What is that?!
A mother. A mother, as Wikipedia says ” is a substance composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcoholic liquids, which turns alcohol into acetic acid with the help of oxygen from the air. It is added to wine, cider, or other alcoholic liquids to produce vinegar.”
I originally made my mother from mixing a bottle of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar with the mother with an equal amount of apple juice. After letting it sit it began to form a mother on top. I let the mother grow a bit then took that mother and a small amount of the vinegar that was made while the mother was growing and started another batch with slightly more apple juice than the previous 1-1 ratio. And we’ve been up and running ever since.
The resulting vinegar tastes great- use as you would use store brought apple cider vinegar. It takes less than 5 minutes to make. I make about 2-3 batches a year- making about a half gallon at a time. Other than the initial cost of the bottle of Braggs vinegar with the mother my only cost is the apple juice. I cook and clean with the vinegar but I do not do my canning with it. In order to can with homemade vinegar it is important to get a hydrometer (anywhere with homebrew supplies should carry one) in order to insure the vinegar is acidic enough..
So on to the mothers: their appearance, behavior and usage.
Yeah the mothers look weird, gross even. They feel firm and not that slippery really. The mother always forms at the top of the container in a thin layer that will gradually thicken. If disturbed it may fall to the bottom and a new one will start to form on top.
Here are two mothers. They were in the bottom of the jar in the top photo.
They are quite thick. This is the thickest I’ve had them get so far.
Some times when you have a second mother start in the same contain they might meld together, eventually forming one large mother.
They start out thin and filmy-like these below. These formed over several moths in the jar of ACV I was using. So if you manage to damage your mother you can always restart with the ACV you have made.
I added it into the new batch: a half gallon jar full of apple juice.
Place the mother on top as best you can. If it falls to the bottom don’t worry. You can also add some ACV. This would be more important for really large batches to ensure the apple juice fermentation isn’t too much for the small amount of mother to process in a reasonable time frame. If for some reason you get mold growing throw it all away and start again as the mold spores spread throughout the contents and will regrow making future batches bad.
I cover initially with a piece of fabric held on with the canning lid rim to allow the fermenting gases to escape. After the initial period I will switch to a regular cap. I write the date on with sharpie marker- it scrubs off easily, especially with a little baking soda.
Once the mother is in there you may see things like this floating:
or bits, like these in the below photo, settled on the bottom
They are normal and harmless so don’t worry about them. If you want you can filter the finished ACV. One way would be like this: through a coffee filter.
There’s not much but it did get those floaty bits.
Here is the filtered ACV. It’s the last from the last batch made about 6 months ago.
You can have as many batches going as you like of any size. And as you can see the mothers are easily made and easily multiply. When I store a mother I put it in a small jar covered with ACV, rotate every few months. Why store a mother? I do in case I want to start another batch while the first is still aging and so if I do lose a mother (hey neglect and mistakes happen) I can just keep going on as usual.
Here are left to right, a mother in storage, filtered ready to use ACV, and a new batch just started. I took these photos in the light so they would be clearer however ACV in all forms should be stored in a cool dark place – like a cabinet.
So that’s how to start a mother and use it to produce a never ending supply of apple cider vinegar.
For another look at ACV see this post: ACV- Appearances Vary!
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