Self-Sufficiency Series

Monday, July 15, 2013

Making fruit scrap vinegar

Last fall, I embarked on a new experiment: making vinegar from fruit scraps. The reason I didn't blog about it at the time was (a) it's a long drawn-out process, not a single-day project, so I couldn't really blog about it until I was finished; and (b) I had in mind an article for Backwoods Home Magazine so I didn't want to spill the beans ahead of time. My editor at the magazine has given me the green light on the article (which I submitted today), so these photos will allow her to choose which ones she wants to illustrate the article. Some of the photos are near-duplicates (same shot, different angles, etc.) so she can choose which ones she likes best.

Fruit scrap vinegar is just that -- vinegar made from fruit scraps. It's an excellent way to make something useful out of what would otherwise end up on the compost pile. I got this notion after a long day of canning apples when I had a big pile of peels and cores and bruised fruit pieces left over. At first I was just going to toss them all on the compost pile, but somewhere in the back of my mind I had heard about making fruit vinegar, so I decided to give it a try.

(Photo 361)

Actually I first got the notion of making fruit vinegar after canning 125 lbs. of peaches, but unfortunately not until after I'd thrown all those scraps onto the compost pile (what a waste!). I had to settle with making peach vinegar from a small amount of peach peels we saved from eating fresh fruit.

Anyway, back to apples. I put the scraps into a plastic food-grade bakery bucket.

(Photo 373)

The first step, fermentation, requires some sugar. I carefully measured the water...

(Photo 374)

...and the sugar that I mixed in. The ratio is one quart water: 1/4 cup sugar (or one gallon water:1 cup sugar).

(Photo 375)

(Photo 376)

Then I poured the sugar water over the apple scraps.

(Photo 379)

(Photo 380)

I covered the bucket with a square of clean old sheeting...

(Photo 381)

...and secured it with a large rubber band.

(Photo 382)

Then I put the buckets on the floor in the kitchen and let them sit for several weeks. The cloth kept out fruit flies, among other things.

(Photo 516)

This is the fermentation stage, the first stage for making vinegar. You can tell the fermentation is happening because little bubbles of carbon dioxide form and pop. I could sit in a chair and hear the bubbles quietly popping from several feet away.

I made a smaller batch of fruit vinegar from peach peels using a gallon jar.

(Photo 498)

(Photo 500)

Since I was making several different types of vinegars, I labeled and dated each type.

(Photo 514)

(Photo 515)

Here are the apple scraps after two weeks of fermentation. Now it was time for the second stage, the acidification.

(Photo 508)

I drained the scraps with a colander...

(Photo 509)

...and saved the fermented juice.

(Photo 510)

Before letting the juice acidify, I strained it one more time, through a cloth.

(Photo 513)

(Photo 512)

Energized by all this frugal recycling of scraps, I decided to also make vinegar out of the massive amounts of fruit waste left over from canning pears.

(Photo 473)

Here are the pear scraps after two weeks of fermentation. I didn't add enough sugar water at the beginning of this process, so the fruit, while moist and fermented, didn't have a lot of spare juice for draining.

(Photo 624)

There was so little juice that it didn't really "drain" with a colander.

(Photo 625)

So I had to come up with some other idea for extracting the fermented juice. I took an old clean pillowcase and filled it with the fermented fruit scraps...

(Photo 629)

...and tried suspending it in the barn over a bucket. (It didn't really work.)

(Photo 634)

When that didn't work, I divvied up the pear scraps into two pillowcases and suspended them in the kitchen over a bowl overnight. That worked better.

(Photo 631)

(Photo 650)

When draining fermented fruit scraps, the operative word is patience. You can't really hurry it along by squeezing. Believe me, I tried.

(Photo 632)

After the pear scraps drained overnight, I strained the juice through a clean cloth once more.

(Photo 626)

Then I set the different jars of fermented juice on the counter for several weeks, to let them acidify into vinegar. You can see how the different fruits gave slightly different colored vinegar. It smelled lovely.

