Wine left out in the open air will naturally turn to vinegar. How does this happen? Acetobacter bacteria and Mycodermi aceti yeasts accumulate on the surface of the wine, gobbling up its alcohol and turning it into vinegar. Vinegar fermentation requires plenty of oxygen, so it is important to have as much of your wine as possible exposed to the air—an open carafe, jug, or crock will work fine. While vinegar-making microflora will spontaneously gather on your wine, you may choose to kick-start the process with a mother of vinegar culture. This red wine vinegar is flavored with star anise and cloves, and makes an excellent all-purpose seasoning for everything from salad dressings to marinades. This recipe first appeared in our October 2011 issue along with Sara Dickerman’s article Preserving Plenty.
- 1 (8-oz.) mother of vinegar culture for red wine, with its liquid
- 1 cup filtered water
- 16 cups red wine
- 20 whole allspice berries
- 16 whole cloves
- 10 whole star anise
- 8 sticks cinnamon
- 8 (1″-wide) strips orange zest
- In a 1-gallon glass jar or crock, combine mother of vinegar culture, red wine, and filtered water. Cover the mouth of the jar with a triple layer of cheesecloth, and secure with kitchen twine or a rubber band. Set aside in a warm, dark place, or set near a window and cover with a dark cloth.
- After 2 weeks, add 2 more cups wine. Continue adding 2 cups wine every 2 weeks until you have 1 gallon total.
- About a month after reaching one gallon, once the vinegar has sufficiently soured, pour it through a fine strainer into a 6-qt. saucepan and heat over medium heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 155°. Maintain this temperature for 30 minutes (this will stop the alcoholic conversion process and produce a stable vinegar). Remove from heat and add allspice, cloves, star anise,cinnamon, and orange zest; let cool.
- Pour vinegar into 4 sterilized 1-qt. glass jars, dividing spices evenly between jars, and cover with lids. Let sit until vinegar is flavored with spices, at least 1 week.