We are heading into apple season when you suddenly notice that there are apple trees everywhere. Obviously, there are only so many apples a person can eat, so processing them is the way to use them up.
One of my favourites and easiest ways to use up excess apples is making your own ACV: apple cider vinegar.
You’ve all heard of the benefits of apple cider vinegar right? All the probiotics and enzymes in there help balance your blood sugar, increase weight loss, reduces blood pressure…
Apple cider vinegar has been around for centuries and was traditionally made from pressed apple juice. Using apple juice is a great way to make ACV but if you don’t have bucket loads of apples to spare or a means to make juice, this isn’t the most cost-effective option.
If you have an abundance of other fruit, you can totally make vinegar from it too following the same instructions. Think Plum vinegar, pear vinegar, Blackberry vinegar..
I’m only using three ingredients: Fruit, water and an unrefined sugar.
Spray-free fruit is necessary, especially when you’re using the peel. For the sugar, I use coconut sugar though you can use any unrefined sugar of your choosing. How much sugar is needed depends on the sweetness of your fruit. The role of the sugar is, when it combines with yeast, this is what turns the fruit scrap/water mixture into alcohol, and then, in turn, this alcohol is fermented again and turned into vinegar.
If you are thinking of using honey as your sweetener, be aware that this may slow down your ferment. This is because honey is antibacterial so it will also kill a lot of the bacteria and wild yeasts you need to make the ferment happen.
The yeast part of this the vinegar is added naturally, through wild yeasts in the air as well as on the fruit scraps themselves.
The container you brew your vinegar in is also of importance. It needs to be a non-reactive material such as glass or stainless steel. Don’t make your vinegar in a plastic container.
The container must be sterilised too so you’re not introducing any nasty bacteria to your ferment. I wash my glass containers then let them dry in an oven on 120 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes to sterilise them.
Once your fruit scraps, water and sugar are combined, some of the pieces will float to the top. You need to keep them submerged to avoid any mould growing on them. Preferably a glass fermenting weight, or a clean ziplock bag filled with water and push it down in the jar to hold down the apples. A clean glass or jar that fits inside the bigger jar works well!
Then cover your container with a tea towel, muslin cloth or paper towels. You definitely want there to be airflow happening when you are fermenting, otherwise, you’ll have an explosion on your hands!
Store this mixture in a warm, dark place for about 3 weeks. I keep mine in the cupboard under the stairs. This is the time where alcohol is made and your mixture will start to froth and bubble. Place a towel under your containers to soak up any spillage as the mixture may bubble over the top. After this time you can strain out the apple pieces and return the vinegar to the same container. Keep it covered with a tea towel or cloth.
Place your vinegar back in the warm, dark place for another 4-6 weeks. After a couple of weeks, you can start to taste your vinegar. Once it tastes to your liking you can bottle it.
The longer you leave it, the stronger the vinegar will become. The next time you make your apple cider vinegar, using a few tablespoons of this batch will speed up the next batch’s fermenting process.
- You may see a white scum forming on the top of your vinegar. This is called Kahm yeast absolutely normal and is just a sign of the fermenting process.
- A SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) may occasionally form on top of your vinegar. This is just all the good bacteria combined in this squidgy little disc. (And yes, you can make kombucha from this SCOBY.)
- Your vinegar will look cloudy and there will be remnants swirling around in there. These may form into another sort of squidgy disc but this one stays under the surface. This is the vinegar ‘mother’. Both the SCOBY and the Mother of Vinegar are a collection of acetic bacteria (the bacteria that oxidise the sugar and turn it into alcohol.)
- You can absolutely make fruit vinegar with other types of fruit, the possibilities are endless! Apple cider vinegar is mainly so popular because of the abundance of apples. Try pear cider vinegar or plum!
- The amount of sugar needed for this process varies depending on the sweetness of your fruit. I go by a general rule of 1 tsp of unrefined sugar to every 230 ml of water. This can be reduced if your apples are super sweet, or increased if they are tart, or if you are using a different fruit with less sugar.
- Make sure you KEEP YOUR FRUIT SUBMERGED! This is vital so no mould grows on the pieces of fruit which can contaminate your whole batch.
Homemade Fruit Vinegar
- Organic Apple pieces or fruit of your choice (any part of the apple can be used, just make sure it is washed if using the peel.) When using stone fruit, use any part except for the actual stones.
- Unrefined sugar
Combine your fruit pieces in a sterilised glass or stainless steel container, about 3/4 full. Cover with enough water until the fruit is submerged.
Add in 1tsp of unrefined sugar per 230ml water. If your fruit is very sweet, you can reduce or eliminate this completely.
Use a weight such as a glass fermenting weight , a clean small jar or a clean ziplock bag filled with water to hold down the fruit and keep them submerged under the water.
Cover the container with a cheesecloth or paper towels and place in a warm, dark place on top of a towel for three weeks.
Check on your mixture regularly. It should start bubbling by day 3. Keep an eye on it to see that the fruit is staying submerged and no mould is growing on top.
After 3 weeks, strain out the fruit and return the mixture back into the container and back into the warm, dark place.
Leave for another 4-6 weeks, stirring and tasting occasionally. When the vinegar is to your liking you can bottle it.