The morning after the Christmas party is when you noticed all the leftover wine. The realist in you insists that it will still be good for another few hours – maybe a day or two in the fridge – but the pounding in your head suggests that it will go bad before you drink it.
For the sake of your head, let’s make some vinegar out of it.
You can do this with wine or beer, but I’ve read that hoppy beer makes really bitter vinegar and some of the weaker beers don’t get sour enough, so I’m going to skip the malt (beer) vinegar experiment and make it out of leftover wine instead.
I’ve used only red wine for this project, but white wine can be mixed in or made individually with the same process. The first batch takes the longest. After this, you’ll be able to make additional vinegar batches pretty quickly as long as you keep the vinegar pot full.
I’d recommend you meditate on these points before you begin:
- How much do you want to know about vinegar?
- Are you prepared to bore people with words like “mother” and “acetobacter”?
- The area near where you make this will smell like vinegar for at least a month. Do you have enough ventilation and understanding from your housemates?
- You’re about to make a bottle of wine’s worth of vinegar. Are you prepared to eat vinegar on everything?
- You may even have more than you can use and may want to give some away. Will your friends think you’re weird for making vinegar?
Buy some vinegar that’s labeled “raw.” Look for the word “mother” on the label. I bought a small bottle of Bragg’s vinegar at the local gourmet grocery store. You can buy it on Amazon here.
- Pour the wine and a few ounces of raw vinegar into a clean container of some sort. Purists insist on glass or crockery, but I used a PETE plastic jug with no problems.
- Cover it up with a paper towel to keep the bugs and dirt out.
- Put it in a cool, dark area where the smell won’t bother anyone and you won’t be tempted to screw around with it. I covered mine with a towel and stashed it in a box in the garage.
- Set an alert on your phone to remind you to check on your vinegar one month from the day you mixed it up.
- After a month, check your vinegar jug. Does it have some sort of slime floating on the top? Good! That means it’s fermenting.
- Taste your vinegar. If you like it, it’s done. If you want it more acidic, wait until the slime sinks to the bottom.
- Pour this vinegar into a bottle through a funnel with a coffee filter. This will filter out the slime and sediment and leave you with fresh vinegar. If you save the slime, you can add it to your next batch for a head start on the next round of fermentation.
- That’s it! You have vinegar!
Note that this vinegar is still active, so it might start growing on you again if you leave the cap off of it. If you want to stop this fermentation, heat it on the stove to 160°F for a minute, which will kill the bacteria.
Vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite. Because of its acidic nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration.
A word of caution: While homemade vinegar can be good for dressing salads and general purpose usage, its acidity may not be adequate for safe use in pickling and canning. Unless you are certain the acidity is at least four percent, don’t pickle or can with it. Enjoy!