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Foods -- General

Can I make vinegar at home?

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Vinegar can be made at home but when you see the process below, you will probably feel that this is not practical. In any case, homemade vinegar should not be used in pickling since it is probably of unknown acidity. Use homemade vinegars in salad dressings, marinades, or sauces. The vinegar making process (from fruit juices) requires two fermentation stages. In the first fermentation, sugar from the fruit juice is converted to alcohol using wine yeast. Letting the juice ferment with natural airborne yeast may result in a spoiled product. This stage requires 5-8 weeks. It is complete when the yeast settles to the bottom of the container and no more gas bubbles emerge. The alcoholic liquid is decanted off and transferred to the vinegar containers for the second fermentation. In this fermentation, vinegar bacteria convert alcohol to acetic acid (the acid of vinegar). This fermentation requires air, so half-filled barrels are placed on their sides to obtain maximum air circulation. This fermentation is complete in 6-9 months. The second fermentation is accomplished with added bacteria, too since the product could be lost if the wrong bacteria are present. A 1936 USDA publication, Making Vinegar in the Home and on the Farm, gives instructions for a quicker home method if someone still wants to do it the "old fashioned way."

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, and Carolyn J. Lackey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., Professor/Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Carolina State University (August 2004)

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