Make Strawberry Vinegar

On our quest to prove that you can make basically everything important in your own home, we discovered that it is deceptively simple to make your own fermented fruit vinegar.  If you have used Braggs Apple Cider vinegar, you know the type of product we are going for here.  (If you click through to that site, please note how awesome Patricia Bragg looks.)

From start to finish, we used the instructions from Kate over at Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking.  We thought, at first, about doing it with peach skins, once peach season comes around, but a friend who was staying with us for a few days bought a five pound bag of strawberry seconds from the Glenwood Sunday Market and left us quite a few of them.  (I’m not the world’s biggest strawberry fan, but I think I’m starting to come around to them this summer.  Not to mention the fact that Whole Foods’ ANDI scale has them rated as the fruit with the highest nutrient density.)  So, we had very many strawberries, which we made into all kinds of delicious desserts and snacks, and the scraps we saved for vinegar.

As you can see, if you look at the instructions, all you need to make fermented strawberry vinegar is strawberries, sugar, water, a splash of vinegar (with the mother), a vessel, some semipermiable vessel cover, and the patience to basically ignore this slow but profitable process. The Cliff Notes version of the process is this: 1. Put the strawberries in the water with the sugar, cover, and stir every day for a week, 2. Strain out the strawberries, add a splash of vinegar (like Braggs) to get things started, 3. Let it sit on your counter for 2-3 weeks until a mother forms and the whole room/house smells like vinegar (it’s not that bad).  4. Strain again, rinse the mother, and package it up because you just made vinegar (in about a month).

Here’s what our process was like, in more detail.

Strawberry parts soaking in sugar water

Strawberry parts soaking in sugar water

The first thing to do, obviously, was to put the strawberries in the sugar water and let the natural yeasts in the air do their work.  We had strawberry seconds, so they were not super fresh, and I did have to battle some mold in the first week.  I solved the problem by keeping the strawberries submerged under a plate.  Regardless, a straggler or two would float to the surface and succumb to the effects of oxygen and start to decompose.  Those bits were promptly discarded.  Towards the end of the week, when I took the cloth off the top, I would be greeted with a view like the one below.

strawberries2

Stuff is growing in our vinegar vessel.

Delicious, right? Under that weird stuff is a plate and some strawberry bits.  We had enough strawberries to have two bowls going at once.  When we strained out the strawberry parts and put the substances back in the bowls, they were smelling pretty much like strawberry beer.  I’m pretty sure it would not have been pleasant to drink, because it was wild yeast and the process was pretty crude. If you wanted to actually make strawberry beer, you would go about this in a very different manner. It was cool to walk by and catch a waft of beery berry scent. Every time I stirred them, also, a lot of vaguely alcoholic bubbles would rise to the surface.  Oh, food science.

Anyway, we strained out the chunks, put the vinegar back in the bowls, and added a splash of “starter” vinegar to each bowl.  We did use Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar for one of the bowls, and for the other we used a locally made blueberry cherry vinegar from C0-Op Sauce. Then we swirled the bowls every 2-3 days, and largely left it alone.  Within a week, the beery smell had turned to vinegar and the mother was starting to form on top of each bowl.  What the heck am I talking about when I say “the mother”?  Well, the mother is where the bacteria live that turn the alcohol of the “beer” into the super acidic vinegar most of us love. So, a little mother, just like yogurt starter and the ever-popular kombucha SCOBY, is what you need to get that process started.  Vinegar will generally start to form it’s own mother eventually, but a splash of already established vinegar with mother-bacteria is gonna jump start your vinegar making process.  I’m not going to lie, the mother is kind of a snotty, gelatinous goop that sits on/in your vinegar, and it could gross you out.  Brace yourselves.  However, homemade vinegar is worth touching one goopy thing, I hope.

strawberries3

Holding hands with the mother.

Strawberries 8

Who doesn’t want a little mother’s love in their vinegar?

You can see how dense the mother in the one bowl was in the pictures on the left.  The other bowl’s mother was more viscous and didn’t drape across the hand quite so nicely.  It was more snotty.

After two weeks of sitting and being swirled on occasion, our vinegar was ready to be strained and bottled.  Per Kate’s instructions, we removed the mother from the top and rinsed it out.  Then we poured the vinegar over a strainer with a thin cloth on top and strained out the sediment.

Strawberries5

Kristl is doing her best to squeeze every last drop of vinegar out of that cloth.

We put a little bit of mother back into each container and called it good.  The vinegar has a pretty mild flavor, but it definitely tastes like strawberries.  The bowl with the Braggs vinegar had the thinner mother and the vinegar was cloudier.  Otherwise, there does not seem to be a discernible flavor difference.  Basically, the point is, if you want to make your own vinegar, all you have to do is be willing to stir a bowl of water and fruit scraps semi-regularly for three weeks. Delicious!

strawberries7

Here’s the final product! Those of you coming to the August food swap better get ready!

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About Sustainably Queer

Rachel has been trying to narrow her impact on the world's resources since learning about sustainable practices in Chicago. From making her own yogurt to sprouting her own seeds, she's tried a hands on approach from the get go. Sometimes things get a little messy, but she's dedicated to sharing her experiences so more people can learn to live sustainably (and queerly) from her. She works in Higher Education, loves music and singing, and food in ALL forms. Kristl is originally from Hawaii and has great respect for the earth and our natural resources. She is a healer by trade and loves to find ways to help her patients and her friends live as healthfully as possible. She also loves to learn about how to make things from scratch, especially things she never realized it was possible to make at home. She enjoys baking, long walks with her dog, Bradley, and small, intimate dinner parties with friends. Together we try to live as sustainably as possible. We can, recycle, ferment, worm compost, and we're starting our community garden plot from seed. We make whatever we can from scratch, including shampoo and cleaning products. We are your favorite queers with your favorite tips on how to make a greener, more sustainable you.
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