Monday, December 7, 2009

How I Killed My Mother: Autopsy of a Failed Vinegar

Last year, Foodgoat bought me supplies for making vinegar, including jars of mother of vinegar - slimy blobs of the acetic bacteria that turn alcohol into vinegar.

I put the mother, and some wine, into clean glass bottle, and was thought I was all set to have homemade vinegar in a matter of weeks.

Months later, that bottle of mother and wine now smells like ... wine.

It totally didn't work. There's no sign of vinegar.

What could have gone wrong? Here are the possibilities, any and all of which might have been contributing factors.

The suspects:
  1. Not enough mother: I didn't use all of the mother in the jar, I just used the gelatinous bits. But the active bacteria is also contained in the liquid vinegar parts as well. I might not have added enough bacteria to thrive.
  2. Too much wine: Not only did I not add a lot of mother, I dumped a whole bottle of wine in, which might have been too much. Too much alcohol might have smothered my poor mother.
  3. Sulfites: Wines today are treated with sulfites to preserve them, which is why you can't just let wine sit out and expect it to turn to wine. Before using wine to make vinegar, you need to aerate it enough to give the sulfites a chance to evaporate. I let it out a couple of hours, but that might not have been enough.
  4. Not enough air: Vinegar-making bacteria need oxygen, so you need to use a wide mouthed container. I used an old glass milk jug, which didn't have a particularly wide mouth.
  5. High acidity: Some recommend diluting the wine with water to reduce the acidity (although others don't). I didn't do that.
  6. Dead mother: The mother was mailed during the fierce snowstorm. It might have gotten too cold. Or I waited too long before using it.
I can't know for sure what exactly went wrong, but I have a lot of things to do differently for my next attempt at vinegar making.

1 comment:

  1. I should connect you with Brenda at vinesbrewfood.blogspot. She made a syrah vinegar for us last year. :)