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DIY Vinegar and September Urban Farm Challenge

September 17, 2012

I’m never exactly sure why people are here, I mean there’s the recipes, gardening info, and home decorating tips (ha! just checking to see if you were paying attention). And then I suspect there’s people who are here in spite of the roadkill, the pee-fertilizer, and rooster-butchering.

But if you’re here to learn how to make your own vinegar, then hello!

(Actually, you dear dear people told me very generously why you’re here, and oh boy did I love reading these comments).

Hello! I am hawthorn berry vinegar-in-the-making.

September is a great time to make your own vinegar because the main ingredient is fruit, and even the sorriest looking fruit will work, with all its bruisy softness and orbiting fruit flies.

And I know vinegar seems like the crazy no-man’s-land of home preserving, like you may have to quit your job just to have the time to figure this one out, but pssst, it’s crazy easy, and you when you pull out your gorgeous bottle of homemade vinegar to dress the salad for company, you can blush modestly over your own chemistry skills.

Also, if you need one more reason to make your own vinegar…prizes! I’m hosting this month’s Urban Farm Challenge, a fun idea cooked up by author of Urban Farm Handbook, Annette Cottrell, to create community around simple homesteading tasks throughout the season.

Previous challenge hosts:

Marisa of Food in Jars; Challenge: creating your own fruit preserves recipe

Erica of Northwest Edible: Challenge: seed starting

Wardeh of GNOWFLINS; Challenge: fermenting

Hank Shaw of  Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook; Challenge: foraging

To enter, you…simply make vinegar. And then in one month, on Annette’s blog, there will be a post in which you can comment (0r write a post about it on your blog and link to it) and confirm that yes, you made vinegar to be entered in the drawing for these prizes:

Kate Payne’s book Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking


Annette Cottrell’s book Urban Farm Handbook

Also, on the September Challenge forefront is bartering! Go here to read more and for an extra chance to win groovy books.

I’ve made apple vinegar and pineapple vinegar (swoon!) and this time I made hawthorn berry vinegar because I’m fond of those wild fruits and we have a nice hawthorn shrub leaning over our chicken coop.

Look who else likes hawthorn berries! (truthfully, there’s not much these hens *don’t* like).


1-2 cups chopped/crushed fruit (can include peels, cores, rinds)

1/4 cup sugar

1 quart water

1/2 gallon jar

1) Dissolve sugar in water. Add fruit. Cover with cheesecloth and leave alone. Make sure fruit is fully submerged. You can place a clean rock in your jar to weight down the fruit or shake your jar daily so that the floating fruit get covered with the fermenting liquid and will be less likely to mold.

2) In a week, notice bubbling and water darkening. Strain out fruit.

3) Let liquid sit for another 2-3 weeks, with lid on instead of cheesecloth now, to continue fermenting, shaking up periodically.

4) Taste. Give yourself huge props for making a pantry staple.

5) Enter giveaway on Annette’s site in mid-October to win prizes.

Special hawthorn berry gathering friend.

Hawthorn berries are good for hearts and veins. When I worked at the herb shop, we saw several people who dazzled their docs by replacing their blood pressure meds with hawthorn berry tincture.

Water, berries, sugar. That’s it. (You could use honey but it will take longer. Also the yeast consumes the sugar and gives us acetic acid. See, chemistry!)

Day 1.

Day 5. This is the part where the aroma of your vinegar-to-be smells a little like my backyard when I lived next door to a frat house in Boulder, Colorado. Not pleasant, but active.

Day 9. The straining.

Step 3: Sitting. See, not too challenging.

Fermentation row.

Okay! Everyone ready? If you win will you let me borrow the books? Feel free to leave questions in the comments below.



46 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2012 9:25 am

    I tried to make a batch of apple cider vinegar last year with a “mother” (the active stuff in a jar that turns alcohol into vinegar – ala Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar “with the mother”). Yo can buy the mother at brew supply shops sometimes. I mistakenly just dumped the mother into the raw cider, not realizing I needed to ferment the cider into alcohol first, THEN add the mother to turn the alcohol into vinegar. Just an FYI if you aren’t relying on the right wild yeasts to turn your brew into vinegar. BTW, it might have worked anyway. I have this gallon jar about 1/4 full of 3 or 4 mats of “something” but not sure if it is still mother. It does not smell bad, but doesn’t really smell like vinegar either. And it’s one of those “forgotten” projects in my pantry that’s been there for about 6 months, and I’m not sure quite what to do with. Ha. BTW, I’m going to try the fermented ginger ale this week. SO excited.

