Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is so simple and easy to make! For years I never knew how to make apple cider vinegar but last winter I embarked on an adventure to give it a try. Honestly I think the toughest part of the process is having the patience to sit and wait for it to work its magic over the course of several months! Since that first batch of ACV last winter, I’ve made several more batches and also started experimenting with fermenting other homemade fruit scrap vinegars. Making homemade fermented vinegar is so easy and fun!
In my free time, I love reading historical fiction books based in the pioneering homesteader days. That is where I first read about how to make apple cider vinegar and was inspired to try it myself. In the homesteader books I read, they made huge vats of apple cider vinegar in wood barrels by putting in apple scraps and water then letting it sit to ferment. I couldn’t believe that was all it takes to make apple cider vinegar!
Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and in the pioneer books I read they often tried to drink some of the apple cider vinegar daily to stay healthy. One book I read talked about how important apple cider vinegar was to helping them fight off scurvy when food became sparse. In my favorite fermenting book Wild Fermentation, it states “….vinegar’s effectiveness in preventing arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer, killing infections, soothing itches, burns, and sunburns, aiding digestion, controlling weight and preserving memory.” I personally love to use apple cider vinegar in our favorite all natural cold remedy and I also use it as a digestive aid.
How to make apple cider vinegar
Since we don’t need a large barrel full of apple cider vinegar like the pioneers did, I prefer to make our homemade ACV in large glass jars that I can sit in a dark corner of the kitchen counter. For the first batch I made, I used a 1 gallon glass jar and put in organic apple cores and skins left over after I made an apple crisp. The apple parts filled the jar about 3/4 full. I then filled the jar full of water. I’ve read of some people adding sugar to the water with the apples but I didn’t because the apple scraps I used were sweet and naturally have a lot of sugar in them. (I do add sugar water to other types of homemade fruit scrap vinegar that don’t have as much natural sugar. The book Wild Fermentation recommends a ratio of 1/4 cup sugar to 1 quart water)
Next I put a piece of cheesecloth over top the mouth of the jar and put a rubber band around it to keep the cheesecloth on and fruit flies out. Then I stuck the jar in a corner on the counter out of direct sunlight. I stirred it once a day for the first week or two since the apple pieces were floating then and I didn’t want mold growing on it. Within a few days of starting the apple cider vinegar, you can see bubbles in it as it ferments. Here’s a close up picture of my second batch of homemade apple cider vinegar where you can see the fermenting bubbles.
The jar of fermenting goodness continues to work its magic and transitions to a hard cider and then as it sits longer will turn into apple cider vinegar. I started my first batch in early January and strained it and bottled it a couple months later. Some people will strain the apple parts off after the first couple weeks but some say to leave them in the whole time. For my first batch, I left the apple scraps in the vinegar the whole time it fermented which was a couple months (I probably could have strained and bottled the vinegar after about a month but I got so busy with spring gardening season I didn’t get around to it for a couple months-and no harm done!) For my second batch of homemade ACV this fall, I strained the apple scraps off after about a month. I put the liquid back in the jar, put the cheesecloth back on and let it sit on the counter for another month to continue fermenting before I bottled it.
The most amazing part of this process is that the homemade apple cider vinegar I made grew its own Mother! For those of you who may not know what that means, the book Wild Fermentation explains it quite well, “You may observe a film or disk collecting on the surface of the vinegar. This is called the ‘mother-of-vinegar’, or ‘mother’ for short. It is a mass of vinegar making organisms that can be transferred to your next batch of vinegar as a starter. The mother is edible and nutritious, so there is no need to be afraid of it.” I actually tore off a piece of the mother from my first batch of homemade apple cider vinegar and gave it to a friend who used it to ferment her first batch of homemade ACV and it worked great!
I was curious to see how the acidicity level of my homemade ACV compared to our store bought Braggs ACV. I have a pack of PH test strips in the kitchen that I use primarily during canning season to test the acidity level of the foods I’m canning to know whether to water bath or pressure can (you can find the PH test strips here). I read that the PH level for a good quality apple cider vinegar should be 2.8-3.0. My test strips aren’t fancy enough to show decimal points of levels but are color coded. I was so amazed to see that my homemade ACV and the Braggs ACV had a similar dark orange acidity level which correlates to a 3.
I was so excited that I learned how to make apple cider vinegar that I began experimenting with other homemade fruit scrap vinegars which I read about in my Wild Fermentation book. So far I successfully made a quart of pear vinegar from pears we grew in our orchard and this vinegar also has a PH level in the 2-3 range. Next summer I want to experiment with making a homemade apricot vinegar and even a wild huckleberry vinegar. I think they’ll make really delicious additions to some homemade salad dressing!