Vinegar making

Apple cider vinegar with motherJuly16
Apple cider vinegar with mother, July16

I first thought about making vinegar back in the early 80s when reading Craig Claibornes column in the New York Times. He wrote an article about using up old dribs and drabs of wine to make vinegar.

He’d kept one culture of vinegar mother going for years, which he swore made a superior vinegar. Unfortunately, one sad day a house sitter, while doing some well meaning tidying up, had tamped the ground-glass lid down on the vinegar vessel so tightly that “he smothered Mother”.

Then, last year in Cowichan I heard the story of a neighbour who had made delicious apple cider vinegar, and spoke with another who infused vinegar with blackberries, and boiling it into a thin syrup, created a superior vinaigrette.

In late summer our front yard apple tree began dropping more fruit than we could keep up on trimming for freezing and drying, and the piles of cores and peels started to look like something I could work with. Even though the bulk of the fruit was cut away, there was still a good amount of juice and flavour in what was left, which was expressed when water and a bit of sugar were added.

Topped with a bit of wine yeast, this fermented into a fairly nice tasting cider. Since cider wasn’t what I was after, this was followed by a few spoonfuls of cloudy vinegar mother from a purchased bottle of organic cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar, mid ferment
Apple cider vinegar, mid ferment

Fascinated by this process, I also began a batch of plum wine/vinegar but didn’t pay enough attention to this ferment. The yeast was old, and the ferment went sideways, making a sizeable addition to the compost. This was followed by more successful batches of blackberry and pear, and in the end, I made 2 – 3 gallons of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 gallon of blackberry (blue ribbon at the Cowichan Exhibition), and one gallon of pear.

The results were outstanding. Each has a unique character and I’ve enjoyed them so much that the year was nearly done before I realized that I haven’t even considered using anything else for months. Naturally, I’m making more this year and in larger quantities.

Most instructions for vinegar suggest that you are done in 5 weeks. It is true that there is at this point a definite vinegar formation, but it’s really not finished. You will be better off making double your needs in the first year, so that you can wait a full year before using it in the future, as there seems to be a significant maturation of the vinegar flavour between 6 and 12 months, at least in my observation.

You will want to aerate the vinegar as it develops, in order to prevent it from developing an acetone finish and other unpleasant aromas. Ideally have an empty vessel into which you can pour the vinegar, and then transfer it back to the original.

Tomatoes with yeast
Tomatoes with yeast, Sept 17

After aging last year’s batch for about 4 months, I decanted most of the clear elements of the vinegars from the original aging vessels into smaller jars, setting the filtered sediment aside in a new vessel to sit.

Over time, this sediment settled at the bottom, eventually developing into the mother, floating at the top until disturbed, whereupon it would drift to rest at the bottom; and a beautiful amber and powerfully pungent vinegar, floating above the remaining settled sediment and mother.

As this occurred, I decanted the pure vinegar, and set the remainder aside to see what would happen with the remaining sediment, then set the mother aside, collecting it into a separate jar with enough vinegar to keep it active, until time to use it in the next batch, where it now is, fermenting.

Currently fermenting into cider in 4 gallon containers are 16 gallons of apples (which will be about 8-10 gallons of cider), and one with about 2 gallons of tomatoes, and on the second stage fermentation to vinegar, are eight gallons of apple cider, three of plum, three of rice vinegar, two of blackberry and a gallon jar of mixed plum/Oregon grape (a berry which is not a grape, but grows in clusters, and tastes similar to currant, but with hideously bitter seeds).

Tomato vinegar. Oct 21
Tomato vinegar. Oct 21

Looking for a good supply of large food grade buckets? Stop by your local supermarket and ask at the deli/bread counter if they have any buckets with lids, and you’ll likely find them happy to help.  This will also help keep some of our plastics from being discarded too soon.

The “recipe” for making vinegar is simple:

Fruit juice, sugar (optional depending on the sweetness of the fruit), yeast, time.

That’s essentially it.

Strictly speaking, the yeast and the vinegar culture can be obtained from the air, but that’s a trickier process, and at least with yeast, the flavours obtained from them can vary greatly from yeast to yeast. I use a good commercial wine yeast to begin.

Even though the recipe is simple, I’m providing it below with the “steps” showing how a rice vinegar I made this past summer aged over time.

Vinegar on shelf
Vinegar on shelf

It’s a bit different with rice vinegar, since you use a grain rather than fruit. Also in the making of rice vinegar, there are two methods for the first stage. In the simple method, the rice liquid is sweetened with the addition of sugar. The more complex method uses amylase, an enzyme, which converts the starches in the grain to sugar before the fermentation is begun.