(Photo 705)

(Photo 706)

(Photo 707)

The proto-vinegar formed a scum on top. This is the "mother" and should not be removed.

(Photo 122)

After about three weeks of sitting on the kitchen counter, I decided the vinegar was done. In retrospect I learned I could have let it sit up to six months if I wanted to, though by this point I was tired of those jars cluttering my limited counter space.

To preserve the vinegar, I could do one of three things: (1) put it in sterile jars and cap with a cork or plastic lid (not metal); (2) pasteurize it using jars with corks or plastic lids; or (3) can it.

I decided to can the fruit vinegar to preserve it indefinitely; but the only reason I could do this was because I use plastic Tattler canning lids. I couldn't use disposable metal lids because the acid in the vinegar would corrode the metal lids after awhile.

So I poured the vinegar into quart jars.

(Photo 124)

Can you see the subtle differences in color? Left to right is apple, pear, and two jars of peach vinegar.

(Photo 125)

Then I canned the vinegar in a water-bath for fifteen minutes.

(Photo 126)

The result: fourteen quarts of beautiful fragrant fruit vinegar. You might call it the ultimate in recycling waste!

(Photo 138)

(Photo 141)

(Photo 142)

To re-cap, here are the steps for making fruit vinegar:

• Take fruit scraps (peels, cores, bruised unusable fruit, etc) and put in a glass jar, food-grade plastic container, or ceramic crock. Chop up the larger pieces for faster results.
• Cover the fruit scraps generously with sugar water. The sugar water should be in a ratio of 1 quart water: ¼ cup sugar. Over time the scraps may swell, so be generous in the amount of sugar water.
• Cover with cheesecloth or other thin cloth and secure with a rubber band or cord.
• Allow to ferment for at least two weeks or until the bubbles stop forming.
• Strain out the fruit scraps and preserve the juice in a new clean container (glass jars work well).
• Cover with cheesecloth or other thin cloth and secure with a rubber band or cord.
• Allow this fermented juice to acidify for several weeks or even months.
• Strain through several layers of damp cloth into clean sterile jars, and use either a cork or a plastic lid to close the jar.
• If desired, pasteurize or even water-bath can the vinegar.

A Few Tips
• The smaller the fruit waste, the faster the fermentation. While the scraps don’t have to be pulverized, you might want to chop up the really big stuff.
• Oxidized (browned) scraps seem to make a better vinegar than fresh scraps. This isn’t hard to do, as presumably the scraps are sitting by and quietly oxidizing while you’re busy processing the whole fruit.
• Do not use metal containers while fermenting the fruit or acidifying the juice. Some people also say you should avoid plastic, but I used plastic bakery buckets during the fermenting stage and had no problems. If you use plastic, it should be food-grade. Glass jars or ceramic crocks are also wonderful.
• If your fruit is not organic, it would be best to scrub or wash the fruit before peeling so the peels won’t have pesticide residue during the fermentation process.
• The wider the mouth, the more wild bacteria will be captured, and the faster the fermentation process will happen.
• If you see a scum forming on top, don’t disturb it; this is the mother. Eventually the mother will sink toward the bottom and continue its work. However if you see mold forming on top, by all means skim that off. Mother isn’t moldy; it’s scummy.
• If you have chlorinated city tap water, you might want to purchase distilled water to use for vinegar since the chemicals in urban water can kill or contaminate the “mother.”
Homemade vinegar should NOT be used for canning pickles or other fermented food. Vinegar for canning needs to be at 5% acidity level, and homemade vinegar varies wildly in its acid content. Even pH test strips cannot accurately gauge proper acidity levels in homemade vinegar.
• If you want to speed up the fermentation process, you can add about a cup of Bragg’s Vinegar (or other natural unfiltered vinegar, often found in health food stores) to “seed” the fermenting fruit with mother. You can also purchase “Mother of Vinegar” from such places as Lehmans.com.

