All About Mother of Vinegar, That Slime In Your Vinegar

updated Jan 8, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Have you ever reached for your favorite bottle of vinegar from the pantry to find a weird amorphous blob floating near the bottom? You’re not alone! This slime-like protein can look unsightly, but rest assured that its a natural by-product of the fermentation that makes vinegar from wine. Here’s what you need to know about vinegar mothers — also known as the slime in your vinegar bottle.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What Is Vinegar Mother?

When you find a bit of stringy sediment, large or small, in a bottle of vinegar don’t fret. In fact — congratulations — you have a mother. A mother of vinegar, 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. 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 mother of vinegar. 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.