A couple of years back when I bought a farm and was going to turn it into an inn I was obsessed with making everything from scratch. It was a serious back-to-the-land itch that I scratched as much as possible. I learned how to make mustard, mayonnaise, canned vegetables, fruits, made pickles of all sorts and even aspired to making country wine (dandelion was my choice – it didn’t work out). But my favorite venture was learning how to make cider vinegar. I had a few apples trees that provided just enough juice to create cider vinegar. I added some raw cider vinegar to the existing juice and let it work its magic. It was so easy it almost felt like a let down.
When I moved to California and found that red wine becomes vinegar faster than you can say 49iners, I realized there was a reason that red wine vinegar was the vinegar of choice in Mediterranean recipes (and why apple cider vinegar is so prevalent in northern climate dishes since apples grow so well in colder weather). I’ve been making it ever since, and pass it along to anyone who will take a bottle off my hands.
The classic use of red wine vinegar is in vinaigrette, specifically with shallots, Dijon mustard and olive oil, salt and pepper. But I also love to sprinkle it on grilled vegetables, or add it to lentil soup. White wine goes to vinegar more slowly, but it is the perfect vinegar to use for making herb vinegars, with tarragon being the most common.
There is no need for a recipe here. Making vinegar is simple; you add a starter if you know someone with some already fermenting wine vinegar. But don’t let the search for a “starter” stump you. All you need to start your own culture is to add a couple of tablespoons of raw cider vinegar to wine and cover the opening with a cloth or cheesecloth to keep out the fruit flies. It works especially well in the heat of summer and it will go to vinegar within a couple of weeks. Homebrewed wine vinegar is much stronger vinegar than that which you find in the stores, which is thinned with water. I love how strong and thick my homebrew is and if you are really particular, you can be specific about which wine you want to turn to vinegar. For my part, I just add leftover wine that did not get drunk in time!
Recipes currently inspiring me: