The Apple Cider Vinegar Experiment {Part 1 – The Set Up}

There have been a lot of questions (in relation to this post on apple cider vinegar & making a mother) about whether store brought apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be used as a medium for the mother of vinegar. To answer this question I have introduced the mother to a jar of store brought ACV to see if 1. a mother will form and, if so, 2. if the mother will continue to grow on only store brought ACV. To compare growth and timelines I have also started a jar with the same amount of mother to apple juice, as well as a jar of only store brought ACV to see if a mother will spontaneously develop.

For the mother I am using Bragg’s ACV with the mother. Each jar (except for the pint of straight ACV) contains either 3 cups of store brought ACV or 3 cups of apple juice plus a generous 1/4 cup of Bragg’s ACV with the mother. My jar of Bragg’s was rather old so the vinegar had more visible mother sediment than a new jar does.

The jars, labeled and color coded. Red is ACV plus the mother, blue is apple juice plus the mother and green is straight ACV. These were all started on March 1st. My house is rather cool so things may take a while.

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The only development so far is a slight cloudiness from the jar of Braggs.

DSCN5732Updates to come as they develop.

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Dairy Kefir In The Winter Kitchen {plus NT recipe}

During the summer I keep a jar of dairy kefir out on the counter. I use it freely and top it off daily – with summers abundent milk supply. Now that winter is here I find our dairy kefir usage has plummeted. It’s just too cold to mix up a frosty smoothie and, not in the least, our milk supply has dried up. Yet, kefir grains need to be fed regularly. So how does dairy kefir fit into my winter kitchen?

For starters I keep my jar of diary kefir in the fridge. This slows the fermenting process down considerably. That means there’s less to use daily and I can feed my grains less frequently. The kefir still ferments so when I do want to use some I can. Then I replace however much I just used up with fresh milk. If I use over half the jar I might leave the jar out to ferment on the counter, otherwise it might not be ready for a few days at least.

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During the summer kefir generally goes into smoothies and veggie dips and dressings. During the winter I use kefir mainly as a replacement for yogurt or buttermilk in recipes, like pancakes or meatloaf for example. These are cooked so they won’t contain the benefits of live kefir; although any grains in the recipe will benefit from soaking in the acidic kefir. You can still reap the benefits of kefir’s live cultures if you make dressing, dip or consume it unheated in some other way.

Here is a recipe I adapted from Nourishing Traditions, it’s kind of a three recipes in one recipe. It’s a light mild dressing. NT calls for piima cream or creme fraiche but I used kefir instead.

Creamy Dressing

First make the basic dressing (pg129 NT) This makes about 3/4 cup.

Combine the mustard and vinegar then add in the oil in a thin stream, stirring all the while till emulsified.

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 Tlb plus 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar ( NT calls for wine vinegar)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tlb flax oil, if you have it.

Add 1 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs i.e. parsley, oregano, tarragon, thyme, basil etc. This is now the herb dressing (also pg 129 of NT).

Finally blend in 1/4 cup kefir.

 Now you have 1 cup creamy dressing (pg 131 of NT).

Adjust seasoning to taste. I like to let it sit for a while to let the herbs have a chance to release their flavor.

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Some other recipes using kefir:

Susan’s Whole Wheat Kefir Pancakes   (or use your favorite pancake recipe replacing the buttermilk or milk with kefir)

Kefir Pizza Crust

Ranch Dip (from cultures for health- this one is a favorite)

Also, try straining the kefir for a thick & smooth kefir cheese. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. You can roll the seasoned cheese into small (about golf ball size) balls. Place balls in a jar and cover with olive oil.

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Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.

 I just love Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation. I’m always inspired to try something; even some things I never thought I’d try. Seeing how I have a plethora of mothers (of vinegar) on hand – including a  lovely thick … Continue reading

ACV- Appearances Vary!

Let’s take a look at a few jars of ACV (apple cider vinegar). Note how their appearance varies. The lightest colored one (on the left) is made from apple scraps (peels,cores etc.) the others are made from store brought juice of varying brands. After it ages a bit more I look forward to comparing tastes.

The next jar – as you can see below – was started 8-23 so it’s still aging. Then (still going left) there’s the jar I’ve been using ACV from. Usually I pour off the whole batch and get another going but for now I’ve been pouring some off into the smaller jar. Then there’s the jar of extra mothers.

The appearance of ACV can vary quite a bit, as do the mothers. Some are thin and filmy, some are nice thick clean-looking mothers, others look a bit more haggard and maybe have a layer of sediment on them.

It’s all good.

See this post and start your own mother: Apple Cider Vinegar {making a mother}.

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Fermenting

Now that we’re getting settled I figured it was time to get the ferments going again. I had brought a few things along that were “in progress” such as apple cider vinegar, preserved lemons, preserved limes (which are all rather low maintenance), and some much neglected dairy kefir. But it was time to attend to them and venture once more into fermenting veggies.

I had tried making fermented carrots before from Nourishing Traditions but they where so salty I couldn’t eat them. I even made another batch halving the salt but they were still too salty and more of a chore than a joy to get through. So I was feeling a little leery about wasting the time and effort and veggies. Then I read (parts of) The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. I also have his book Wild Fermentation but I much prefer The Art of Fermentation; it really made me want to get in the kitchen and get a jar going. And the next thing I knew there I was with a jar full of chopped veggies. And the best part is that even though I wasn’t able to have a garden this year every single vegetable was given to me by a friend who grew it in their garden. How sweet is that?!

Here’s what went in: carrots, radishes,yellow summer squash,garlic (some fresh picked, some   that was starting to sprout), chard stems, a small green tomato, basil. How heavenly it smells, how delicious it tastes!

I immediately started another jar this time zucchini spears with garlic.

Again, success! As my oldest Noah said “they’re just so good. I want to eat them all up.(followed by a lip-smacking slurp I can’t replicate)”. So I did it. I started a batched of shredded carrots.

And for a little compare and contrast I started a jar or pickled beets with onion in raw apple cider vinegar.

We haven’t tested these last two yet but the beets look lovely and the carrots, with a little help of the brine from the first batch of mixed veggies, are smelling wonderful. Next up? A jar full of basil! Seriously, it tastes like licorice once it’s fermented. Divine!

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In the Kitchen:: Let Sit

I thought I’d share what’s in the jars this week:

First an update photo: Here’s the Apple Cider Vinegar with a new mother starting to grow. This is about 3 days in. The old mother drifted off to the bottom this time (although it has since floated back up to the top).

And here’s this week’s collection- fermenting meyer lemons (are meyer lemons really that much different better than regular lemons? Yes!), ACV, and, in the front, dairy wise we’ve got kefir, sour cream, buttermilk, and buttermilk starter.

See that crack starting there? With the whey starting to separate? That’s how I know when the kefir is ready.

Also sitting in the kitchen- a new batch of vanilla extract. These were some fresh vanilla beans- so soft, fragrant and easy to scrape.

Now we just let them sit.

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Apple Cider Vinegar {making a mother}

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 sitting for a while 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.

Some photos.

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 months in the jar of ACV that 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 initially cover the jar 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 a batch made about 6 months ago.

You can have as many batches (of any size) going as you like. 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.

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For another look at ACV see this post: ACV- Appearances Vary!

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and @ Fat Tuesday

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