If push comes to shove you can make your own vinegar at home from scratch. Vinegar will be useful commodity after the SHTF. But homemade vinegar isn't just for after the SHTF, many people believe homemade vinegar tastes better than bottled vinegar from the store and having the ability to customize the flavor with herbs and spices just to your liking could end up being a new fun hobby that will be a valuable tool in your SHTF arsenal of knowledge.
Why do you want/need vinegar? Here is a list of uses you might not know about to convince you that it is a skill worth having.
- Homemade Vinegar Battery
- Wipe skin with vinegar to neutralize Lye
- To prevent mildew, wipe down surfaces with vinegar
- Place a vinegar-soaked rag on sprains to ease pain
- Great cleaning agent
- Rub cider vinegar on your skin to repel insects
So exactly what is vinegar? Vinegar is a product of the fermentation of alcohol by bacteria to produce acetic acid. The acetic acid is what gives vinegar its tangy flavor and also the ingredient that makes vinegar useful for household cleaning. Since you want to use ethanol to make vinegar you can drink and use in recipes you will need one of the following sources of ethanol. Apple cider, other fruit cider, wine, rice wine, fermented sugar cane, beer, honey and water, whiskey and water or vegetable juice.
Mother of Vinegar
How to speed things up! Vinegar can be produced slowly from fruit juice or fermented juice or quickly by adding a culture called Mother of Vinegar to alcoholic liquid. Mother of Vinegar is a slimy, harmless substance consisting mostly of acetic acid bacteria and cellulose. You can purchase vinegar that contains it if you want to make homemade vinegar very quickly. Otherwise, it's easy to make vinegar more slowly without the culture. All vinegar you make will contain Mother of Vinegar and can be used to produce subsequent batches of vinegar in the future more quickly. Just as is done with yeast for bread makers.
Slow Method Homemade Vinegar
If you're starting from scratch and not using a culture to speed the fermentation of alcohol into vinegar, your best bet is to start with an ingredient that contains alcohol of no more than 10% and also without added sugar. Apple cider, wine, fermented fruit juice, or even old nasty beer make a great starting material. When using cider you can use fresh, takes a few weeks, or hard cider which takes considerably less time to produce the vinegar.
1. The most common way to make vinegar is to use tart apples, but most places aren't going to have apples so any fruits you collect will do. Wash and cut your fruit into tiny pieces, toss out nothing. Make a mush form the fruit pieces and strain it through a fine cloth. Now pour that liquid into a glass jar or maybe a homemade clay jar. Dark glass bottles are favored if using glass because they help block out light. Don't use plastic or metal containers. Fermentation requires darkness. So keep the liquid away from light sources. This is accomplished by putting the liquid in a light blocking jar or by keeping the jar itself out of the light. I few moments of light won't hurt, so don't worry about light when checking the progress.
2. The fermentation requires air so you can't seal up the container. But you don't want insects and dust getting in. So use jar with a layer or two of cloth over the top.
3. Store the container in a dark, warm place. You don't want cold weather stalling the process. You want a temperature of 60-80°F (15-26C). The warmer the temps the fast the fermentation. You can expect the process to take anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months. Yeah the accelerant is sounding pretty good now isn't it. The bacteria will turn the liquid cloudy and then form a skin layer on the top of liquid.
4. When checking on the progress avoid disturbing or stirring the mixture. After 3-4 weeks, test a small amount of the liquid to see if it has converted to vinegar. Smell the covered bottle. If the vinegar is ready, it should smell like strong vinegar. If the liquid in the jar passes the sniff test then unwrap the cloth covering and dip out just a little liquid, and taste it. If the vinegar passes the taste test, it's ready to be filtered and bottled. If you don't like the taste, replace the cheesecloth and allow the solution to ferment longer. Check every 5 days or maybe longer.
5. Now you're ready to filter and bottle your homemade vinegar. Filter the liquid through a coffee filter, cheesecloth or some other homemade fine filter material. Since you plan on doing this periodically keep the slimy crap that was floating in the jar for future culture speeder upper. Wallah, the liquid you collected after filtering is the home made vinegar.
6. Next step which isn't absolutely necessary is to boil the vinegar to kill the bacteria and boil of any alcohol if you don't want that. Unboiled vinegar will have a shorter shelf life and should be refrigerated, so yeeahhh. Boil it.
In a sealed jar unboiled vinegar may be stored sealed containers for months but only if refrigerated. When boiling bring the temperature to 170°F (77C) for about 5 to 10 minutes. Doing this will allow the vinegar to last for several months unrefrigerated.
You can look up how to flavor you vinegar online. As that is beyond the scope of this article and isn't needed for survival.