Red wine vinegar is one of my favorite pantry staples. Growing up, my mom often used a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette to dress our salads. This is usually how dinner would end- with a simple lettuce salad tossed with vinaigrette. I can’t say these were my favorite when I was young, but I quickly grew to appreciate the refreshing ritual of ending a meal this way. Plus, I fell totally in love with red wine vinegar.
When I moved out of the house, I soon began identifying as a “foodie.” This made me think that I had to buy my red wine vinegar at gourmet food stores. I generally don’t mind paying a little more for quality, especially if it’s something that will last a long time in my pantry and that we will enjoy many times. However, anytime there is something that I can DIY, I am all over it! Turns out, red wine vinegar is quite easy to make and the results of my first batch were wonderful.
It helped that, for my birthday, my parents gave me a beautiful vinegar crock from Clay Coyote. The crock is definitely useful, but you can make vinegar without buying a special vessel for it. A large glass ice tea jar covered with cheese cloth will probably work, as long as you keep it in a dark place.
In my research for how to make vinegar, I found a wonderful article from Sunset magazine that outlines the ingredients and steps for making red wine vinegar.
Really, there’s no reason for me to go through the steps here since you can just follow the guide provided by Sunset. I’ll just add this- once you get past the initial stage of starting your mother culture, you can be pretty lax about when to add more wine. Maybe that isn’t “good vinegar mothering” advice, but mine seems to be doing fine, even though I don’t necessarily add more wine every week. I follow the vinegar’s lead. If I can smell the vinegar while I’m washing dishes (the crock is right next to the kitchen sink), I know it’s time to add more wine (or ready to be bottled). Before bottling, I just taste to make sure it’s vinegary enough for me. Then, I boil some old vinegar bottles that I saved from store-bought vinegar, let them cool, and bottle my vinegar.
By the way, other reasons to make your own vinegar (other than it being really cool to DIY!) are the health benefits you get from the probiotics. Just like yogurt, unpasteurized vinegar has good bacteria in it. To read more about that, check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s full of information on the benefits of fermented foods, plus tons of recipes.