I am most proud of the vinegars I made this year – they are the most flavorful with the best acidity I have ever produced. It has been about ten years since my first attempt at making my own vinegars. It started after my trip to Sicily and a visit to a Regaleali Winery. In the windowsill sat a large glass jug filled with herb stems and remnants of leftover wine. I was amazed that it could be that easy. The truth is, yes it is that easy, however, I have experienced that it is always possible to make mistakes. My attempt to produce coconut vinegar proved to be a good medium for mold rather than the bacteria I needed. Undaunted, I successfully managed to used Champagne with strawberries and roses as well as cherry pits to make sweet, fruity vinegars. This year I went a tad more traditional with Mexican marigold in red wine and two whites: lemon grass and lemon verbena and a Thai basil and pineapple sage
I started with the red wine as my first batch of the season, which I fed a bottle (1-quart) of unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar for 2 bottles (750 ml) of wine. I did this to guarantee I would have the acetobacter present. This is an aerobic bacteria found on plants, fruits and even in soil, and consumes the alcohol and through its metabolic process generates acid – hence vinegar, sour wine. Because it is an air loving bacteria I cover a jar with a linen cloth to allow the passage of air and stow it away in an out out-of-the-away spot for 1 to 3 months. If all goes well you will have a tart liquid covered by what will resemble a thick, unctuous cap, and while its appearance may be off putting, it is actually the colony of the bacteria we are looking for. The usage of the raw unfiltered vinegar in my first batch hedges my bets, and I don’t have to hope that the acetobacter is present on the herb stems I stuffed into the jar. My subsequent vinegars this year have all been acted upon by that original “mother” and I have continued to more her forward into new bottles – letting her feed. Right now, she is feasting on Champagne and pomegranate seeds.