How to Make Homemade Fruit Vinegars (Artisan, Healthy, Raw, Gourmet, and EASY Vinegar Directions)
The fruit has been coming ripe since June! Cherries, strawberries, and now grapes. Soon we'll be adding tons of apples, pears, and plums. Elderberries are almost here too! And I understand the huckleberries are about ready to come on as well. Being new to Idaho, I am especially excited about the huckleberries and elderberries! BUT, what do you do with a lot of fruit? I mean, there are pounds and pounds and pounds.
There are many ways to use and preserve fruit harvests, but one of my favorites is fermentation. You've heard me talk about the benefits of fermentation, myths about fermentation, and the fact that fermented, raw foods are SO good for you. So, why not use fruit to make raw fruit vinegar?
So, I set out to read some books and articles online. I was a bit confused, I'll be honest, because there are nuances and differences in all of them. And then I asked some of my homesteading friends. Same thing. Some did one thing, and others had other strategies. So, I took what made sense based on others' experiences. And I did a couple of experiments along the way too.
Here's how to make excellent raw fermented fruit vinegar. These vinegars are wonderful for gifting during the holidays, using in dressings, marinating meat, vegetables, and mushrooms for grilling, and using in all kinds of cooking and recipes. That's because the taste of the fruit involved (plus the lovely colors) shine through the acidity.
These pictures and directions I'll share with you come from our cherry and strawberry harvest at the end of June. I just taste tested the vinegars this morning---Perfect! I need to get an acid test kit, but I would estimate they are hovering well around the 5% acidity of most good vinegars.
For these vinegars, I used strawberries for one bottle, cherries for another, and in a third, I left the fruit in the vinegar processing til the very end. Here's how everything went.
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The Basic Chemistry in Making Raw Fruit Vinegars
In order for fermentation to take place, you'll need some yeast. You don't need to add yeast to your homemade vinegar, though, especially if you are using raw organic produce. That's because this produce already has a yeast coating.
Have you ever noticed that whitish film on most untreated and organic fruits? That's wild yeast!
Yeast interacts with the sugars, both added and in the fruit naturally, to create alcohol. Then a bacteria force comes into play! The bacteria interact with the alcohol to create acetic acid. This is when vinegar is created.
That sour taste and smell comes from the acetic acid, and that is what makes vinegar...vinegar!
Health Benefits of Raw Fruit Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar has a long history of health claims, but so do other raw fruit vinegars! Hippocrates, as far back as Ancient Greek times, used and recommended vinegars for health.
Here are some of the health benefits (of apple cider vinegar), however, keep in mind, many of these are anecdotal and not based on clinical research:
May help regulate blood sugar
May help with healthy weight loss and obesity--and may even help reduce belly fat
May help with digestive processes
May help with gut health
Kills many forms of harmful bacterias
Some feel it helps with heart health and lowering cholesterol
There are some who even tout raw vinegar as having the potential to prevent cancers
How to Make Homemade Vinegar from Fruit
I like to make things as easy and simple as possible when I do things. Time is of the essence, after all. And I'll be honest: I'm a bit lazy in the kitchen. Pitting, peeling, etc. are tasks I really wish I had some help with around here. So here are my easy and simple directions for making fruit vinegar--I don't think you'll find an easier set of directions!
NOTE: This set of directions is to make a half-gallon batch of vinegar. I like to use half-gallon Mason Jars. If you are using a quart Mason jar, just adjust the recipe for the smaller jar--or likewise, a gallon or more.
What You'll Need to Make Your Raw Homemade Fruit Vinegar
** Organic cane sugar. You could use honey, if you prefer, too.
** A bit of raw fruit vinegar to kick start the fermentation process. This isn't absolutely necessary, but I like to use about 1/2 cup to a half-gallon jar. If you don't have any, you can use Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother). Or--just go without it.
** Cheesecloth or paper towel and a rubber band.
1) Wash and Remove the Pits and Stems (If You Want)
Vinegar is one of those things you can make that you don't need to worry much about. In fact, if you just mash up your fruit, you could actually get away with leaving the pits and stems on the fruit. Did I mention? I'm a bit lazy in the kitchen.
In fact, if you take a look at my raw apple cider vinegar directions and recipe, you'll see that all the apple scraps left over from the preserves are what I used to make the vinegar.
2) Put the Fruit/Scraps/Bits Into Your Mason Jar
Fill a half-gallon Mason jar about 1/3 to 1/2 full of the fruit and scraps.
