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Mar 4, 2003 06:14 PM

Making Vinegar: Vinegar Mothers...

  • t

I just got a small amount of very good vinegar mother (culture) given to me. (Supposedly it's originally from Provence a generation or so ago and can take straight berry juice all the way from juice... to alcohol... to vinegar.) It makes an incredibly good red wine vinegar.

I have read everything about making homemade vinegar and vinegar mothers and there is a lot of conflicting information.

What are your experiences with making vinegar from scratch from red and white wine, cider, sherry, port, etc. (mead and beer?... I have some old batches of over the hill mead and beer that I am thinking of playing with eventually.)


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  1. I only have experience with red wine. I have a bottle of decent red wine vinegar that "gave up" its mother when it was about 2/3 empty. I keep adding unused red wine to it and letting it sit for a few months before bringing it back into circulation. It's very good red wine vinegar; it never occurred to me to add something else. I'll have to siphon off a bit and add some sherry.

    For anyone that doesn't know what we're talking about, the "mother" is that filmy scum that develops in a decent bottle of vinegar after a while. For heavens sake, don't throw it out -- it's not spoiled! Put it to use and add (if nothing else) some leftover red wine.

    BTW, Rogue, you've been noticeably absent here...welcome back (ish)!

    7 Replies
    1. re: GG Mora

      I introduced the mother to two bottles of shiraz and some shery vinegar to keep the bad bugs at bay... then I guess I will mate the mother to some white wine and other stuffs after she puts on some weight...

      GG... Thanks for the welcome back. I spent the past 3 months living and working on a grass fed dairy farm making raw milk artisinal cheeses and baking rustic breads by hand in an outdoor wood fired oven... (including at night in below zero temps... an amazing and fun experience) as well as all the farm chores associated with this including delivering calves knee deep in snow out in the middle of a blizzard... just got back in town and am now a city boy once again and on to the next food venture...

      1. re: the rogue

        Ah, you to post about your adventures? Where? How? Can ye train us now, mate?

        1. re: GG Mora

          well... I am not sure this is the right venue or how my tales should be posted... How would it be appropriate to tell of my adventures on a rural dairy farm making cheese and bread, etc...

          1. re: the rogue

            >>How would it be appropriate to tell of my adventures on a rural dairy farm making cheese and bread, etc...<<

            Either here on the General Topics Board or on the Not About Food Board. Sounds intriguing to me.

            1. re: Cpt. Wafers

              You can also present it as an article/special report elsewhere on the site.

              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                I will write it up... but to get back on topic... can SOMEONE give me that vinegar mother info... anyone? Please? LOL

        2. re: the rogue

          Was that with Jonathon White? Please tell us more.

      2. My first batch of red wine vinegar is sitting in a cupboard right now! The couple who taught me how to do it said it is fine to use the Charles Shaw $1.99 wine from Trader Joe's, so I used the Merlot (I think. Now I can't remember).
        Someone else suggested going to wineries and asking for their unfiltered dregs. That is supposed to make tasty red wine vinegar.

        1. Just googled this up. It's got a lot of useful info on the subject.


          1. I maintain a web site on making wine vinegar. It includes photos of the wonderous goo as well as a description of the process I went through making my first batch. That was 12 years ago. I still maintain that crock of red wine vinegar today. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have as you delve into making vinegar.


            1. For my birthday last year, my wonderful husband got me some red vinegar mother from a cheese store near us who got theres from France. I put it into a vinegar crock purchased at Sur La Table---white crockery with a spigot.

              Then I hunted around for a good place to put the crock. Impatient person that I am, I ended up putting it on top of our stove near the pilot light [an ancient O'Keefe & Merrick] because it was very warm and I thought that would speed up the process. NOTE: the crock I bought has a little stand. If I had set the crock directly on the pilot, I would have cooked the mother.

