Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 12 Oct., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.
In the garden
This month, the WSU Master Gardeners say you should plant garlic and green manure (a nutritious cover crop such as crimson clover). This is also a good time to divide perennials and plant spring bulbs, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Winter is a good time for all kinds of transplanting. Don’t forget to turn off any irrigation system you might have, and rake those fallen leaves right around (and even over) your tender plants so the mulch can protect them over the winter and feed them in the spring.
In the kitchen
Instead of recipes, this week let’s revisit vinegar, because I have a reader’s question to answer. After the discussion of the health aspects of vinegar, Catherine wrote to ask how to make vinegar. It turns out it’s not as simple as keeping wine so long it spoils, although that may be where it began. Here is a general outline of the process; you should check with a brewing supply store or the extension service for more exact directions, or hit the library for some quality research time, before actually starting a project. You should also be aware that it is generally considered a bad idea to try to make wine and vinegar in the same space.
Making vinegar is a two-step process, in which sugars are converted to alcohol and then the alcohol is converted to acetic acid. The first part is the familiar fermentation of wine, cider, or beer (vinegar made from beer is called “alegar”), which in vinegar-making is called “vinegar stock.” The best vinegars are made from a stock with an alcohol concentration of 9-12%, to which the bacteria Acetobacter aceti is added. This bacteria is sensitive to UV light, so the vinegar stock should be left undisturbed in the dark for the first two to three weeks. The container should be covered but not sealed, because the bacteria need oxygen. If a mat of solid matter — a “mother” of vinegar — forms, your vinegar is doing well, although its absence is no cause for concern. It should be removed once the vinegar is through fermenting, however. It can be used to create another vinegar (a bit like sourdough starter) or just discarded. After about four weeks, the vinegar should be ready to test; you can get a test kit that will tell you the sugar, alcohol, and acetic acid levels, or you can just taste it. Fresh vinegar has a sharp, intense flavor that will mellow as it ages. Once all the alcohol has fermented to acetic acid, the vinegar should be strained into airtight containers so the acetobacters won’t continue to break the vinegar down into carbon dioxide and water. Vinegar is usually aged about six months once it is done fermenting.
Well, OK, one recipe; but keep in mind that this is still an overview for the curious and you should do more research before starting your first batch.
950 grams maple syrup
800 grams live vinegar (red wine vinegar, or unpasteurized cider vinegar)
300 grams dark rum
200 grams water
Combine all the ingredients in a glass vessel. Cover the opening with cheesecloth and store the container in an undisturbed, dark place for at least four weeks. Test the vinegar for development. Once the alcohol has been completely fermented out of the stock, strain the vinegar and store it in sealed bottles or mason jars. It can be used immediately but will improve with age.
You can find more information at:
Virtual Museum of Bacteria