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mother in my vinegar

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I purchased a bottle of lower-end champagne vinegar at a local Italian market a month or two ago. I used it once right away, and then it sat in the pantry until this week. I reached back into the dark depths of the small pantry to find a surprise floating in the glass bottle. It appeared to be an inch-thick layer of a semi-solid translucent substance. It looked very much like refrigerated animal fat. Now I know a little bit about vinegar production; I understand what the "mother of vinegar" does, that it's a body of bacteria, and that it is recycled for the next batch of vinegar. That's about all I know.

So, the most logical conclusion I can think of is that the substance in my champagne vinegar is a mother. Is it possible that a few bacteria wound up in my bottle and then their population took off when it met the darkness of my pantry? Or could this be some other parastitic population that I should be worried about? I *really* want to use some of that vinegar... and I'm kind of curious if I can use some of this "substance" to get started on my own homemade vinegar...

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  1. If it really IS a mother than yes you can use it to start other vinegars, add to wine of choice and wait. Does your vinegar smell like it did when you bought it?

    1. Takes a really hearty bug to survive vinegar. :) Smell/taste your vinegar and see if it still tastes ok. If so, then yes, it's a mother and you can do as dishchrista suggested, get some wine and pop it in there to make more wine vinegar. :)

      1. Yep, it smells fine. I think I'll make a vinaigrette tonight and if I'm still alive tomorrow I'll have to get started on my own homemade vinegars.

        I'm surprised though that some of the mother got into my bottle; it seems to be a mass produced and widely distributed brand. Has this occurred to anyone else?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Agent Orange

          Yes this has happened to me fairly often as well, usually in wine vinegars. I have not yet suffered any serious side effects, and the vinegars taste fine. But I try not to use the mother itself, just because it looks gross. Thanks for sharing, now I know what that stuff is.

          1. re: Agent Orange

            Yes, this has happened to me as well, both with basalmic and wine vinegars. It's my understanding that bits of the source mother were bottled with the vinegar, and started to grow again after the vinegar sat for a while. It actually is kind of refreshing, in the sense that you know the vinegar hasn't been tainted with chemicals and such, if the mother will live in it.

            1. re: DanaB

              Thanks for sharing your confirmations that this isn't such a freakish occurrence after all. I'll be doing some research on homemade vinegar and will have to report back on my progress.

              1. re: Agent Orange

                Here's a really good website on the topic, to get you started:

                http://www.gangofpour.com/diversions/...