My Aunt Edith never wasted anything. Life taught her better. She wasn’t cheap, well maybe a little cheap, but mostly she was frugal, born out of years of desperation. I have adopted her cheap, er… uh frugal ways. I enjoy making something out of the throw aways. There is a great satisfaction in knowing that I use everything until there is nothing left to use.
Aunt Edith, for example, used apple scraps to make gallons of apple cider vinegar. Together we turned her abundant backyard apple harvest into apple pie filling, applesauce, canned apple slices, and apple cider. Aunt Edith certainly knew how to preserve apples and she let the little blue eyed brunette tag along on her adventures. We peeled and sliced and prepped pail after pail after pail of apples for winter goodness. Most people would throw away the peels and cores at this point but not Aunt Edith! She instructed me to shove those scraps into the nearby gallon jars. To these jars full of peels and cores we added about a cup of sugar and then filled them nearly to the top with fresh well water. Set a weight (aka small bowl) on the top of the apple scraps to hold them under the water and let the mess rest for 6 ish weeks in a dark corner. The apple mess should be stirred every day. Don’t fret if you forget to stir now and again. Aunt Edith never fretted. I guarantee she did forget to stir from time to time as she aged into her 90s!
Aunt Edith used her apple cider vinegar in her cooking, to make vinaigrettes, as a tonic, and in certain cleaning projects. She used other home brewed vinegars in her pickling and preserving projects. She said the vinegar needed more ‘bite’ to be used for canning. I think she might have meant greater acidity. Today we look for 5% acidity in our canning vinegars. Aunt Edith might not have used our more sophisticated vocabulary, but she knew what she was talking about.
Here is Aunt Edith’s 3 ingredient apple cider vinegar how to. It isn’t really a recipe. Aunt Edith did not use recipes. She used the experience in her head. Aunt Edith just might have been too cheap, I mean, frugal to use an index card and ink.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple peels, scraps, and bits and pieces
1 cup sugar
Fill a glass gallon jar with apple scraps. I mostly use peels but will also roughly chop bruised, battered, and otherwise not ideal for canning apples. Don’t tightly pack the scraps into the jar but they may be pushed in a little bit. Sprinkle sugar over the top and fill the jar with water and give it a good stir with a clean wooden spoon. If you are using city water, then it is best to let the water ‘gas off’ before pouring over your apple scraps. This is done by pouring the needed water into an open container and letting it rest 24 hours. This will get rid of the city water bleach which can interfere with the vinegaring process.
Next set a glass weight on top to keep the apple scraps under water. The weight might be a small plate, bowl, or other glass kitchen item that fits. No need to buy anything fancy. Use what you have on hand.
Cover the jar with gauze and set in a dark place for 6 to 8 weeks. It will begin to smell like alcohol and bubble for 2-4 weeks before settling down and turning into vinegar. When the bubbling has stopped, and the jug of liquid no longer smells like alcohol but is beginning to smell like vinegar then strain the liquid into a second jar. Don’t get too hung up on the timing but wait a solid 6 weeks before straining. If you forget and let it rest a week or two longer it is no big deal.
Give your strained, almost vinegar a good stir, cover the top of the jar with gauze and set it aside for 4-6 months. If you want a lighter vinegar, then bottle at 4 ish months. If you want a stronger vinegar, then let it rest a while longer. Vinegar may be bottled by simply pouring it into jars and capping it with a lid. That’s it. Store your vinegar on a pantry shelf and use it up in the next months to make room for next year’s batch.
Vinegar making requires patience but no great skills and no expensive equipment. Just patience. Set the process in motion in the fall and harvest the results in the spring and start the process again the next fall. Unlike the grocery store, you will always have cheap vinegar on your shelf.