How vinegar is made is probably not one of the top things most people have in mind to learn about, but vinegar happens to be one of the more frequently used condiments in a cook's kitchen.
Vinegar is not really just wine gone bad. It is wine that has been altered by a yeast based substance called Vinegar Mother, or more formally, Mother of Vinegar.
Vinegar Mother contains yeast and a form of acetic acid bacteria, with cellulose as well. The yeast creates alcohol, which is then transformed by the acetic acid bacteria, which turns the aclcohol into acetic acid. Acetic acid is what gives vinegar it's distictive flavor and what differentiates it from wine.
With vinegar mother, you can make your own homemade vinegar to either cook with, or to give as gifts. To make your own vinegar, choose a wine, fruit juice or other alcohol you would like to turn into vinegar. Place the chosen liquid into a clean jar, and shake the liquid up. Let this sit overnight and then add your vinegar mother along with some water. Cover the top of the jar with some cheese cloth. Put the jar in a dark place for about 5 weeks. After 5 weeks, taste your vinegar. If it is strong enough, scoop the mother vinegar out with a spoon to stop it from fermenting further.If it is not strong enough, let it set for a few more days and taste it again.
Once you are done making your vinegar, you can keep your mother vinegar for later use. Vinegar Mother will stay usable as long as you provide it with oxygen and food. Remember though, that vinegar mother can die. If you forget to provide it with food or it does not get enough oxygen or if the temperature you store your vinegar mother at is either extrememly warm or cold, the vinegar mother will die. When vinegar mother dies, it darkens in color and becomes thicker or even solid.
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