  2. September 17, 2012 9:49 am

    I’m here for the joyful, heartful uplift I receive after reading each post. Yes, you are a wordsmith and a fermentation wizard and a fierce mama, and I love all of it…but it’s what’s in the spaces in between that keep me comin’ back.

    Ok. I’m up for doing vinegar again. I tried it two years ago, and I got to the bar-floor-odor part, but then everything went yucky. I didn’t strain the fruit, maybe that’s the trick? xo

  3. September 17, 2012 9:54 am

    hello dear! not able to comment on your blog again so leaving it here! already got some vinegar going this monday morning thanx to you! with peach parts…we’ll see!

  4. September 17, 2012 11:28 am

    I’ve been very eager to work with hawthorn berries this season, but I keep delaying with jam making — maybe I’ll try this instead! I love it!

  5. September 17, 2012 12:42 pm

    seeing as there is nary a hawthorne bush in sight down here, can i use any fruit? more importantly is there any fruit i don’t want to use for whatever reason (this is a must know because more than likely that will be the fruit i inadvertently end up choosing *ahem*)?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 17, 2012 12:53 pm

      I can’t imagine there’s anything you can’t use. You can go traditional and use grapes or apples, or choose some crazy cool fruit abundant in your Southern lands. xo

  6. mwieser permalink
    September 17, 2012 3:21 pm

    Um, seriously? I don’t know why I thought, to the extent that “thinking” is the applicable term, that vinegar would be harder to make. As if the starter came from deep springs in high mountains guarded by dragons. Thank you.

  7. September 18, 2012 4:18 am

    I’ve never heard of hawthorn vinegar before, but we have them by the stack – we normally turn them into a red sauce – but I do like your idea. Time to get foraging I think.

    Nina x

  8. September 18, 2012 5:05 am

    woah. i will certainly try this! thank you!!! Also, I too use to live at about the same elevation as you. Not a bad place to be. now i am sea level if i’m lucky:)

  9. September 18, 2012 11:23 am

    if you don’t have cheese cloth on hand do you run to the store (get ice cream and have a dance party past bedtime) or can you use a scrap of cloth?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 18, 2012 11:45 am

      It is best to use cheesecloth, a rabbi and only free-range, gluten-free yeasts to perform this miracle of turning fruit, sugar and water into vinegar…but if you only have a scrap of cloth, that will work perfectly well.

  10. Hannah permalink
    September 18, 2012 1:20 pm

    Is it possible to use honey instead of sugar?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 18, 2012 2:28 pm


      Yes, you can use honey. The yeast just need those quick-to-convert calories to do their work. If you can warm the honey up enough to dissolve it into the water, that is best. Also, it may be slower to ferment by a week. Just keep your eye out for bubbles and darkening liquid. Enjoy!

  11. September 18, 2012 1:26 pm

    I am going to make pineapple vinegar. What can I do with it after I make it?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 18, 2012 2:50 pm

      I made pineapple vinegar last year. It had the most intoxicating smell. You can use it however you normally use vinegar. I used mine in a lot of meat marinades.

      • Anonymous permalink
        September 18, 2012 8:39 pm

        Thanks! I don’t normally use vinegar so thanks for the idea

  12. September 18, 2012 6:50 pm

    Well I have never even heard of making your own vinegar, but definitely plan to give it a try now, after reading how easy it is. How very fun! Thank you for the great idea.

  13. September 18, 2012 7:17 pm

    I’m here for all of it, inspiration included! This looks reasonably do-able (then again, so did the sourdough starter…) so I just might try it. Wish me luck!

  14. Jennifer permalink
    September 19, 2012 2:46 pm

    Hi Rachel, how long does this keep? I’ve tried apple cider vinegar a few times bit it turns to hard cider pretty quick(not always a bad thing).

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 19, 2012 5:43 pm

      I thought the alcohol stage came before the vinegar (hence the frathouse aroma), and that vinegar was the end of the line, microbially speaking. But hard apple cider sounds even better.