Making fruit vinegar allows you to utilize the fruits of summer – from beginning to end. Enjoy!

75 comments:

  1. So that's how it's done! Thank you, Patrice!

    You've inspired me to make some fruit vinegars this summer, with which I intend to make the world's most delicious salad dressings!

    I'm thinking I'll make some with black berries and some with Saskatoons.


    A. McSp

    ReplyDelete
  2. Seems like you were also along the way to making a brandy/shine: for medicinal purposes of course.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That is awesome.... I use Bragg's vinegar and will use it to make some of my very own home brewed vinegar....... THANK YOU!!!!!!!
    Shannon

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Patrice! I tried making apple vinegar earlier this year, and just made penicillin. :-0
    Your process has more steps, but it looks simple enough.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Does the hot water bath kill the mother?

    ReplyDelete
  6. What can this vinegar be used for?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mostly cooking, whenever vinegar is used as an ingredient. Some people also like to use fruit vinegar as a hair rinse.

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. I put a tablespoon or so per gallon into my chickens watering feeders.

      Delete
  7. And the scraps can still be used on the compost heap - or fed to the chickens...right? Talk about multiple use!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I made vinegar from fresh pineapple scrapes a few years ago. I didn't add sugar just let the pineapple ferment in water and then watched as it turned into vinegar. Taste as you go to get an idea of flavor - it's fermented just like sauerkraut so it won't support bad bugs. Tasted like pineapple with a kick. I used it on salads. I'll check out your article and give it a try again. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is fantastic! I've wondered if you could make vinegar and now I know. Thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Can the fermented fruit scraps be fed to the chickens?

    sidetracksusie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't because the scraps contain alcohol. No one (presumably) wants to see drunk chickens staggering around!

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. You mean like drunkin' chicken, er goose....he he he...a reference to the Aristocats....
      I have some apple peels in the freezer. I think I will have to thaw them an try this, it sounds wonderful.
      Paintedmoose

      Delete
  11. Awesome post.

    I think I'll give this try when apple season rolls around.

    (I've got some other fermentation occurring on my countertop right now - sauerkraut. Can't wait till it's done. Yum. Hoping to start a couple more batches before fall. I'll bet future fruit vinegar smells a lot better than future kraut!)

    Just Me

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for this great post. I'm going to try it! For the fermentation, does the sugar need to be dissolved in the water, or just stirred in?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would say, just stirred in. You should mix the fermenting fruit every day or so (sorry, forgot to add that in) so the sugar will be thoroughly mixed anyway.

      - Patrice

      Delete
  13. I have never seen anyone make home made vinegar. Now you know I have to try it. As always, nice explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Patricia I will have to try this when canning fruit this summer.
    On to a different topic--have you ever heard or tried canning italian bread crumbs, much like how you would can nuts in the oven? I ask because I make my own italian crumbs because I don't like buying something so easy when I can make it myself and I usually have plenty of dried bread that I end up feeding the birds with it.
    Thanks for your great blog and for sharing. Good job.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Patricia, I will have to try this when I start canning fruit.
    On to a different questions (can't find a place on the site other than the comment section of one of your blogs to ask).
    Have you ever done or heard of canning italian bread crumbs much like you would canning nuts in the oven? I ask because I make my own since it is so simple and can't stand spending money on something I can do myself, but I usually have more than I can use and don't keep a lot of leftovers. I don't know if it will go stale over time, say 3 to 6 months. I don't use anything but dried bread and italian seasoning.
    Thanks for your great blog, I'm a loyal reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never tried it, but nothing says you can't give it a go. I'll be curious to hear the results, so please let us know!

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. there's a site on oven canning
      http://selfreliantnetwork11.blogspot.com/2012/04/oven-canning-preserves-dry-goods-for.html


      bread crumbs would do fine.

