Making your own vinegar (without a mother)

05 April 2018
One of the jobs in the kitchen recently was to replenish my stock of apple (scrap) cider vinegar. I stumbled across the concept of fruit scrap vinegar while reading Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation many moons ago. I liked the idea of turning food scraps into something useful and also adding another made from scratch item to the pantry. It was a little while however until I took action and attempted my own (as you know, I don't like to jump into things too quickly!).

My first attempt was using some quince scraps from the garden after making a batch of quince paste. Unfortunately it was not the success I had planned. Bits of the fruit bobbed to the top and I started colonising a whole colourful community of mould. Off to the compost pile...

I love the 'star' when you cut apples this way.

I really wanted to give apple scrap vinegar a go so I saved peels, cores and discarded bits and pieces  in a bag in the freezer until I had enough to attempt take two. Learning from my mistakes I ensured the fruit stayed submerged using a piece of plastic lid cut to size for my jar. Success this time, and it's been a regular on the made from scratch list ever since.

The process itself takes a few weeks but requires very minimal effort. Basically you dissolve a little sugar in some boiling water, then top up with room temp water and pop in your fruit scraps. Add something to the top to ensure it all stays submerged and cover with some muslin, a clean chux or a tea towel to keep bits out and allow gas to escape. Then leave it for the microbes to do their thing.

I generally use a ratio of 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar, about a kilogram of apple scraps and enough water to cover. The more apple scraps you use the stronger the apple flavour, but you can use less and either make a smaller batch or have a more subtle apple flavour. If the water where you live is heavily chlorinated you can pour some into a jug and sit out on the bench overnight before you make your batch. I don't find I need to do this where I live. If you have rain water to use, all the better.

Apple scraps from the freezer - not the most photogenic things!

For the first week it's a good idea to have a little look each day and give your mix a stir. This adds extra air, helps the microbes start doing their thing and reduces the chance of surface mold forming before the 'good' bugs have taken a hold. Once the ferment stops actively bubbling - usually close to two weeks around here but it will depend on temperature etc - you can strain out the apple bits with a fine sieve or muslin (or clean chux) lined colander. Pop your vinegar into bottles or whatever you plan to store in and leave for another week or two with the lids off, but covered loosely.

You can taste test along different steps of the process to get an idea of how things are changing. The acidity and flavour will continue to change over time.

I'd recommend checking out Sandor Katz's books if you are interested in learning more about fermentation and how to do it. He is definitely the go-to guy in all things fermenting. There is also a great how to on the Down to Earth blog for making your own scrap vinegar if you need to do a little further research before diving in.

I've made a few batches of the apple cider vinegar successfully since my first attempt and also given the recipe a go with pineapple scraps and mango skins. Both worked well and created a fruity vinegar great for adding a tang to salads and dressings. You can also use fruit scrap vinegars in any home-made cleaners or hair products.

Mango vinegar - you can see a 'mother' forming in the corner.

It's not advisable to use home-made vinegar for preserving that you are not going to keep refrigerated as you do need a minimum acidity in shelf stable preserves to ensure they keep the nasty bugs at bay. But otherwise fruit scrap vinegar can be substituted with the bought stuff wherever you like.

Fruit scrap vinegar is a great way to reuse kitchen waste and a ridiculously frugal ways to stock the pantry with flavoured vinegars of all kinds. So, what are you waiting for?

Have you ever tried making vinegar at home?
Any other ways that you use up your fruit scraps?


  1. What a great idea! Apple cider vinegar is so expensive. This would be a great alternative. I have a granny smith tree with fruit on it. I can see they would be great to use for this vinegar.

    1. Yes, your granny smiths will definitely be put to good use here and will basically bring your cost down to nothing as you didn't even have to buy the apples! Good luck.

  2. Hi Laura, Your instructions are so clear and helpful to the first timer by pointing out the mistake you made at first attempt. I love Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation book and can vaguely recall attempting a batch from scraps of mixed fruits, with no success. I shall try again now that I know why mine probably ended up in the chook yards. His recipe for mead is the one I use, so simple!

    1. Good luck with your new attempts Sally. Keeping scraps submerged and regular stirring I think are the key in that first stage.
      Mead and country wines are definitely on my 'to try' list for some undetermined time in the future.

  3. Hi Laura, yes, this is one of my present projects! Aldi is selling a great and cheap ACV these days but it's still nice to give food scraps a second life.

    My experiments haven't been great - for my first 2 small batches I took the mother out of a bottle of wine vinegar in the pantry to kick it along, and while I had no problems getting it to ferment, after filtering out the apples and bottling the result the mother just kept growing and it's basically all mother, no vinegar! I also tried to use what vinegar was there as a hair rinse (I'm a no-'poo-er) but it's not as effective at smoothing as the Aldi version. I should check and compare the pH as there's no doubt a clue in there.

    I've been feeling I should do a bit of proper reading up on this but luckily you've just stepped in with your blog, so I'll try my next version without any mother. Pity mango season is nearly over...Meanwhile, I just need to keep eating apples and build up my frozen scraps!

    1. Wow, that's one strong vinegar mother. I hope this technique works for you.
      That's interesting about the home made vs bought vinegar as a hair rinse. I've only ever used the home made (also a no-'poo-er) and have never been as happy with the results as others seem to be - perhaps this is why. Keep me posted if you find out any answer to the difference - acidity/ph makes sense.

  4. This looks like a very interesting process. It just never occurred to me that I could be using apple scraps like this! I usually give them to our horse, but he is going to find himself rationed now..! Thanks Laura.

    1. Let us know how you go if you give it a try. Your horse probably wont be thanking me now that his apple scrap supply is going to be cut off!

  5. what a fabulous idea to make this vinegar from fruit scraps. sounds marvellous. i must give it a try! cheers sherry

  6. Brilliant post, thank you! I've just recently "discovered" your blog and am really enjoying it. My husband and I are in the process of building in the Adelaide Hills and our land has dozens of apple trees - what a great thing to do with some of them!

    1. Welcome, and thanks for the comment. Dozens of apple trees - I'm jealous. I can also recommend drying them for snacks. I did this recently with some foraged apples and they were absolutely delicious. Good luck with the 'tree change' the Adeladie hills are such a beautiful place.


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