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What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is a condiment derived from a bacterial fermentation of apple juice. When making vinegars like apple cider vinegar, the fermentation process produces an acetic acid that gives the vinegar its signature tangy taste. The word “vinegar” comes from “sour wine” in French: vinaigre = vin (wine) and aigre (sour).
What Is the Difference Between Filtered and Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar?
While most apple cider in grocery stores is filtered and pasteurized, you may also find unfiltered, cloudier versions “with the mother,” which simply refers to the bacteria that forms as a result of the fermentation process—similar to the SCOBY in kombucha—a substance composed of cellulose and acetic acid that forms when there is unfermented sugar remaining in the final product. It’s good bacteria, so it can be consumed, but if it bothers you, it can be filtered out or simply shaken to incorporate.
How Is Apple Cider Vinegar Made?
Vinegar is made through the fermentation of almost anything that contains natural sugars, from wine and beer to fruit—like apples or grapes. It’s easier than you’d think to make your own vinegar.
Homemade apple cider vinegar is made by soaking organic apples, then fermenting the resulting juice. The introduction of natural yeast to the sugars in apple juice (also referred to as “cider,” which in this case is different than “hard cider” you find in a bar) produces alcohol, and the subsequent introduction of bacteria through oxidizing or aging of that alcohol leads to acetic acid—the component responsible for vinegar’s signature sharpness, tart taste, and health benefits, all with a hint of the original ingredient. (Hence why apple cider vinegar is reminiscent of cooked apple.)
How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar at Home: 6 Easy Steps
- Fill a large, clean glass jar three-fourths of the way full with 1–2 apples cut into small pieces. (This is also a great way to use up any scraps you may have left over from something like apple pie. Save your peels!)
- Dissolve 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup warm water (scale up at this ratio depending on how big a batch of vinegar you’re making).
- Pour water into the jar, submerging the apple pieces completely. Use a small plate or fermentation weight to keep the apples in place.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with a piece of cheesecloth, and secure with a rubber band.
- Store in a cool, dry place for 2-3 weeks, checking every so often for mold. When the vinegar begins to smell sweet and acidic, remove the apple pieces with a slotted spoon and cover jar again.
- Let sit another 4 weeks, stirring and tasting every few days or so. The vinegar will develop “a mother” on the surface—this is normal! When your vinegar is fermented to your preferred tartness and you’re ready to use, you can dispose of it, or use it to jumpstart your next batch.
The Many Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar
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ACV may be best known as a favored home remedy for the wellness crowd, who swear by a tablespoon in a glass of water for a quick pick-me-up first thing in the morning. In addition to drinking apple cider vinegar, you can also use it as a natural antiperspirant, facial toner (where it’s said to correct pH levels), or hair rinse—just be sure to dilute it with water before using it on the skin or hair. For a basic, all-purpose antibacterial cleaner, mix 1 cup water with ½ cup apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and use on countertops and sinks.
In the kitchen, use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to liven up salad dressings, chutneys, or braises, or substitute it for any type of vinegar to observe how it changes the final character of a recipe. You can also use it as a main pickling agent, where it has a sweeter profile than something like white wine or red wine vinegar.
3 Ways to Cook With Apple Cider Vinegar
- Chef Aaron Franklin’s Rib Sauce. Not only can you use apple cider vinegar to spritz the exterior of meat from time to time to prevent certain parts from drying out and overcooking, it’s also a star player in rib sauce.
- Chef Thomas Keller’s Braised Greens. Chef Thomas Keller likes to braise his greens using chicken stock and with onions, garlic, bacon, sugar, and apple cider vinegar for flavor. Once the greens are fully cooked, Chef Keller dresses them with a bit more apple cider vinegar.
- Chef Thomas Keller’s Baked Beets. Rather than boiling beets, which dilutes their flavor and color, Chef Keller likes to bake them, using the heat to draw out moisture and concentrate flavors. Different vinegars complement the flavor and appearance of different varieties: the sweet earthiness of apple cider vinegar is a great pairing for golden beets, which generally have a softer, milder flavor than red beets.
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