I’ll do another batch in the next few months and will add that to this then, along with a comparison of results.

Here is a lovely video: Brewing Korea’s Hanega Vinegar for 35 Generations from great Big Story & Korean Air

It’s a very short, pretty story, about traditional rice vinegar making in Korea, where they leave the rice in throughout the fermentation…another thing I mean to try in the next batch.

Nocino

Nocino in Brandy
Nocino in Brandy

Recipe and photos by Gayle Hurmuses

Nocino is a fabulous digestif, a traditional Italian bitter made from unripe walnuts (any type) that can be made into a lovely liqueur given the right treatment.

The articles I read before making last year’s batch suggested that it would be gone before the year of proper aging was complete and the authors were right. The first few tastes were much like Fernet Branca, but over time it mellowed nicely into something much more subtle and compelling.

Traditionally, the latest date to make Nocino is June 24. Thanks to a late winter in BC, we’re weeks behind, and in late June, the walnuts were still barely marble-sized. They’re nice and plump today however, and the shells have not yet begun to form, so it’s a perfect time to begin. From the look of the fruits there are still a few more days to go before it’s no longer possible.

This recipe will give wonderful results. You may not want to share. I didn’t. O:-)

Walnuts for Nocino

Phyllis’ Bread

Photos by Gayle Hurmuses and Gisela McKay

This recipe comes from the Deaf Smith Country Cookbook, by Marjorie Winn Ford, Susan Hillyard, and Mary Faulk Kock, and is one of my favourites.

DeafSmithCountryCoodbookCovers

When making truly whole wheat bread, you’re going to have to accept that it’s simply not going to raise to the same degree of fluffiness as white bread.

It’s especially important to make sure to knead it fully without going too far.

One thing that I watch for when kneading, to know when to stop, is when the outer layer of the raw kneaded bread begins to tear, rather than simply stretch.

While you don’t want to under-knead bread, you also don’t want to overdo it either. Gluten is a living thing and gets tired of working, just like you do.

Warm Bread for Cold Days – Purity Flour Cookbook White Bread

How to knead bread, Purity Flour Cookbook
How to knead bread, Purity Flour Cookbook

There is nothing better than a fresh slice of bread with butter melting into it.

I made my first pies at the age of 8 and my first bread at the age of 10. Supervised by adults at first, but fiercely independent, I would make them sit back and watch, and only allowed assistance for the purpose of instruction.

Quickly, I was making it regularly,  entirely on my own, inspired by how much I loved Grandma Nelson’s home made bread. She never needed a recipe, just poured mountains of flour into a bowl, waved her hands over it and voila! Bread.

It may have involved more than that, but she wasn’t big on giving instructions, so I never did learn her secrets, even though I watched her every chance I had on visits. She made at least 8 loaves and a tray of bannock every week. I can still smell her kitchen when I think of fresh bread.

At one point, I bought a bread maker at a garage sale, and tried it out…it worked fine, but lacked the tactile sensations that are part of my love for bread making.

Normally, I prefer whole wheat bread, but this is the first recipe I ever used, and it is bullet-proof. It’s from the Purity Flour Cookbook, and the same recipe appears in most of the flour company cookbooks of that era that I have seen.

You’ll notice that this recipe calls for the addition of milk, as does the Sunflower Bread, in both cases, I regularly use milk to make ricotta, and then use the whey from the cheese making  to make the bread.  A litre of milk will usually produce about 600-700ml of whey.

Perfect Pickles

PicklesCrpArticle, recipe, and photographs by Gayle Hurmuses

What makes a pickle perfect?

Whether your favourites are sour or sweet, tangy or salty, you want them to have a certain snap when bitten into.  We have a full list of crisp pickle tips to read and follow here.

Given that there are few things more disappointing than trying to bite into a pickle only to have it dissolve in your teeth, it’s worth taking the very few minutes to properly prepare for perfect plump and succulent satisfying pickles that snap.

In addition to these tips, make sure that all your ingredients are at the same hot temperature when you assemble the jars. Your boiling water bath should be properly hot, already at a rolling boil when you drop the jars into it and the jar contents should also be as hot as possible.

This is a cold pack recipe, so make sure that the brine solution is boiling at the ready to be added after the jars have been filled, and immediately before capping them.

Chef Mohammad’s Lebanese Baklava

Recipe kindly shared with me by Chef Mohammad of Tibisti Foods & Grill in Vancouver.   A truly lovely recipe.   Learn the basic technique and then you can play with the syrup and spices to add your own loving touch.  Today I’m going to make another with some added honey and maybe spice.

I’m honoured to have had this recipe shared with me and am thrilled to be able to share it with you.

Louise, aka GaddAboutEating