This, for me, is a free product. It’s something that can be made out of windfall apples, the apples on your neighbor’s tree that they run over with the mower, or cart to the dump, or crab apples. It’s incredibly simple, and a lazy product to make – you simply leave it alone for most of the time it’s working. Here’s how you do it.
Get a bunch of free apples. Take the ones that no-one wants. Sometimes orchards have cast-offs, inquire!
Put them in your food processor and chop, stems, seeds and all. (It’s a lot like the pectin, excepting that you can use any part of the apple.)
Put the chopped product into a non-reactive pot (stainless, enameled, etc) and boil for 30 minutes. Your house will smell really, really good, like applesauce! This step kills any bacteria that the apples have on them naturally and allows for colonization of the bacteria that will make the vinegar.
When done, put the lid on and put it aside, in a warm spot for 10 days to two weeks.
This next step is gross but essential: We want the fruit flies to get at it. Not loads of them, but they carry the bacteria that make the vinegar. Let them in.
After 10 days to two weeks, open the pot up and strain the solids out; I use a metal strainer and then put it thru cheesecloth. It will still have some solids in it – this is ok, this is what will become the “mother”. At this point, the product will taste like slightly “off” apple juice.
Cover with cheese cloth and top with the lid – don’t screw the lid on, we want the gasses to escape. This is just to prevent debris to fall in.
Take to a warm location and let sit for 6-8 months.
Take it out after that and look – it may have some scum or a little mold on the top. Skim that off and keep it.
That skimmed product is the “mother” – this is a bacterial colony growth that is kind of like a mushroom, but which happens in liquids. (You can save this in your fridge for future vinegars, you don’t always have to grow it from scratch – cut it up and share around!) If you ever joined the Kombucha craze in the early ’90’s, this is the same type of thing growing in that esteemed drink.
Taste your vinegar. It will probably be much stronger than you are used to. Dilute or use with care – it’s a lot tastier than store bought!