|My "mother" sank and settled in with the dregs, but she's still doing fine.|
Since then, I have made (on purpose!) ACV (apple cider vinegar) one other time. This seems to make me an expert as everybody asks me how I make it! Here are my amateur directions.
1. Start with apple cider.
Some people say you can make vinegar out of apple slices, or apple peels, but I don't believe your vinegar will be as potent these ways.
Make sure the cider that you start with is unpasteurized. Please. Dead cider is not going to turn into live vinegar.
The better quality apple cider you start with, the better quality your vinegar will turn out to be.
2. Add some ACV "with the mother" to your cider.
Some people suggest letting the cider ferment for a couple weeks before adding the vinegar, but there's always a chance you could get some strange bacteria growing in there. Best to add the vinegar straight off so you know what's "growing" in there.
"With the mother" is extremely important. You won't end up with vinegar if you start with cheap ACV from your local grocery store. You can get the good stuff from a health food store and make sure the bottle says "with the mother".
How much should you add? Well...that's a good question but I don't have a good answer. You don't need too much, just enough to give fermentation a nudge in the right direction. I'm going to suggest maybe 1/2 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of cider. Swirl the ACV up nice to get some of the dregs from the bottom.
3. Let it set. Be patient.
Do not brew in a plastic container. I suggest stainless steel (I use my stockpot) or glass.
Your brew may get very, very bubbly at first, so allow some head-space.
Cover your brew with a dishcloth or cheesecloth to let air flow and keep fruit flies out (and believe me they love ACV)
You should eventually get a nice "Mother" floating on the top of your brew. Handle her gently and don't stir her in. She will give you many more batches of vinegar if you take care of her! Don't be scared if she floats to the bottom, another one will probably form on the top.
4. Keep checking
It will probably be a couple months before it's completely done. Like I said, be patient! It's worth it!
After it's finished, put a lid on it. Be careful of metal lids like canning jar lids, they will corrode if the vinegar touches them.
Any questions? Leave me a comment!