Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Intentional Accidents of Nature

I bought a juice extractor last year, and pulverized some local apples with the intention of letting the liquid ferment into hard cider.
I must have looked the other way for a few extra days, though, because when I got back to it, it was already vinegar.
Really good vinegar. Complex, fruity, pleasantly acidic. Wow, what a trick.
It got used up pretty fast, so I bought more apples for juicing this past summer. I set the juice out in the open air, in glasses covered with cheesecloth, just as I had done the spring before.
But it didn't work. I got mold.
So in the fall I decided to just buy some cider already pressed from the Sebastopol apple guy (sorry, don't know the orchard), and I told him what I wanted to do. He said to do nothing. Easy, that I can do. He said the wild yeasts I wanted to "catch" in the cider were probably already present in the juice. I simply peeled off the foil liners inside the caps, returned the caps, and watched vinegar happen.
It worked this time, but not as acidic and not as complex.
Funny thing, nature. I'm so clearly not in control.
Back when I was experimenting with my juice extractor, I juiced a couple of raw beets. Wouldn't that make the most amazing vinegar, I thought.
But, no. I left the bloody ooze out for weeks, and it just turned syrupy, and eventually kind of vile. The juice was way too thick. Haven't worked out the bugs yet.
Still, I couldn't stop thinking about beet vinegar.
A couple of weeks ago I roasted some beets (unpeeled, in a covered casserole with a splash of water). The interior of the casserole came out a fantastic smear of baked-on fuchsia, so I poured in a little water to soak overnight.
Next day, the beet smear had all dissolved into a beautiful pink puddle, and it reminded me of my failed beet vinegar project. On a whim, I stuck my finger in and tasted it. Vinegar.
Magic! In just one day, some rogue fungus that had probably been lodged on the beet skin turned the rosy water into a lovely, gentle vinegar.
It was too small an amount to bother with, but... Wait. There's a little headroom in one of those cider vinegar bottles.
Ah, yes. In it goes.


Susan said...

Now, that's dedication. Beet vinegar, huh? Haven't tasted it but sounds interesting.

Era said...

Niiiiice, I love DIY condiments. The closest I've come is sprouting my own seeds and dehydrating some fruit. But I do plan on getting a canning kit an dcanning some things. If you're into beets in general there is a recipe for ginger pickled beets in this issue of ReadyMade:


Beccy said...

I just love the colour!

Moonbear said...

You are such an inspiration. Really.

ilva said...

Go on, I'm following!

Kevin said...

You're so clever at finding excuses for not cleaning up your messes.{g}

Dagny said...

I am torn. I love vinegar -- as evidenced by the variety in my cabinet -- but you know my feeling about beets.

Glenna said...

You are so cool! I really love that you've gone to so much time and effort in your experiments. Good luck and keep us posted as you find new results! I was fascinated.

Barbara said...

I never thought to use my juice extractor to make vinegar. Clever.

cookiecrumb said...

Susan: I'm tinkering with proportions. Pure beet juice, you wouldn't want. This pink stuff I poured into the cider vinegar: probably undetectable beetiness.

Era: Thanks. It's irresistible! (I've got a dehydrator now, too.) Thanks for the pickle recipe. Mm, sour.

Beccy: Yeah, wouldn't it look good on your cake plate?

Moonbear: No, I'm just a little kid in an aging body, still playing mudpies.

Ilva: Come with crazy Cookiecrumb!

Kevin: Strikingly true. Just leave the garbage out until it becomes edible again. :D

Dagny: No. You should pick a different flavor. I wonder what a little diluted carrot juice would turn into?

Glenna: Well, "time," yes, in a way. Just ignore it for a few weeks. But stick with me, I'm going to keep experimenting.

Barbara: It wasn't exactly my intention at first, either, but wow. Now what should I try?

Scribbler said...

I have made vinegar from the remains of a bottle of wine. If you leave a little bit of wine at the bottom of a bottle of red on a shelf for a week or so and it forms a sediment then you can use this as kind of a starter adding more wine or juice to it. The sediment will fall to the bottom and you can pour of the vinegar and reuse it. Endless possibilities! But I must try the beet one!

cookiecrumb said...

Scribbler: It's hard to believe I haven't tried making vinegar from wine. Maybe because there's never any "leftover" wine at my house! I think I'd like to give it a try with champagne. Thanks for the inspiration.