Making Raw Apple Cider Vinegar


Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is a staple in my kitchen because of its hundreds of uses internally + externally for the body and around the house. I will do another post soon on detailed uses of vinegars for our health and home. For instance, throughout the fall and winter, I make tonics with my homemade vinegars (recipes to follow shortly, but the first step is making vinegar!).

In the United States, Bragg’s is an easy-to-find brand of raw apple cider vinegar with the “Mother” or Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY), a complex structure of beneficial acids and enzymes that are the source of vinegar's magic. You want raw vinegar for its myriad of beneficial properties which pasteurized vinegars do not have (what’s the point of pasteurized vinegar anyway?!).

In France, there isn’t a comparable brand of raw ACV that's easy to find so making your own is a fantastic solution. And if you get to the point where you are using a lot of vinegar, buying commercial ACV will become very expansive. Below is a formula for making your own vinegar. It’s easy, I promise. Once you get going you’ll be on your way to vinegar abundance and even closer to self-sufficiency.

Without further ado…

If you already have a SCOBY - hurray! If not, and you are in the Paris area, I can give you one. Otherwise, you can use a raw cider vinegar with the “Mother” present as a substitute. Eventually SCOBYs will form and you can use them to start future batches.

pressing apples

pressing apples

1.    Find raw organic apple cider from a local orchard or press your own with a juicer. You need raw cider as it contains organisms and enzymes necessary to turn into vinegar. Pasteurized cider will not ferment, instead it will develop mold and other unwanteds. 2 kilos of apples will make about 1 liter of cider, select a variety of different apples for complexity and leave the skin on when you press them – there is yeast on the skin that is required for fermentation.

2.    Use a glass canning jar(s) with a wide-mouth. Add your SCOBY + a splash of raw ACV (to help it along), to the raw apple cider you bought or pressed. Leave about an inch of room from the top of the jar. If you don’t already have a SCOBY you can use more raw apple cider vinegar but you need to make sure it has the “Mother”. You can use the Bragg’s brand, for instance, or any other raw cider vinegar with the “Mother” that’s bought or given to you. If you are not using a SCOBY to kick start your vinegar ferment, it will take longer, but that’s ok!

3.    Cover the jar with a cotton napkin, t-shirt, handkerchief or cheese cloth, and fasten around the jar with a rubber band. This is so bugs stay out of your ferment but allows air to circulate.

4.    Place in dark cabinet, on top of a towel in case there is overflow, for 4-8 weeks. You will notice bubbles rising to the top during the first few weeks.

Placing a Scoby into a fresh raw batch of cider

Placing a Scoby into a fresh raw batch of cider

5.    Taste test after 4 weeks. Is it sour? Has a new SCOBY formed? These are all good signs.

6.    Once the SCOBY has dropped to the bottom of the jar and a new baby SCOBY has formed and covers the top of the jar, your ACV is basically ready.

7.    Taste your ACV again. Does it taste like you expect it to? It should taste sour (but not metallic or bitter). ACV will also mellow with age.

8.    Save your SCOBY in a glass jar, covered with 1/2 inch of the vinegar.  Keep it in the fridge for your next batch, or start a new batch with it right away.

9.    Now pour off your new vinegar from your fermenting jars into glass bottles and cap. Leave the sludge in the bottom of the jars, along with any poorly formed SCOBYs touse for your next batch.  Vinegar contains acetic acid, in the same family as acetone, so it’s sterile anyway.

Similar to wine and other ferments, the vinegar will improve in flavor if you let it age a few months.  Some of the harshness will be removed in the aging process and the flavor will get smoother.  But you can use it right away, without aging if you want to.

Once you have a good tasting apple cider vinegar, save the SCOBY in a glass jar, moistened with vinegar, and place in the fridge for storage, or use it right way for your next batch.