used for Making Vinegar
Earlier this month I made applesauce and apple butter and wound up with a lot of scraps from the peels and cores. Normally I would not think much about it and put the peels and cores into the compost or worm bin, but I started to wonder if I could make something out of them. It turns out, you can make your own apple cider vinegar from apple scraps!

We use apple cider vinegar all the time, and I like to buy the raw, unfiltered with the mother, or goo at the bottom. The mother is simply cellulose and acetobacter, a fermenting bacteria culture that develops during the fermentation of alcohol and converts ethanol into acetic acid. Acetic acid is what makes vinegar sour. The bacteria in unpasturized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar are not probiotics, but the pectin in them from the apples is a prebiotic, which supports beneficial bacteria in our gut.

Besides the prebiotic benefits, apple cider vinegar has been shown in studies to have positive effects on weight loss and blood sugar control. Suggested health benefits from vinegar aren't new, however. My mom recalls in the 1960s when she was working to stay slim in the months prior to her wedding, a physician friend advised her to down a shot of vinegar every day. Vinegar was also used as a folk remedy for diabetes control prior to the advent of diabetic medications. In his analysis of peer-reviewed studies of the effects of vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, Michael Greger, MD, of found that vinegar can reduce visceral fat, the fat surrounding our internal organs and is dangerous to our health when it accumulates. Additionally, Dr. Greger reports that studies have shown that vinegar decreases triglycerides and blood sugar, while decreasing spikes insulin levels. Here are two videos describing his findings:

Supplies for making apple cider drink, including unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, chia seeds, infused water, and maple syrup. Pictured with two pint wide-mouthed mason jars with lids and straws full of the drink.
Apple Cider Drink and Supplies

So after learning about Dr. Greger's conclusions, we enjoy a morning beverage of two tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar in a pint of water every day. I like to add two tablespoons of chia seeds and a tablespoon of pure maple syrup to it the night before, making it like a bubble tea when the chia seeds swell in the water by the next morning. Using infused water makes this concoction even tastier. Alan doesn't care for the chia and likes more maple syrup in his morning cider drink. Our dentist suggests swishing our mouths with water after eating or drinking acid foods and waiting 30 minutes before brushing our teeth afterward, to protect our tooth enamel.

But back to making apple cider vinegar! I did some research and found a couple of resources with guides I liked. The Wellness Mama blog has a great tutorial on their website and Sandor Ellix Katz's book, The Art of Fermentation: An In-depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World, does a great job explaining the science behind vinegar production and how to make it at home.

Photo of 1/2 gallon wide-mouth mason jars with apple scraps inside for making vinegar.
Jars with Apple Scraps for Making Vinegar
I started with all of the peels and cores from the apples I used when making the applesauce and apple butter. There were a lot of scraps, nearly 2 gallons of them, the jars on the left are each 1/2 gallon jars! 

You can freeze these scraps if you aren't ready to make vinegar immediately. I froze these and put the defrosted scraps into 1 gallon jars when I was ready.

Add your scraps to a clean, wide-mouthed, non-metallic vessel, filling them 1/2 to 3/4 full. 

Photo of two 1-gallon jars with apple scraps in sugar solution, weighed down with pint jars of water to be fermented into apple cider vinegar.
Apple Scraps Weighed Down in Sugar Solution
Make a sugar solution with a ratio of 1/3 cup of sugar to 1 quart of water and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Make enough for the amount of scraps you have prepared. Pour the sugar solution over the scraps, no need to cool the mixture, to completely cover the scraps, but don't fill the jar, you'll need the room for solution displaced when you add weight to hold down the scraps.

The scraps need to be submerged completely in the solution. Scraps exposed to the air will get moldyyou can remove any random pieces that escape and get moldy during the process, it doesn't hurt the batch, you just don't want the whole thing to float up and mold.

You can use a fermentation weight or make something to weigh down the scraps in the solution. I used five clean wide-mouth lids to cover the surface of the scraps and then pushed a lidded-pint jar full of water onto them to submerge the scraps. The solution will fill the jar as you push down. Add more solution or water if you have space left in your jar.

Photo of jars of apple scraps in solution fermenting in a tray in the pantry.
Fermenting Apple Scraps in Pantry
Cover the top of the vessel with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and use a rubberband to hold it in place. The cloth or filter will presumably keep out fruit flies, but I still got some that worked their way into the jar. No biggie, a lot of them got drunk and drowned, but it doesn't spoil your vinegar. 

Put your jars in a dark, room temperature location, in something to catch any liquid that might overflow out during the fermentation process. I put mine in my pantry and covered with a towel to keep out the light.

Check your jars every couple of days, making sure scraps are staying under the solution. Pull out any moldy scraps on the surface and gently push on the weights to circulate the solution. 

Photo of straining liquid from apple scraps into a bowl (left) and Strained solution in measuring cups next to an empty gallon jar with a funnel in top (right).
Straining Scraps and Solution (left). Strained Solution (right)

Continue this for 3 weeks to let it ferment and then strain your mixture. 

Compost your scraps, they are perfect for making soil! I don't add these to the worm bin, just in case there's too much acid for the worms.

Pour the solution into a clean, non-metallic jar (I simply cleaned what I'd used to ferment the scraps in). Your solution is an alcohol solution right now. Go ahead and taste it and note that it is not sour, but tastes like alcohol.

Photo of jars of alcohol cider solution in tray in pantry during conversion into acetic acid. Shows formation of mother on top of the solution.
Formation of Mother-of-Vinegar
Put cheesecloth or coffee filter back on top, secure with a rubberband, and return to the spot you were fermenting in. Stir every few days and notice that the mother will start to form as the bacteria work to convert the alcohol to acetic acid. 

It will take another 3-4 weeks for the mixture to turn into vinegar. Smell and taste the solution to determine when it's the tartness you want and that no alcohol remains. Or you can buy a test kit to check itI just use my sense of smell and taste.

Once it's to your liking, transfer to a smaller, narrow neck bottle (I use old glass vinegar bottles I've amassed) and seal tightly. This keeps it from oxidizing, which would cause the acetobacter to continue to break down the acetic acid into water and carbon dioxide and ruining your vinegar.

Photo of a quart bottle of homemade apple cider vinegar with assorted apples and apple cores next to a fall flower arrangement.
Final Product with Samples of Apples and Cores Started From
Katz does outline the process for pasteurizing your vinegar at this point, prior to bottling, if you desire. To do this, simply heat the vinegar above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but less than 160 degrees to prevent evaporation of the acetic acid. Then bottle. Note, this will kill the acetobacter and the mother of vinegar, but make it more stable, should you prefer. 

Some people like to age their vinegar for another six months after bottling for more complex flavor, but you can use your vinegar right away.

Once you have a mother-of-vinegar, you can add this to your next batches of scraps and sugar solution to speed up the process of making vinegar. You can also add it to wine, beer, or rice alcohols in wide-mouthed vessels to make wine, malt, or rice vinegars! I think I'll try those next.

I've started keeping jars of apple scraps and cores in my freezer in order to have supplies to make more apple cider vinegar as it runs low. It's a great zero-waste vegan project!

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