This week we're covering your questions about leftover ingredients you find in your pantry as you clean it out, and in that line, here's a great question from Lexy, who is participating in the spring Kitchen Cure.
While cleaning out my cupboards last night, I found an interesting growth in a bottle of white wine vinegar. The bottle isn't more than a few months old. I suspect that the growth is a vinegar mother, of which I've heard, but about which I know very little. I was hoping that The Kitchn crew or readers could help me positively identify the growth — and offer some tips for using it (if it's a mother).
I'm attaching multiple photos; I didn't think I'd be able to remove the growth in one piece from the bottle, and tried to capture its awesomeness/disgustingness from several angles.
Wow, Lexy — congratulations! You have a mother. A vinegar mother, that is.
Yes, it looks rather grungy and scary, floating on the top of the vinegar like that, but this spongy mass of bacteria is completely harmless. A vinegar mother is just bacteria that feeds on alcoholic liquids, and the fact that one developed in your vinegar just means that there were some sugars or alcohol that weren't completely fermented in the vinegar process.
You have a few options with your vinegar mother. You can strain it out (use a coffee filter) and continue using the vinegar as-is. Or don't even bother straining it out; again, the vinegar mother won't hurt you at all.
If you want to remove it and do something useful with it, then you can start your own batch of vinegar! You can add the mother to white wine and start all over again. This homemade vinegar process can produce really wonderful, deep-flavored vinegar, especially when you let it continue over a period of years.
Here's a great guide to getting started with homemade vinegar at Sunset's One-Block-Diet blog (a great blog that we mentioned last week).
• Download: How to make vinegar
• The vinegar team's posts at One-Block-Diet: Team Vinegar - They started their vinegar (from homemade wine!) with a mother starter from Paula Wolfert, who has been making vinegar for years and year.
Readers, have you ever made vinegar?
Related: What's the Deal With: White Balsamic Vinegar?