How to Make Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
From magical health elixir to laundry deodorizer, apple cider vinegar is widely promised to be the cure for all of your ills. Which makes this a recipe for a miracle cure- I’ll let you decide the accuracy of those claims yourself, but I will teach you how to make homemade apple cider vinegar.Jump to Recipe
Introduction to Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar making is certainly not a new idea. The bible has plenty of references to vinegar and soured wines. This makes sense when you understand just how easy it is to make vinegar- it can even happen accidentally.
Vinegar is really just the end stage of the fermentation process. We’ll talk about how to get this fermentation process underway in just a minute.
You may be asking yourself, “why make your own vinegar when it’s so cheap at the store anyway?”
While my first response is one of values (knowing how to do things yourself is always of benefit) there are also less abstract reasons to make your own vinegars.
Homemade vinegars, unlike the basic store-bought variety, are still swimming in beneficial bacteria. These bacteria could be a boost to your own microbiome- ultimately helping your immune system, hormones, mood and more. (This Healthline article is a good overview)
Homemade vinegars are also more flavorful than a run of the mill “white vinegar” or “apple cider vinegar” you’d find at the grocery store. Due to your control over the ingredients, and the presence of the still-living bacteria- these vinegars can have hints and depths of flavor you probably wouldn’t attribute to a vinegar.
Finally, homemade vinegar is practically free- you’re turning fruit scraps into vinegar with just the addition of water and time (and maybe sugar). Free is cheaper than the cheap, store-bought, pasteurized vinegars. And it’s worlds less expensive than raw vinegars bought at the health food store.
For all of these reasons, and more, I highly recommend learning how to make homemade apple cider vinegar (and all other sorts of vinegars for that matter).
In the kitchen and around the home vinegar is a godsend.
I use more vinegar for cleaning than anything else, and it’s wonderful in that capacity. Added to laundry, it can help soften fabrics and neutralize odors. Added to my mopping solution, it helps clean floors in much the same way.
When cooking, I add splashes of vinegar to this and that without a second thought. A little bit in rice, a splash in soups and stews, as a boost to broth when boiling down bones, or as a little kick in a homemade barbecue sauce or slow cooker roast. My favorite (relatively recent) discovery has been that vinegar will help to lessen the strong, “gamey” flavor that sometimes occurs when butchering mature rams. A splash of vinegar added to the ground meat cuts down on this effect significantly.
Ingredients for Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
Fortunately, the ingredients list for homemade vinegar is not only a very short list, it’s also an inexpensive one.
This homemade apple cider vinegar is formed when bacteria ferment fruit in water. To make vinegar then, we need fruit (in this case apple scraps), water, and bacteria. (You can use the cores, peels, etc. leftover from making this Apple Crisp!)
Water and apple scraps are easy enough to find, but what about the bacteria?
Acetic Acid Bacteria (AAB) are the group of bacteria that are responsible for this fermentation process. I found an in depth look at AAB in the food industry on the National Institute of Health website. The introduction to that paper says this about AAB:
“They are widespread in nature and play an important role in the production of food and beverages, such as vinegar and kombucha. The ability to oxidize ethanol to acetic acid also allows the unwanted growth of AAB in other fermented beverages, such as wine, cider, beer and functional and soft beverages, causing an undesirable sour taste.”
(You can read the rest of that paper here)
Since we’re trying to make vinegar, and not wine or beer, we’re trying to encourage the growth of those bacteria. But this won’t require ordering bacteria in the mail. Much like a sourdough starter, given enough time and the right environment, the bacteria will colonize our soon-to-be vinegar all on their own.
Substitutions for Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
This recipe for homemade apple cider vinegar requires apples, water, and naturally-occuring bacteria. Substitutions to this basic recipe won’t result in an apple cider vinegar, but they can result in other delicious vinegar flavors.
Peaches, pears, oranges, and many other fruits can be used in place of apples to make other homemade vinegars.
Other fruits can be added alongside the apples to make a vinegar that is a combination of flavors.
Herbs can also be added to bring more depth and variety to the flavor of your home-brewed vinegars.
I’m not an expert in anything, but certainly not in the realm of vinegar making- yet. I highly recommend checking out the book “Wildcrafted Vinegars,” by Pascal Baudar. (Amazon link here) The book dives deep into a wide variety of home-ferments from vinegars to mustard to hot sauces.
