Saturday, April 13, 2013

The "Mother" in My Cupboard

I love my NPR (that's National Public Radio for you mainstream folks out there) and I listen to the Podcast of "The Splendid Table" to and from my commute to work.  Well, several listeners have called Lynn (the host of the show) asking advice on what to do with leftover red wine that's gone stale.  I've had this same quandary myself.  Since Dale is not a huge red wine drinker and we decide to have some libation some evening, and I choose wine...I can't (or shouldn't) drink a whole .75L bottle myself.  I can usually go back to a bottle the next day and drink from it after I've stopped the top, but I don't really enjoy that as much.  I haven't cooked much since we've been here in Washington state (deployments, Army, yadda, yadda, yadda...) but using really old opened wine that you think can save for cooking later isn't a good idea.  It turns bad.  So, of course if you put bad wine in your food it's going to make it taste bitter.

Well, back to my first train of thought.  So, Lynn always suggests making your own red wine vinegar.  Hmmmm...I've always been fascinated about it and would love to try it.  So I did.  It's a long process but once you start and it's successful, I'm told that I could be filling my crock for years to come by starting my initial batch with a "mother." Gotta love that alien creepiness about that.  A giant glass jar or ceramic crock.  Preferably one with a spigot like the lovely one I have here purchased from (yes, my favorite go-to-online-shopping-for-everything".

I was explaining this to my friend, Erin and as she's obviously disgusted (her only comments are "Ewwwww!" but I know she's intrigued.  As we are like a lot of what-seems-disgusting but yet we can not NOT look at it.

Here's how I did it:

Homemade Red Wine Vinegar

One, 8 fluid ounce jar (or 1 cup)  of "Mother of Vinegar - Red Wine" (which I just found online from a home-brew website...what the hell, I'm game to give them a shout-out.  I also bought white wine but that's coming later.)

Not-less-than 1 GAL size glass or ceramic jar (PLASTIC spigot is good for extracting your delicious vinegar)  Basic science here...vinegar is acid and acid and metal don't go together...need I say more?  My jug is a 2 1/2 GAL ceramic style with plastic spigot and came with a plastic ring for the top to nest water bottle atop.

Cheese cloth (thanks again

2 cups tasty (or was previously tasty at initial opening) red wine (you can buy nice tasting and inexpensive wine just for this purpose, but why??  Use some leftover or save some up until you have at least enough to start with

1 cup water (you can use bottled if you like, but our tap water is good where we live; a suggestion if your water is chlorinated, let the water sit several hours or overnight to ensure the chlorine has evaporated)

So, give your new crock or jar a good rinse and add the following ingredients in.  No need to stir.  Cut or fold layered cheesecloth into a square large enough to cover top and secure with cotton kitchen string, a large rubber band, or do what I did and put the ring on top of the cloth to keep it down. 
Your vinegar will need to breath but you don't want anything falling into your concoction.  Place your creation in a dark and preferably warmish area.

The idea temperature that the "mother" works her magic at is 80 degrees, but that's pretty hot to me.  I think cooler temperatures just slows down the process, so you don't have to increase your heating bill to keep your "mother" happy.  Just don't let her starve!  When she starts doing her magic, don't be freaked out.  She'll start to form a sort of...leathery scum and sink to the bottom over time.  If this isn't happening...then your "mother" is probably dead.  Sniff.  But if your "mother" is looking pretty're on the right path.  You can then fish out some of the old sloughs of "mother" and put them in a jar with some liquid and give it to friends or anyone else willing to venture out.

Wait one week and start feeding your "mother" a cup of red wine on the first day of the initial waiting period, then another cup the third and fifth day.  I guess that's it.  In about three months this will develop into some delicious red wine vinegar.  You can keep feeding your jar over time and keep the red wine vinegar production going.  I've heard that there will be differences in the flavor of the mature vinegar as time passes and what you put into it.  You should just stick to red wine though, but I guess there are people that throw in white as well.  I have read that you never want to put wine in your jug that has any trace of cork.  Pee-Ew...who likes cork in their wine anyway?  Plus someone may need to to wine bottle opening 101!  Ha!

I guess this will be trial and error and I truthfully, I can't wait until the magic starts to happen!  I'm keeping a log of my "mother's" progress on the side of the crock with a Sharpie.  So, I started out cheap with some Two-Buck-Chuck (I likie) and have a pricier wine to add on Monday. 

Perhaps I should just make a Two-Buck-Chuck Red Wine Vinegar and try to sell it back to Trader Joes!  Ha!  That's would be a hoot!

I will keep everyone up to date on the progress of My "Mother" in My Cupboard!!

Now I have to go drink some red wine...poor me.

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