  15. Beth Drechsel permalink
    September 19, 2012 4:32 pm

    I was glad to see this entry on your blog because a few days ago I decided try making my own vinegar out of an abundance of pears from my neighbor’s back yard. I hope it works!

  16. Beth Drechsel permalink
    September 19, 2012 4:34 pm

    Question: Once the process is finished, how do you store it?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 19, 2012 9:00 pm

      I store it in my pantry. No refrigeration needed.

  17. Jenny Lisk permalink
    September 20, 2012 10:32 am

    This looks pretty easy, can’t wait to try! A question: for step 3 (“Let liquid sit for another 2-3 weeks to continue fermenting, shaking up periodically.”) Is that with a lid on, or with cheesecloth still on? thanks!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 20, 2012 11:08 am

      Lid on. Thanks for asking. I will clarify in post.

  18. September 21, 2012 6:31 pm

    Fun. My husband has been encouraging me to add vinegar-making to my other new preserving skills. I have a load of asian pears to do something with. I’m planning to try pickling some, but might just try a pear vinegar with the rest. Thanks for the post!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 22, 2012 3:31 pm

      Asian pear vinegar sounds great!

  19. julia permalink
    September 23, 2012 6:40 am

    My fruit has remained submerged but i have two white spots of mold growing on top. Do i throw out this batch?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 23, 2012 9:21 am

      Are you 100% sure it’s mold? My hawthorn berries got bubbly-white and could have been mistaken for mold. If you are sure, then just simply remove the mold. No problem. Good luck Julia!

      xo, Rachel

  20. September 27, 2012 11:53 pm

    Okay, I am trying Cornelian Cherries. This should be interesting! I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the great challenge.

    • October 1, 2012 11:45 am

      They are going really well! The Cornelian Cherries don’t float, so it is making the process super easy. Our son is really enjoying it, too. More later.

      • October 24, 2012 7:11 pm

        Our batch seems to be arrested in the alcoholic stage. It smells like acetone~! Any idea how to bump it over into the vinegar realm?

        • Rachel Turiel permalink*
          October 25, 2012 11:40 am

          Shoot. Have you tasted it? Vinegar should be the end of the line chemically speaking. I wish I could offer something more. Sorry, and good luck!

  21. Gretchen permalink
    September 30, 2012 3:21 pm

    So I’m guessing that the green tinge around the top of my jar is mold. And thus my experiment is more along Col’s lines than eventually edible vinegar??

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      September 30, 2012 5:24 pm

      Wipe off the mold and carry on!
      You with me?

      • Gretchen permalink
        October 19, 2012 9:50 am

        Ok. I persisted. And now how do I know when it’s actually done? Mine is still frothy on top. Does that mean I should wait some more?
        Oh, and how long does it keep when it is done? Refrigerated or no?

  22. September 30, 2012 4:17 pm

    It’s so nice to have stumbled upon your site while searching for uses for Hawthorn berries. I started a batch of Hawthorn Vinegar. I’ve also got a couple of batches of apple cider vinegar (with Bragg’s as a starter), a crock of white wine and another crock of red wine vinegars.

  23. October 5, 2012 1:40 pm

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  24. October 5, 2012 5:41 pm

    ahahahaha fermentation row. it’s already october now that i’m finally reading this. hehe. oh well. i made some apple cider vinegar this year- in a 3 gallon bucket. awwww yeah. seriously, it is so easy i couldn’t believe i had never done it. thanks for the hawthorn berry idea. i hadn’t really figured out a great use for them but i knew there was one. (i did know the heart benefits, just didn’t know if i wanted to deal with their seeds and whatnot in order to gain them. this is a great use!)

  25. November 20, 2012 10:43 pm

    The idea of making your own vinegar was so intriguing I did try it, using apple cores and peels. The good news: It definitely turned into vinegar. The bad news: It had little white worms floating on top. Ack! Have you had that happen? I googled vinegar-making and it sounded like others have had the same experience. Some people recommended straining them out. But the gaggability factor made me just chuck the whole batch. Do you think my homegrown, non-sprayed apples could have been the cause? Or is the whole worm thing just part of the process?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 21, 2012 7:19 am


      Darn! I have never had (or heard of) that happen. They must have come from the apples, unless your vinegar was uncovered and accessible, but even so that sounds unlikely. I guess the good news is: you did it! And the bad news is: now you have to start over.



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