Over the past few months I've produced several interesting vinegars by different methods, so I thought I'd tell you about them.
From right to left (OK, I know it's unconventional, but I didn't think to arrange them in the order I want to talk about them), we have fir cone, blackberry, rosehip, and cider vinegars.
Fir cone vinegar: This one isn't so much a
produced vinegar, as an existing vinegar with flavour added. I had some clear pickling vinegar, previously used to pickle eggs, and some impulsively foraged fir cones. I put one in the other and left for several months. When first strained, it was a dramatic black colour, but after a few more months, all the black has settled out so I decanted the vinegar into another bottle and as you can see, it's an entirely not-dramatic shade of light brown. It's possible that some of the flavour settled out in the black, but there's still enough left to make a distinctively flavoured vinegar. I used some in a vinaigrette for a tuna and pasta salad I had for lunch today - it was pretty good.
Blackberry vinegar: Again, this includes an existing - cider - vinegar but also has quite a lot of acidity from the blackberry juice, so I consider this a bit more of a
produced vinegar than the last one. I followed Atomic shrimp's method for making a balsamic-like vinegar. It's not exactly like, but quite similar and very nice.
Rosehip vinegar: This one was an accident. I'd made rosehip syrup and found out what a nice drink that makes when diluted, then Ian suggested that it might be even nicer if it was fizzy. I wondered whether I could make something similar to elderflower champagne, so I gave it a go, aiming for the same kind of light, sweet, fizzy drink. Unfortunately, I neglected it in the brewing bucket and it started to sour. That is, it got infected with acetobacter - vinegar making bacteria - and turned into vinegar. This is actual wild fermentation, albeit unintentional. Although I didn't actually want a gallon of rosehip vinegar, it's pretty good stuff and I'm using quite a lot of it in cooking. It isn't very strong, so I might reduce it at some point, but in the meantime I'm just using it in large quantities.
Cider vinegar: Finally, a vinegar I made deliberately. I don't have much use for cooking apples as Ian doesn't like stewed apple, and we got given quite a lot of them last autumn. I bottled a fair quantity of apple sauce (still not sure what I'm going to do with it) but decided to try juicing some for vinegar. I didn't bash the pieces of apple enough before pressing, so pressing was very hard work, but eventually I managed to extract about a pint of juice. I then added some yeast to ferment the sugar to alcohol, but I think I caught wild acetobacter again (I can't remember whether I dosed it with a little live vinegar or not). The result is a very good vinegar - strong and with a much more complex flavour than commercial vinegar, even the good stuff.
All in all, I'm very pleased with my selection of vinegars and I'm using them in cooking much more than I used to (and correspondingly less lemon juice and wine). Given the quantity of rosehip vinegar I have, I probably won't need to make any more of that for about a decade. On the other hand, the blackberry balsamic is definitely one I'll be making more of, and probably the cider vinegar, too.