Homemade vinegar is one of those unusual but easy projects the whole family can get behind. All you really have to do is stir and wait. What could be simpler?
I’ve been making my own red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and malt vinegar from scratch for many years. However, when I decided to try fruit vinegar, I realized the process for this is a little different.
Finding good at-home fermentation information used to be difficult. Thank goodness for the 2003 book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, fermentation expert extraordinaire. Although the directions in the book are for pineapple vinegar, I make peach vinegar because I have an excess of peaches growing in my backyard. The same process can be used to make any kind of vinegar from fruit scraps — things like fruit peels, over-ripe fruit, and fruit pulp left over from making jelly or juice. Just don’t use any fruit that’s spoiled. Soft or bruised is OK; rotting is not.
The Difference Between Wine And Vinegar
If you’ve ever opened a bottle of wine with a dried-out cork, you’ll recognize the relationship between wine and vinegar. Vinegar develops when the alcohol is exposed to air. You can think of it as a continuum; bacteria acts on sugar to cause fermentation, resulting in alcohol. Continued exposure to air keeps that process going until the ethyl alcohol is converted into acetic acid, and acetic acid is the chemical designation for vinegar.
This continuum is why it’s quick to make wine or malt vinegar at home; we can start out with premade alcohol that only has to undergo the transition to vinegar. However, when making vinegar from fruit scraps, we’re fermenting first to produce an alcohol byproduct, and then changing that byproduct into vinegar. Even though it takes longer than traditional vinegars, the process remains simple.
Why Home-Fermented Fruit Vinegar?
Adobe Stock/Brent Hofacker
Just as a loaf of homemade bread bears little resemblance to commercially prepared loaves, home-fermented fruit vinegars are distant cousins to the more readily accessible flavored vinegars. Raspberry, peach, or blueberry vinegars from the grocery store are usually made by steeping berries or herbs in white vinegar. They’re tasty, but they lack the depth of flavor that we get from a fermented fruit vinegar.
These fruit vinegars get their flavor from the extended fermentation process. Each fruit lends its own personality to vinegar: Peach vinegar is mild and delicate; plum or blueberry vinegar is more assertive; and mango or pineapple vinegar falls somewhere in between.
Fermentation type: Aceto
Primary Fermentation: 1 week
Secondary Fermentation: 2 to 4 weeks
Aging: 6 months
Total Time: About 7 months
Peach vinegar can be used much like Champagne vinegar — as a delicate dressing for greens. It’s also delicious splashed over roasted vegetables or baked fish, and makes a unique gift.
Yield: About 1 quart.
- 1 to 3 cups peach peels, pulp, or chopped fresh fruit
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 4 cups water
- Oak chips, optional
- Place the clean, chopped fruit and fruit scraps in a medium-sized bowl.
- Dissolve the sugar in the water, and pour over the fruit. Stir to combine. NOTE: The water can be warm, but should not be boiling; if you heat it to help the sugar dissolve quickly, let it cool to room temperature before combining with the fruit pieces.
- Cover the bowl with cheesecloth, a paper towel, or a coffee filter, and secure with a rubber band. Let it sit in a warm place for about 1 week, or until the mixture darkens to approximately the color of tea.
- Strain out the fruit, re-cover the bowl, and let the liquid sit for another 2 to 4 weeks, stirring occasionally. Before moving on to the next steps, taste the mixture to make sure it’s fermented enough to get that vinegar taste.
Stabilize the Vinegar
- Transfer the vinegar to a large pot, and heat on a stove until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Pay close attention during this step; if heated over 160 degrees, the acetic acid will evaporate.
- Pour the vinegar into decorative bottles. Add a few oak chips to each bottle for additional flavor, if desired.
- Plug bottles with caps, corks, or plastic tops. Label with the type of vinegar and the date it was finished, and let the bottles age in a cool, dark place for 6 months to fully develop flavor before use.
Renee Pottle is an author, family and consumer scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading on her website.