Making Tea Wine Vinegar.
Vinegar is made by fermenting beer or wine with jelly-like substance made of acetic acid bacteria and cellulose, known as the ‘mother of vinegar’ or acetobacter.
To start making your tea vinegar, you need to obtain the mother of vinegar, much like growing a starter for sour dough bread. You can cultivate this from existing vinegar with the mother such as Bragg’s apple cider vinegar. Leaving the vinegar with mother in a clean, glass jar in a dark room temperature place , covered with cheesecloth or a coffee filter until you see a slightly opaque, jelly-like substance forming then strain it out.
Alternatively, you can cultivate it from scratch by harvesting it off of the feet of flies (see the clip below). Take a large plastic bottle, like a fizzy drink bottle and put a banana skin in it to attract flies. Put in an equal amount of sugar and water into the bottle and a dash of vinegar. Suspend the bottle somewhere that is warm, but shady, like under a tree. If it rains, you will need to bring it inside or move it to somewhere covered temporarily. After 2 to 3 weeks, your mother will have grown and you will need to cut open the bottle and strain it out.Whichever method you use, you need to ensure that there is room in your container for oxygen.
Once you have harvested your mother, you will need to place it in a sterilized earthenware or glass jar and partially fill with tea wine (see the previous article), leaving a couple of inches for oxygen and cover the top with cheesecloth or a coffee filter held in place with an elastic band to keep out any other particles or insects. Place it in a dark, room temperature place. The bacteria in the mother will convert the alcohol in the wine into acetic acid, which is vinegar. As it also needs oxygen to help the mother stay alive and ‘eat’ the alcohol, you want to use a fairly wide, broad jar so it has as much surface exposure to air as possible.
After a few months, a pale, jelly-like film will start to develop on the top of the liquid. It will be slightly rubbery to the touch and once it has grown to about a centimetre thick, your vinegar should be ready. The smell of the liquid will also tell you when it’s ready; it should be a very powerful sweet and sour vinegar smell. Once your vinegar is ready, remove the film from the top and keep it to make another batch or discard, then strain the vinegar with a coffee filter or cheese cloth to remove any sediment. As the vinegar is made from natural bacteria, it can be slightly unpredictable and if it starts to grow any other mould cultures (they’ll be black, blue or as opposed to the grey-white shades of the mother), you will need to discard it and start again. Most of the time, this method is fool-proof and you will have your own wonderful, nourishing tea vinegar.