              Vinegar production was pretty rapid and tasty except that its hard to find wine to add to the pot--we tend to drink ours. My understanding from reading is that the quality of the vinegar is directly affected by the quality of the wine. In other words, no TJ's Charles Shaw for our pot. I have also read that you shouldn't mix types of wine and that there are different mothers for different types of vinegar.

              I would say that I've had two basic problems. First, if I kept the lid on the crock, the oxygen level got too low and the vinegar started smelling like acetone [nail polish remover]. I have read that is not a good thing for the mother so I started draining a bit each day and pouring it back in to the top. Then I eventually covered the top with cheesecloth [to keep out the flies] and set the lid on loosely.

              Which leads to my second problem: expansion of mother to such an extent that the spigot on my crock became clogged and useless.

              Now I have a new problem in that the spigot leaks dreadfully. I think the problem is that the cork that lines the spigot has been "eatten" by the acid in the vinegar [I've had that happen with bottles of vinegar that have sat around too long.]. So I guess I need a new spigot.

              Last of all: what the heck do you do with all the mother? I mean this stuff could take over a city and unfortunately we're the only people we know with any interest in vinegar mothers. We were wondering if you can freeze it---in case something happens to the original-- and bring it out as needed. I know you can slow down sourdough starter and keep it by putting it in the freezer or even drying it but what about mother? Is she destined for the garbage. . . what happens if I add her to the compost?

              4 Replies
              1. re: jenn


                I'll bet that if you made a quart of vinegar from TJ's Two Buck Chuck and a quart with a $30 Rhone or $100 Cal Cab, you'd not be able to tell the difference. Use your extra mother for the test.


                If you mean mixing whites with reds that's what I've been told too but others I know have tried it with good results. All different kinds of reds go into my red crock - burgundy, Rhones, cab, zinfandels...


                You must let the mother breathe. If it smells of acetone you really should throw it out and start over. My experience has been that you will never get rid of that smell and taste.


                Spigots are useless for vinegar crocks for that very reason. Just use a regular crock or gallon glass wide mouth jar. Don't let your mother get that big. Give some away of throw it out. I've put mine in the compost with no ill effects.


                I don't know. You might consider getting it out of that warm place to slow down your production. Remember, the liquid in the crock is full of the bacteria which will make mother. You don't actually need all that goo to have a healthy crock.

                I hope you have continued success.

                1. re: Zinfanette

                  hey, I found your website this past weekend while I was looking for a place to buy a replacement spigot. its a neat website!

                  re: cheap wine in---all I know is that several of the articles etc that I read said that the quality of the vinegar coming out depended on the quality of the wine going in. that said, i like the idea of taking the leftover mother and putting it in the 2buck chuck. that will answer the question about freezing the mother since my husband tossed it into the freezer. now if I can just persuade him to let me put another crock in the kitchen . . .

                  one last question: how do you get the vinegar out of the crock without the spigot? all of my ladles are metal and its my understanding again that use of metal with the vinegar mother can affect the taste?

                  1. re: jenn

                    >>>>>one last question: how do you get the vinegar out of the crock without the spigot? all of my ladles are metal and its my understanding again that use of metal with the vinegar mother can affect the taste?

                    Using a stainless steel ladle to remove vinegar will in no way harm it. But you should not let vinegar *stay* in contact with metal. If you are uncomfortable using stainless, try a ceramic mug or simply pick up the crock and pour what you need into a glass/ceramic bowl. I pour/ladle everything into a 4 cup glass measuring cup and filter the vinegar into another glass container before I give it a good boil to stop the mother from growing after it's bottled.

                    Thanks for stopping by my site!

                    1. re: zinfanette
                      Judith Dodenhoff

                      Last fall I made some red wine in gallon glass jars and it was great! However, the batch of fresh grapes and sugar that went into the eight gallon crock turned into a very nice red wine vinegar. What do I do with it. There's approximately 3-4 gallons of vinegar. Should I bring it to 200 degrees and bottle it in quart jars or just throw it away? Please help!