      Delete
  16. Your end result looks fabulous! Don't know if I will ever try it but found it to be most interesting! I ferment cabbage and enjoy it very much!
    Appreciate all you post fascinating and learn so much!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi, instead of vinegar with the apple scraps our household cooks and strains them to make Apple butter which is a favorite here. Especially in baking and P & J sandwiches. Did you know that vinegar makes a good weed killer? Use the cheapest find or make, spray the weeds when it won't rain for several days so it won't wash off (I use a little dawn dish soap so that the vinegar will stay on the weed). The theory is that the vinegar burns the weed, and it can't photosencise.
    It sometimes takes a second treatment, but what the heck, it is cheap and I don't
    think that it harms the environment.

    ReplyDelete
  18. We make apple jelly from our apple scraps. However, I may try to make vinegar next time. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you. And....I love your wooden glossy counters. Did you make them to

    Kimmie
    Mama to 8
    one homemade and 7 adopted

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We didn't make them -- they were in the house when we bought it. But yes, they are hand-made.

      - Patrice

      Delete
  20. Thank you. And....I love your wooden glossy counters. Did you make them to

    Kimmie
    Mama to 8
    one homemade and 7 adopted

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have peach and apple working right now. I'm 3 days in and my peach is getting mold on top. Normal or not? Should I try to remove it? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have peach and apple working right now. I'm 3 days in and my peach is getting mold on top. Normal or not? Should I try to remove it? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. definitely remove the mold!

      Delete
  23. when making vinegar with peach peelings, can/should I also include the pits? or just chuck them in the fire pit?

    thanx

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have two glass jars with lids, do you need the cloth over it or will the lids work just as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would use cloth. The vinegar needs to breath.

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. ok thanks, I am about to do something with the apples I got, and this will be a good use for the leftovers.

      Delete
  25. How do you know if you have good bacteria and yeast fermenting your juice vs bad ones? Could you do this with a kombucha SCOBY?

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the scum on top is moldy, scrape it off. "Mother" isn't moldy. Most of the time, mother is successfully captured just from air; but if you're concerned, you can order "mother of vinegar" from such places as Lehmans.com. You can also get live-culture vinegars from health food stores, to seed your homemade vinegar.

      - Patrce

      Delete
  26. Love it... Can I state FRUIT FLIES........... UGGGGGGG!
    Idea's. Hate the little buggers......

    ReplyDelete
  27. I take a little glass dish, put 1/4" of cider vinegar and a drop of dish soap (to break the surface tension of the vinegar) cover it tightly with saran wrap. poke about a dozen holes in the saran wrap and set it by your vinegar/fruit and they will go in the dish but can't get out and they drown. I will usually let it sit for a few days before changing it out if there are still flies. :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. You are awesome and I am giddy with excitement. My work has a bunch of huckleberries they don't want. It would be excellent for vinegar. Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  29. You are awesome and I am giddy with excitement. My work has a bunch of huckleberries they don't want. It would be excellent for vinegar. Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Can this be done in a crock like kraut? Will grapes work?

    ReplyDelete
  31. I'm so excited to try this out!!

    I'm wondering if this can this be done with grapes? Is it possible to use a crock instead of the plastic food grade bucket?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As far as I know, yes to both. A crock should work fine -- just be sure to put a cloth over the top so the fruit can "breathe." As for using grapes, I have no doubt that will work well. It's a short hop from wine to vinegar, after all.

      The best thing you can do is try it -- and then let us know the results!

      - Patrice

      Delete
  32. I love this, I am going to be pressing a batch of apples for juice and expect to have several gallons of pulp left over at the end of the process. Will have to have a go at this.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Delete if this ends up going in twice - Loved this. about to have several gallons of pulp from juicing some apples so will give it a go.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Are there alternatives to using sugar? (sweet poison) Will the vinegar
    then have the chemicals from the sugar?
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might try honey. The fermenting process requires a sweetener of some sort, and since honey is the oldest natural sweetener out there, my guess is it would work fine. If you try it, let us know how it works out!

