Cider VinegarAs you may have noticed, we always like trying something different on our farm, and it is with this in mind that we began to experiment in the making of cider vinegar some years ago. Because of the nature of vinegar making, this is a long-term project.
It all began with the apple harvest of 2001, which was a very good one. In an effort to use some surplus apples, we set some to ferment. This was done by juicing the apples, and putting the juice in a tank with an air-lock. Because of the natural yeasts within apples (and on their surface), they soon began to ferment to cider. The reason for the air-lock on the tank was to prevent an explosion, because the yeasts that make cider produce carbon dioxide gas in the process, and this needed to be released. After about six months all the sugar in the juice had converted to alcohol, which meant that we had a cider with about 6% alcohol (because each 1% sugar gives 0.5% alcohol, and apples naturally contain about 12% fruit sugar).
Rather than drink this cider (which was a temptation), we then added a special vinegar-making bacteria culture. These bacteria live on alcohol, and utilise it in such a way that they convert it to acid. Unlike the yeasts that make cider, vinegar-making bacteria need plenty of air, and this was provided by keeping the cider in an unsealed shallow tank. After a few months a “mother” (gel-like substance) had grown on the surface of the cider, and this was the culture which was at work converting the cider to vinegar. Because these bacteria function best at temperatures of about 30°C, and because we do not get such high temperatures in Ireland, it took a couple of years for the bacteria to convert the alcohol to vinegar. The result has been worth the wait however, and now, quite a few years after we began, we have a nice vinegar bottled and ready for sale.
As many of our callers have already told us, cider-vinegar has for many years been regarded as somewhat of a miracle cure. Amongst other things, the particular bacteria used in its making has anti-biotic properties, in that it can inhibit the growth of undesirable bugs. Cider vinegar has also been attributed with anti-arthritic properties and indeed, a number of books have been written espousing its virtues. I am just happy to recommend it as a nice salad dressing.