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How to Make Your Own Apple Cider Vinegar from Scratch

Apple cider vinegar has been shown to be one of the healthiest natural supplements to any diet. Chances are that your grandparents might have used apple cider vinegar for everything from curing a sore throat to helping relax an upset stomach. As is often the case, the folk wisdom from the days of our ancestors is being confirmed by scientists and medical professionals today: apple cider vinegar truly does offer a number of unique health benefits when consumed regularly.

Instead of purchasing sometimes expensive bottles of apple cider vinegar that may or may not be raw and organic, making your apple cider is both simple and fun to do and will cost you a whole lot less.

The Materials and Tools You Will Need

One of the nice things about making your own raw and organic apple cider vinegar is that you won’t have to break the bank to purchase expensive equipment nor search the web for hard to find ingredients.

Making your apple cider vinegar is surprisingly easy and extremely cost effective. For a $20 dollar investment, you could easily make more than enough vinegar to keep you supplied for months on end.

For supplies or equipment, you will need a wide mouth glass jar. Generally, bigger the better so you will want at least a one gallon sized jar. You will also need cheesecloth or flour sack cloth. This will be used to keep the flies and other bugs out of the water and sugar solution while the fermentation takes place. Lastly, you will also need a large rubber band which helps keep the cheese cloth or flour sack cloth tight over the lip of your glass jar.

The amount of the ingredients you will need will depend on the size of the “batch” of apple cider vinegar that you are making. Below we offer information based on a one gallon batch. If, however, you plan on making a 5 gallon batch of raw apple cider vinegar, simply multiply that number by 5.

You will need five to seven whole large apples or the scraps (cores, peelings, etc.) from ten to fourteen apples. One cup of organic honey or cane sugar will also be needed as will filtered water to fill up your gallon glass jar.
various apple varieities for apple cider vinegar

Where to Find Inexpensive Apples

Of course, the most important ingredient in your apple cider vinegar is the apples that you use. There are hundreds of different varieties of apples each with their own unique taste and flavor. The type of apple that you choose will affect the flavor and quality of your apple cider vinegar.

A good mix to ensure a quality apple cider vinegar is to use 50% sweet apples, 35% sharp tasting apples, and 15% bitter apples. Red Delicious, Gala and other “supermarket” apples are generally some of the sweetest while the well-known McIntosh and Winesap apples have more of a sharp taste. Crab apples can usually be found in the wild and make a good choice to add a little bit of bitterness to your apple cider vinegar.

The apple tree is one of the most iconic symbols of American history. Our ancestors planted apple trees and apple orchards all across the landscape, and to this day it is still possible to find “wild” apple trees growing in unexpected places. Due to urban sprawl and the wild growth of the suburbs, you might even be able to find apple trees growing in downtown metropolises.

If you aren’t having any luck finding wild apple trees, commercial apple orchards are your best bet to find inexpensive apples. Some orchards may sell by the bushel while others might give you a discounted price for a you-pick program.

Where Does the Yeast Come From?

Apple cider vinegar comes from a process of fermentation, but actually, to make your raw apple cider vinegar you need to allow for two different and separate fermentation processes to take place.

The first fermentation process is what happens when amateur craft brewers or wine makers make their alcoholic beverages. Yeasts eat the sugars that are found in the apples and turn those sugars into alcohol. While most homemade wine makers and beer brewers add specialty yeasts, making your own apple cider vinegar requires no such addition of specialty yeasts.

Though invisible to the naked eye, there are thousands of different types of wild yeasts floating in the air around us. If you were to cap the jar where you will be making the apple cider vinegar, the natural yeasts would not be able to find their way into the solution. However, the cheesecloth is permeable enough to let the naturally occurring wild yeasts find their way into the solution.

Once your apple and water mix has turned into alcoholic hard cider, the secondary fermentation process will turn the alcohol into acetic acid which gives the characteristically sour taste to all vinegar. Acetic acid loving bacteria are responsible for this secondary fermentation process.
bowl of homemade apple cider vinegar with mother

Step by Step Directions for Making Apple Cider Vinegar

To make your organic and raw apple cider vinegar, the first thing you will need to know is to wash and sterilize all of the equipment you will be using. If you are working with unclean equipment, there is a higher chance that your apple cider vinegar will ruin due to “bad” bacteria that can cause mold or stop the beneficial bacteria from multiplying. The best way to clean your jars, knives and other equipment is by washing everything with warm and soapy water.

Once everything is clean and sterilized, you will need to fill your glass jar at least half way full with the apples. If you are using apple scraps, you can simply place them in the jar. If you are using whole apples, you will want to cut them into fine pieces. The more apple pieces or scraps that you use, the stronger and more potent will be your apple cider vinegar. If you have an excessive supply of apples, it might be a good idea to fill the jar completely up, though without packing.

In a separate jar, mix your filtered water with the sugar or honey. The sugar or honey will make sure that the primary fermentation process occurs. Completely dissolve the sugar or honey and then pour it over the apple pieces in the glass jar.

If you want a quicker result, you can add a tablespoon or two of another batch of homemade or store-bought apple cider vinegar. This will make sure that the bacteria, yeasts and enzymes needed for the making of apple cider vinegar are present. Cover your apple cider vinegar with the cheese cloth and fasten it with the large rubber band. Store this container at room temperature away from direct light (not on a window sill).

You will need to leave the apple cider vinegar for three to four weeks, though you check on the progress every couple of days. A little bit of white mold appearing at the top of the jar is nothing to worry about, and you can simply scoop that off.

After a week or two you should see a dark, cloudy substance forming in your jar. That is called the “mother” and is a sign that the fermentation process is proceeding correctly. At that point you can strain out the apples and leave the apple cider vinegar liquid to continue fermenting for another 2-3 weeks.

While commercial apple cider vinegar appears to be clear and transparent, that comes from numerous refinement of the raw apple cider vinegar. Your home made, raw apple cider vinegar should appear brown and murky which is a sign that it is alive with the probiotic bacteria and enzymes that give it its health qualities.

Some Common Mistakes to Avoid

It is pretty hard to ruin a batch of apple cider vinegar, but there are two main errors that do commonly occur that can affect the quality of your finished product.

As we mentioned above, if you don’t properly cleanse and sanitize your materials, there is a good chance that “bad” bacteria could get in to your vinegar. If after a few weeks of fermentation your vinegar smells putrid, that means that you got a bad bacteria and you will need to throw that batch out and begin anew.

Another common mistake is over-cleansing your equipment with bleach. Bleach is a potent cleanser that will kill off everything that stands in its path. If you leave only a drop or two of bleach on your equipment, it might kill off the necessary bacteria that are needed for an effective fermentation process.

Apple Cider Vinegar: A Simple Recipe for a Healthier Lifestyle

Making your apple cider vinegar is probably one of the easiest and most simple ways towards better health. Instead of spending your hard earned money for a small bottle of apple cider vinegar, some apples, water, and sugar is all you need to provide you and your family with gallons of the potent, health-enhancing properties of apple cider vinegar.

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