Thursday, October 24, 2013

What to do with those Bad Apples, Make Apple Cider Vinegar

It's Fall and if you have some extra apples that are just beyond eating, it's time to make Apple Cider Vinegar

When Fall comes around I start asking locals for their "not so good" apples left in the trees or on the ground.  Apples that no one would eat because of bruises and worm holes, but they are still good for livestock.  I feed them to my Chickens, Alpaca's and Mini Donkey as treats, but there is always enough left over to make some Apple Cider Vinegar.  There are still plenty of folks around here that don't use any pesticides on their apple trees and let nature take care of their trees, so they are very organic even without the "Organic" label.

To make Apple Cider Vinegar you don't need perfect apples, in fact, the older the apple the better vinegar it will make.  You don't want to use apples that have turned to mush, you want to use the ones that are just past the eating stage.  A bit soft is ok, but not mushy.  Fall apples make the best vinegar because they are higher in natural sugars than one's you get from your local supermarket any other time of the year. 

Here's what you need:

Apples -  ANY KIND  Today I am using a combination on Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious.  Use any apples you have, but the sweeter varieties will work the best. You can use the whole apple or just the peels and cores of apples you have eaten.
Glass Container - mason jars, glass bowls or any other glass container you can secure a mesh fabric around. Sterilize your glass containers in boiling water for 10 - 15 minutes.
Mesh Cover - You will need cheese cloth or any other material that will allow air to flow in and out, but keep bugs out.  I am using some left over pre-cut tulle I found in the wedding section in a craft store that I used for another project.
Starter - TOTALLY OPTIONAL. You do not need any starter, but if you have some left over mother from an earlier batch you can add a tablespoon or two to your new batch.  You can also use a tablespoon or two of sugar if you think your apples are sweet enough.  All the starter does is speed up the process. Here's a picture of some Mother from a previous batch.
Water -  Any water will do. 
A Dark Cabinet -  You will need to store your Apple Cider Vinegar in a cool dark place for at least 6 - 8 weeks while it is fermenting.

Cut up your apples any way you wish, I like to chop mine up into chunks so I can fit more into my jars.  Allow the apples to sit out in the air until they start to brown.
Stuff as many apples into your container as you can leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch of space above the apples so that the water will cover the apples.
Fill container with water
Add starter if you are using it
Cover with mesh fabric
Place in a dry, dark space
If you notice you are losing a lot of liquid during fermentation you can top off each container with some fresh water or apple juice. Unfiltered organic apple juice is the best choice.

That's it !

In a few days you will start to see some bubbling and foaming, don't panic, that is what it is supposed to do.  Fermenting has begun.  Leave your Apple Cider Vinegar to ferment for at least 6 weeks, you can ferment as long as you want, but it usually will take 6 - 8 weeks to get a good layer of "Mother".  You can start testing it around 4 weeks if you are looking for a weaker vinegar.  I like to ferment mine for at least 6 weeks.

After fermenting you can strain your vinegar through some fresh cheese cloth or any kind of mesh fabric and replace the fabric you used during fermentation with the mason jar lids.  If you used a glass container that doesn't have a lid, you should transfer to a glass container that can be sealed now.  I do not strain my vinegar, I like to keep the Mother in each jar.  Before I use it I shake it up real good to mix up the Mother and use as needed.

Remember to save the Mother !  It will speed up fermenting in your next batch.  When using the Mother as a starter, vinegar usually only takes 4 weeks to process.

Enjoying some sweet Fall Apples

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