Simple Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

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Apples growing on a tree.
They're nearly ripe!

Each spring I wait not-so-patiently for the first hint of color to appear on our apple trees. The first glimpse of the pale pink buds that will soon become beautiful flowers makes me giddy. I know that the dark days of winter are coming to a close, and the promise of warmer temperatures, brighter days, and hours of fun in the garden are not far away.


Of course, apple tree blossoms also bring the promise of a wonderful harvest of sweet, juicy organic Golden Delicious apples. I watch them from the time they first appear on the tree, as small as a pea until they're nearly the size of baseballs and are ready to harvest. I plan what I'll do with them. Jelly, applesauce, apple butter, and of course simply eating them fresh all make the list.


Growing our own apples also has another great benefit; when I make my preserved products, I'm left with lots of scraps. Instead of tossing these, I save them to make apple cider vinegar or ACV. Technically, this is apple scrap vinegar, but I am able to use it in many of the same ways you would use true apple cider vinegar. This article from The Prairie Homestead is a great resource on the differences in apple scrap vinegar and true ACV. For the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to mine as ACV.


You can use all parts of the apple, including the peels, seeds, stem, and core to make your own apple cider vinegar. The process is very easy, and since you're using the scraps from other recipes, you're utilizing all parts of the apple and eliminating waste. Any time I can make use of 100 percent of something we grew or bought, that's a victory for me.


 

Here’s what you'll need to make ACV:


A mason jar, sugar, apples, and fermentation supplies to make apple cider vinegar.
All the good stuff.
  • A mason jar: There is no particular size needed, so you'll choose what size you use based on how many apples you've got and the amount of scraps you'll have. From the five pounds of apples needed to make my apple jelly, I filled a half-gallon jar with scraps.

  • Water: I use regular tap water. I've read that many people prefer filtered water, but I've never had problems with using tap water.

  • Sugar: There is no set amount. Again, it will be based on your scraps and how much water you use. The ratio you need to use, however, is one tablespoon of sugar per one cup of water. Plain white refined sugar is best.

  • A loose cover for the jar: Cheesecloth, coffee filters, or tightly woven fabric all work great. You want to keep any debris (or fruit flies) out, but not seal the jar.

  • Apple scraps: You can use all parts of the apple including the stem and seeds. Just make sure you don't include anything rotten or bad.

How to make your ACV:


First, fill the jar about ¾ of the way full with apple scraps. I like to periodically shake the jar gently to settle to scraps and make more room. You want the jar to be full, but don't pack the scraps so tightly that they will be hard to get out later. The size and shape of your scraps will depend on what you did with the apples. For jelly you just cut off the stem and blossom ends, so I just have these thin end pieces.


Next, fill the jar with water, adding one cup at a time so you can keep up with how much sugar you'll need. Again, you may certainly use filtered water, or even boil water and allow it to come back to room temperature. I don't do this, but please do whatever you're most comfortable with. You want the water to just cover the apples.


Measure your sugar based on the number of cups of water you added, and add it one tablespoon at a time to the jar. Gently stir the contents to dissolve the sugar.


Add some sort of fermentation weight * to keep the apples under the liquid. Any pieces that float to the top could grow mold and spoil the batch. If you don't have fermentation weights, you can fill a small zipper bag with water and set it over the apples as a weight.


Now, cover the jar loosely with your chosen cover and secure it with a rubber band. I use an airtight fermentation seal. I can't stress enough how much fruit flies seem to like this stuff, so you'll want to make sure it's covered well. Where do they even come from, anyway?! Also, make sure you label and date the jar.


Now it's time to just sit and wait. You will need to let the jar sit for two weeks. It takes a while for fermentation to do its thing and create the tangy goodness that is your apple cider vinegar. Set the jar in a warm and dark place. You could use a kitchen cabinet if you'd like. I use our pantry. Gently rotate the jar every few days and check for any mold growing. Using the fermentation seal * I've never had any problems, but if you don't have one, you may end up with a little mold. It's okay to scrape this off once or twice, but if it keeps happening, it's probably best to toss the batch and start again. If you're ever unsure, definitely throw it out and start again. Better safe than sorry.


What happens after the two weeks?


A jar of strained apple cider vinegar with apple scraps in a strainer on the jar.
Strained vinegar. Time to cover and sit some more.

After two weeks have passed, strain the apple scraps out and place the liquid portion back in the jar (or a new jar) and cover it again. Let it sit for another two to four weeks, until it has reached your desired tanginess. You can simply taste a small amount to see if it's where you want it to be. If not, continue to check it every few days until it gets there.


Once it’s done, pour it into the container you wish to store it in, cap it tightly, and store it in the refrigerator. This will stop the fermentation process. I’ve never had it go bad, but always be sure to check it before you use it. Side note- I saved bottles from store-bought ACV and washed the labels off. I use those to store mine.


It's made- now what?


I use our apple cider vinegar in many different ways. I like to use it in recipes and as a facial toner. It also makes a great hair rinse for shiny and healthy hair, and when added to a bath is soothing for sunburned skin. Any way you use store-bought ACV, you can use this.


One thing I'd like to note is that I have read before that the acidity in this isn't high enough for canning purposes. I do use this to make homemade pickles, but I don't can those. I put them straight into the refrigerator. I have never had my pickles go bad or not "pickle", but if you want to use this ACV for canning I highly recommend doing some research to ensure its safety.


To use ACV as a facial toner, simply mix it fifty-fifty with water and apply as you would any other toner. I use it with honey as my daily face routine. I simply scrub my face with raw honey and allow it to sit for two minutes. Then I rinse it off and pat my face dry. I apply the ACV toner with a cotton ball and allow it to air dry. My skin has never been healthier.


You can also use the vinegar in marinades and salad dressings. If you use vinegar in a recipe, this can be substituted with ease. It's great to add a tasty and tangy kick to chicken dishes. Don't be afraid to experiment! There are so many possibilities.


Since this is made from scraps, you're saving money and reducing waste. Everyone's a winner. How do you plan to use yours? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!


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