All of this to say, vinegar is less of a recipe and more of a process. My instructions here will center on apple scraps and the making of homemade apple cider vinegar- but any fruit, herb, etc. that you add won’t be a substitution, but rather an addition.
At last, the process of making homemade apple cider vinegar.
Start by assembling your supplies and ingredients.
If you don’t have the fermentation lids, you can use a normal canning lid instead.
If your fruit floats around the surface of the jar instead of staying submerged, twice daily stirring can prevent molding. Alternatively, a plastic bag filled with water can be set in the top of the jar to keep the fruit submerged. The fermentation lids linked above include a heavy duty “spring” for keeping vegetables and fruits submerged/compacted while fermenting.
With a container and lid acquired, all that we’re missing is water and something to ferment in it.
I use plain old well water for all of my drinking/cooking/fermenting, and vinegar is no exception.
For the purpose of making homemade apple cider vinegar, you’ll want apples or apple scraps. My toddler is a prolific apple-eater, but even more impressive are her apple-wasting skills. She like to take a singular bite from each apple in the pantry before focusing her efforts to eat a whole one.
These mostly-whole, but now spoiling, apples are what have formed the bulk of my apple cider vinegar making.
I dice the mostly-whole apples into slices, but use any apple peels or cores as they are.
To start the vinegar then, simply place your apple scraps in the bottom of the jar. Fill the jar with water. And add the lid of your choice. (Ball’s fermentation lids are great for this project, but you can also use a normal canning lid, just open the jar every few days to “burp” it)
Write the date on your jar, and tuck the jar somewhere out of the way. After a few days the apple-water mixture will have taken on a slightly soured smell. Eventually some bubbling may form and the whole mixture will take on a more and more “vinegar-y” smell.
After about a month, strain the apple pieces out of the vinegar. It is ready to use at this point, but I like to let the vinegar continue to age in the pantry for a few more weeks.
The vinegar is shelf-stable as-is. You may find that it evaporates over time, but this won’t affect its usefulness.
Tips for Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
Adding sugar to the apple slices when you initially start your vinegar can speed up the fermentation process, but isn’t necessary.
If your apples sit on the surface of the vinegar/water, they can begin to mold. Stirring the vinegar daily can generally prevent this, but finding a way to keep the apple pieces submerged can save you that task.
After you’ve strained the apple slices out, they make a great addition to the compost pile.
This vinegar is going to have a much better flavor (and more beneficial bacteria) than store-bought vinegar. Because of that, I prefer to use the homemade apple cider vinegar when cooking, and the plain store vinegar for cleaning. Both vinegars will work for both tasks.
Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar- In Conclusion
With a source of high quality, delicious, homemade apple cider vinegar secured, you’re probably going to want to actually use it. I like to use the homemade apple cider vinegar as an addition to salads, stir fry’s, rice dishes, batches of broth, and even in homemade salsas and pickles (recipes coming soon!). Thanks to the live bacteria found in this ACV, it’s also a great way to kickstart your homemade kimchi or sauerkraut. Vinegar is also key when pickling eggs and, believe it or not, when washing cloth diapers.
Thanks for checking out this post on my homemade apple cider vinegar method. I hope that you’ll be inspired to give it a try. If you do, I’d love to see how it turned out! Leave a comment below, or tag me on Instagram- @EmigrantFarms.
Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!
Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar
- Canning Jars Half gallon are ideal, but quarts will work too
- Fermentation lid, spring Ideal
- Rings and lids Alternative
- Apples (or cores, peels, chunks) May be leftovers from other recipes
- Sugar Optional
- Start by dicing the apples, if necessaryAdd 1TBSP sugar, if desired
- Add water to jar(s) until full
- Add fermentation lid and weight, or use a normal canning lid and ring. A quart-sized ziploc bag can help keep the apple slices submerged under water as well.
- Place the jar of water and apple slices in the back of the pantry, or another shelf out of the way. After a few days, the mixture will begin to smell slightly sour and may have small bubbles.
- The fermentation process will take 3 to 6 weeks. Over this length of time, check on the vinegar. You may need to stir it regularly to keep the apple slices submerged and to prevent molding.
- After fermentation is complete, strain the apple slices out of the vinegar.Keep the liquid (the vinegar) in a canning jar with a regular lid- it is shelf stable and ready to use.Add the apples to your compost bin.
- Your homemade apple cider vinegar is ready for use in your favorite recipes or for other uses around the house.