      - Patrice

      Delete
  35. Thank you, I have enjoyed reading this article online and in Backwoods Home magazine. I just am canning my two batches from August pear peelings. I got 14 pints out of 50 lbs (before peeling). So interesting and easy.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Can you use scraps once they have gone through steam juicing or do you need "fresh" scraps?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know since I've never done steam juicing, My thoughts are yes, they'll work, but you might need to add some extra sugar water to compensate for the mushy state of the scraps.

      My advice: try it. If it works, let us know!

      Delete
  37. Loved this post and I have tried to make my own after reading. I successfully made a small jar of apple vinegar and it had a 'typical' looking mother. I am currently ferment pears for vinegar and the mother is very strange looking compared to others I have seen online. It is wrinkly and not one solid lump. I am at about week 6 now but the appearance of the mother has me nervous to use it! If you would like, I have pics over at my place and I would LOVE your feed back. Thanks for your post.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Loved seeing a mother that didn't look like a beautifully smooth scoby! I was afraid I was doing something wrong & might have to ditch my pineapple vinegar. Thank you for the inspiration to make fruit vinegars this year for my fancy cooking family & friends =)

    ReplyDelete
  39. In Canada...
    Great info...I accidentally started what like a small batch of pineapple vinegar by leaving fruit scraps in a plastic tupperware container, added a little sugar, 1 week later it smells like vinegar, had some bubbling going on. How do you know when it's ready to drain and start using?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait until the bubbling stops. Then drain the liquid, put it in a glass jar, and cover it with a thin cloth (to keep out fruit flies, dust, etc.). It can ferment for a long time, up to six months, before using. I let mine ferment for too short a time and will let it sit longer next time.

      - Patrice

      Delete
    2. thanks Patrice, bubbling has stopped, should I let it ferment on the counter or in a dark spot?

      Delete
    3. The counter is fine. It doesn't need darkness. You'll see a scum form. This is the "mother of vinegar" and shouldn't be disturbed (don't skim it off, and don't stir the vinegar as it ferments). You only need to filter off the mother when you're ready to use the vinegar.

      - Patrice

      Delete
    4. Thanks again, now i know what to do about that floating stuff on my dads red wine vinegar.

      - Canada

      Delete
  40. Thanks again, and my fathers red wine vinegar is full of floating mother, now i know i can just strain it instead of stirring.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Did you leave the mother in your jars, during/after the canning process?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I strained it out. And if any mother is left in the vinegar, the heat during canning process would destroy it.

      - Patrice

      Delete
  42. Can i try with Sugarcane juice?
    Is there any thing i should add?

    ReplyDelete
  43. Can i Use Sugarcane juice for making vinegar?
    Is there any thing i should add?
    Pls reply
    Regards

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, sugarcane juice can be used, but the procedure is slightly different. Please see this link:

      http://www.indiacurry.com/historicalrecipes/sugarcanesirkamaking.htm

      Rather than the flour paste sealant suggested in the link, you might just want to use a glass jar with a cotton cloth rubber-banded around the top to keep out insects.

      The key ingredient is patience, as vinegar takes several months.

      Try it and see what happens, then let me know!

      - Patrice

      Delete
  44. Can you use other fruits in place of apples in this recipe? I would like to try something like this but have a slight allergy to apples.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes of course. I made peach, pear, and apple. Others have made pineapple, raspberry, and grape. Pick a fruit and give it a try!

      - Patrice

      Delete
  45. Strain with food-grade paint strainer bags. Much quicker--I speak from experience, and squeezing *does* help if you use them! Currently in the acidifying stage of fig vinegar!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I purchase about 30lbs of tart pre-pitted cherries for various projecs every year. I always have a lot of left over juice. Do you think I could ferment the juice by adding some sugar and letting it ferment?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't see why not. Give it a try and let us know how it works!

      - Patrice

      Delete