3) Add Your Sugar
Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of organic sugar, per half gallon jar, and fill with water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Cover with a cloth or cheesecloth and rubber band. You want air circulating as your vinegar ferments. This is an aerobic (requiring oxygen) type of fermentation.
5) Stir Daily, Week One
For the first week or two, you'll want to give your fermenting vinegar a stir or two every day or at least every other day. You may find your fruit floats to the top, and that's just fine. But you don't want mold to form, and stirring helps prevent this.
Also, you may notice a "cap" starting to form with the fruit on top. This is kind of like the SCOBY on a kombucha ferment (but it's not the same as a SCOBY).
You want to break this up for the first week or two to be sure the ferment has a chance to stay oxygenated and the natural yeasts on the fruit to work.
6) Week Two and Three
For the second to third week, just stir occasionally as you remember. If you forget, it's no biggie, but stirring doesn't hurt, either.
After the second or third week, strain the liquid into a clean jar without the fruit. Cover with a plastic lid (metal lids will corrode due to the acids), and continue the process of creating vinegar. This should take a month to perhaps even four months depending on the sweetness of the fruit and conditions in your home.
You'll want to cover your vinegar at this point because it no longer requires oxygen to do its job. You may also notice a "cap" or "mother" forming on top. No worries! Just leave it alone. It's ok and in my experience helps the vinegar process.
NOTE: One of the experiments I did this time was NOT strain the fruit out and let the vinegar go for the full time with the fruit in the mix. This didn't turn out that great, I can tell you. It was ok, but there was a kind of "musty" taste that the strained vinegar didn't have.
8) Taste Test
I tested my vinegar after nearly two months, and it was definitely vinegar! Perfect! And the fruity taste just shined right through.
I strained and bottled it again. This time I used a Grolsch bottle because I think they are so pretty.
NOTE: If you notice another "mother" or cap forming on your vinegar after bottling it into a narrow mouth bottle, just shake it gently to break it up. If you've ever bought Bragg's, then you've likely seen the mother floating around the bottom. Sometimes it's just bits but it's there.
Ways to Use Your Vinegar
You might be wondering how to use your homemade vinegar? Well---there are tons of ways to use this lovely vinegar! In fact, any way you use "typical" vinegar, you can likely do with this vinegar too. Here are some ideas for you:
1) Vinegar Reductions
A reduction is when you take a good quantity of vinegar and heat it on very very low. As the liquid evaporates, the solids are left, leaving you with a wonderful glaze. This is a very common thing to do with balsamic vinegar, but you can also use your fruit vinegar this way too.
Isn't it wonderful to receive an attractive bottle of something homemade? Well, your fruit vinegar is perfect for bottling into fancy bottles and giving as gifts! Last year I gave away bottles of Homemade Vanilla Extract---they were a hit!
3) Salad Dressings, Dips, and Sauces
You can use this vinegar as a substitute in any recipe calling for vinegar! If you want to put your own fruity flair into a particular sauce or condiment, like this recipe for homemade ketchup, you sure can! I use ACV in that recipe, but I think any other fruit vinegar would be wonderful too!
4) Use in Marinades
Many recipes and marinades call for vinegar. Try making your marinade with this fruit vinegar and see how that goes!
5) Best of All: Drink Your Vinegar
Yep. Adding your raw fruit vinegar to water is excellent for your gut health. It also has all the health benefits (maybe even more) touted by the apple cider vinegar industry. Drinking a bit of vinegar every day may:
improve gut health
help with weight loss
boosts the immune system
regulate your digestive system
promotes healthy cholesterol levels
Final Thoughts on Making Your Own Vinegar from Your Fruit Harvest
Finding ways to use all the fruit from your harvest can be challenging....and busy. But making fruit vinegar to use throughout the year is a wonderful preservation option! And it's full of health benefits too.
Plus, when you make your own vinegar, you are saving you and your family from the toxins and chemicals often added to commercial "cheaper" vinegars. Things they don't even tell us about. I'm serious.
This is the first year we have so much fruit to do things with besides making jams and pastries. I'm loving making enough vinegar to last a year. That's my goal. Guess what I'll be doing with a good amount of the pears, plums, and apples that are coming right up?
Do you make your own vinegar? I'd love to hear your experiences, if you do. And if you have any questions, just let me know in the comments!
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Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and in no manner, stated or implied is any statement in this article or elsewhere in my work, meant to treat, prevent, diagnose, or cure any disease. Please seek advice from your physician. I only make opinions based on my own personal experiences. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.