DIY Fruit Vinegar - Apple and Peach

This is such an incredible time of year at our markets - the last baskets of peaches and plums, making way for the season's first apples and pears. If you're like me, you can't bake, freeze or dehydrate enough to use up all the bounty! Here's a fantastic way to use and preserve overripe  fruits and fruit scraps - DIY Vinegar! Making your own vinegar is easy and the results are so very tasty. Here's two of my favourites - Peach and Apple Vinegar.

Wild Fermenting

Wild fermentation refers to a traditional way of preserving food without the use of commercial yeast cultures. There are symbiotic bacteria and yeasts floating all around you as you read this! They're in the air, on your food and all over your body (inside and out). They're an integral part of life and our health. In traditional fermentation methods, we use those wild yeasts and bacteria to preserve food and to transform it into something that's rich in beneficial bacteria (probiotics), enzymes and bio-available nutrients.  

My biggest fermentation inspiration is Sandor Katz. I can't recommend his books highly enough. If you're new to fermenting, pick up a copy of his book 'Wild Fermentation', it's full of easy to follow recipes. These vinegars are an adaptation of his recipe for 'Fruit Scrap Vinegar'.

Fruit Scrap Vinegar

Making vinegar is an ideal way to use up fruit that is over-ripe, leftover scraps or inedible pieces (like organic pineapple skins). Vinegars are created when fermentable sugar ferments are left out long enough to allow vinegar-forming bacteria to take over. The first bacteria to establish themselves are alcohol-forming, but if you allow a sugar ferment to be exposed to the air and let it sit for longer, Acetobacter bacteria and Mycoderma aceti yeasts will consume that alcohol and make vinegar for you. Don't worry if that sounds complicated, the process is really easy!
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Peach Vinegar

Ingredients
makes roughly 2 litres
time-frame approximately 4 weeks

4-6 over-ripe peaches, coarsely chopped (or you can cut out bruised sections and save them up until you have the equivalent of 4-6 peaches, feel free to freeze these until you've stocked up enough. You want roughly 1 part fruit to 2 parts water)
1/2 cup organic sugar
2 liters filtered water (it does need to be filtered, chlorine is anti-bacterial)

Apple Vinegar

Ingredients
makes roughly 2 litres
time-frame approximately 4 weeks

2 heaping cups apple scraps (peels, chopped cores, bruised parts - I remove apple seeds)
1/2 cup organic sugar
2 liters filtered water (it does need to be filtered, chlorine is anti-bacterial)

Place chopped peaches or apples in a large glass jar or bowl. The wider the top, the better as it will allow more surface area for the bacteria to land on. You can use any fruit you like here instead, plums are really nice and using the skin of your organic pineapple works really well too!
Dissolve sugar in water and pour over the fruit.
Cover with a clean towel or unbleached coffee filter, secured with a rubber band. Leave in a warm spot.
Shake or stir every day for 1 week to prevent mould from forming on top and to speed up the process, allowing the Acetobacter to integrate. At this stage, you're making alcohol. It will begin to smell fermented and you'll see bubbles of carbon dioxide rising up.

Day 1 - Overripe peaches on the left and apple scraps on the right - note that the water has little colour

Day 1 - Overripe peaches on the left and apple scraps on the right - note that the water has little colour

Peach and apple scraps after 1 week - see how the water has taken on the colour of the fruit

Peach and apple scraps after 1 week - see how the water has taken on the colour of the fruit

When you stir during the first week of fermenting, you'll see carbonation bubbles

When you stir during the first week of fermenting, you'll see carbonation bubbles

After 1 week, strain out the peaches or apples. You can add the liquid back into the same bowl/jar and cover again with towel or coffee filter. It does work best if the opening is wide, so you can also transfer it to a glass bowl at this stage. If you like, you can add a spoonful of unpasteurized vinegar (like raw apple cider vinegar) to inoculate it with the Acetobacter bacteria, but it's not necessary, they are present in the air. 

Strained fruit - it will smell like alcohol at this point

Strained fruit - it will smell like alcohol at this point

Allow to continue fermenting for 2-3 more weeks. You can stir it for the first few days, but then allow it to rest. After about 1 week, you'll see a 'mother' forming on top. If you've ever bought raw apple cider vinegar or kombucha, you'll have seen the formed SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). 

Gorgeous colours of peach and apple vinegar 1 week post-straining, you can see the layer of mother starting to form on top

Gorgeous colours of peach and apple vinegar 1 week post-straining, you can see the layer of mother starting to form on top

You're vinegar is finished when it smells and taste like vinegar, rather than alcohol. This can take between 2 up to 4 weeks. Once it's vinegar, transfer it into tightly sealed containers for storage. It's important to store your vinegar in a sealed container or the Acetobacter bacteria will continue to transform the acetic acid (vinegar) it created into carbon dioxide and water and eventually  other bacteria will take over. Once you've stored it in an air-tight container, it will keep indefinitely and the flavours will get nicer as it matures. Store it at room temperature and add to dressings or mix with sparkling water for a tasty and tart drink that's amazing for busting sugar cravings! If you like, you can infuse some of your vinegar with dried herbs or spices. Peach and basil, apple and sage, apple and cinnamon - endless possibilities! 

Happy vinegar making! I hope you try this one out, you'll be amazed at how simple it is and the results are just so tasty (and make quite the impressive gift!). Let me know how it goes!