When I teach fermentation workshops, I often get asked about apple cider vinegar - is the mother in it healthy (yes), can I use that as a scoby for kombucha (no), or why is it so dang expensive? (the reality just is that we currently pay a higher price for high quality foods!)
I'm going to share with you the two ways I have made my own apple cider vinegar, and this way I no longer have to rely on $13 bottles of it from the health food/grocery store.
That independence feels good! I also know its healthy, raw, and safe to use because its done the traditional way. Two easy ways are listed below.
EASY WAY TO MAKE APPLE CIDER VINEGAR #1:
Making raw apple cider vinegar is a pretty simple process. I don’t give exact ratios of ingredients - you’ll have to just use what you have and fit it to the recipe!
A large, glass jar (half gallon mason jars work well)
Cheese cloth + an elastic band to secure over the jar
A glass weight (used to hold the apples below the surface of the water)
Organic apples (whole, peels or core pieces all work, Ambrosia’s are my favourite!)
Clean, filtered water
Raw cane sugar (about 2-3 tbsp. for each half-gallon jar )
Step 1 – Prep
Clean the apples, utensils, jar and surface area that you’re working on so you don’t introduce any bad bacteria into the fermenting process, as it will spoil your ACV. Wipe everything down in a mix of warm water & white vinegar. Clean your (local, Okanagan) apples in a sink full of cold water and get off any dirt. Dice it to small, half-inch pieces.
Step 2 – Assemble
Fill your jar 3/4 full of clean, diced apples. Cover them with water and sprinkle with the sugar. The sugar will act as food for the beneficial bacteria which will help move the fermentation process along. (You can also make it without sugar, and instead used a 1/2 cup of ACV as a “starter” which works, too!)
Submerge the apples below the surface of the water. You’ll need to use a weight to prevent the apples from floating to the surface. Many people use a clean zip-lock bag filled with water or a yogurt or sour cream container, cut to size and then held down with a sterilized rock. Again, you may have to get creative. If there are pieces of apples left exposed to the surface air, they may mold which will spoil your ACV. Similar to sauerkraut making, the most important part is that the (local, organic) apples stay in the brine you've created.
Cover the jar with a doubled-up piece of cheese cloth, and secure it with an elastic band to keep fruit flies out.
Step 3 – Wait
Store your soon-to-be ACV in a room-temperature environment, away from direct sunlight (like in your pantry, or tucked away in an undisturbed corner of your kitchen) and leave it to ferment for 4 weeks. If the room is cooler then “room temperature” (about 70°F) then your ACV will take longer to ferment.
In about 3 days you should see little bubbles forming – this means it’s working!
Check on the ACV every few days to ensure that the apples are still submerged. It should smell sweet in the beginning, and then eventually start to smell more and more sour.
Step 4 – Strain & Store
Something similar to a kombucha “mother” may form on the top, which is great – you can use it as a starter culture for your next batch of ACV, if you like. Simply store it in a small jar with some ACV, like you would your kombucha mother.
After about 4 weeks, it should be ready to strain. Use a cheese cloth to squeeze out, and break down, as much of the apple as you can. Pour the liquid back into the jar, cover again with the cheese cloth, and leave it to ferment for another 2-3 weeks, stirring every few days.
Once it has developed the taste that you desire, you can now bottle it, seal it with a lid and start to use it.
Many different traditions calls for raw apple cider vinegar daily to aid in the treatment of many ailments - even Hippocrates prescribed vinegar as a remedy. Some schools of thought believe that apple cider vinegar is the closest we may ever get to a Fountain of Youth-like universal remedy.
Hippocrates, known as the Father of Medicine, is seen as the founder of medicine as rational science. Hippocrates collected data and conducted experiments to show that disease was a natural process; that the signs and symptoms of a disease were caused by the natural reactions of the body to the disease process; and that the main role of the physician was to aid the natural resistance of the body to overcome the metabolic imbalance and restore health and harmony to the organism.
Hippocrates had a holistic view of medicine, healing and the body, prescribing exercise, living foods, massage and other preventative measures to build up the bodies' constitution and strength. Living, fermented foods tie a link from 'way back when' in those days, to modern life now. Mostly when we think of fermented foods we know of wine, beer, cider... but there are many foods coming to our attention now that offer healing probiotics in food form like sauerkraut, raw pickles or miso.
Fermented fruits and their fruit juice will spontaneously ferment into mostly alcohol rather than the typical lactic acid in ferments such as kombucha or sauerkraut, unless mixed with vegetables. Fermenting with both fruits and vegetables yields both yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. The most well-known being sauerkraut with apples and caraway seeds, a German classic. Mmmm.
Fruit ferments can be cultured (started) with whey, sauerkraut/kimchi juice or even kombucha. Let your imagination run wild, that freedom is really the best part about fermenting. You can take any raw fruit, add live bacteria (starter, as above) and ferment covered, just be sure to release pressure in jars because with the fruit sugar the CO2 builds up!
Fermenting fruits this way is not at all like canning. In fact lacto-fermented foods are basically the opposite of canning, but with the same common goal being to store/preserve the food. But canning kills bacteria, which is smart for long-term storage, however when we ferment food we are trying to GROW bacteria. These bacteria give our ferments a vinegar scent and flavour, meaning lactic acid is there and that protects our food from harmful bacteria getting in. In this way we still get the food preserved, but we also get a lot more health benefits, all the living bacteria that feed our intestinal tract. Kombucha is a great way to get the benefits of living food in an easy-to-drink format.
If you're curious to learn more about apple cider vinegar specifically, here is more on the vinegar from Dr. Mercola.
EASY WAY TO MAKE APPLE CIDER VINEGAR #2:
Spontaneous cider vinegar. Old-school method.
Juice (local Okanagan) organic apples. Leave juice at room temperature in a wide-mouth bowl. Cover with a tea towel to keep flies out but give yeast access to the brew.
Wait for 5 days - taste it. It should smell slightly alcoholic. (It's cider now.)
Get this: It mixes with yeasts in the air to create a fermented drink.
Leave on the counter for a couple more weeks, and when it starts to smell like vinegar transfer to the jar or bottle you'd like to store it in. It does not need to be refrigerated.
It's really that easy!
You can take a teaspoon every day in the morning with water, or with meals... its' also great to add in to salad dressings.