La Mama



There is no vinegar without a Mother, the gummy substance composed of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria (aka mycoderma aceti), that appears in your crock to engender the miracle of fermentation in wine and cider. If you don’t know anyone providing a home to a working Mother, go visit a local beer craft store or wine merchant to buy a starter-dose of mycoderma aceti, which usually comes in a little vial of fluid as clear as water.

Once at home, pour the starter into large crock (What a crock!) with a couple of bottles of newly-remaindered wine. Then, set the crock in a warm spot in your kitchen or pantry. Now povide the crock a glass or two of left-over wine each week for the next few weeks and your Mother will make her grand appearance. You’ll first notice her as a hazy grayish veil that begins to cover the liquid.

In order to keep your Mother healthy you must also let her breathe. This means that a linen napkin, or cheesecloth, or any porous material should be kept tied over the mouth of the crock to permit air but prohibit flies.

Slowly, your Mère de Vinaigre will swell with life, thickening in order to defending her brood of bacteria from the elements. A good Mother needs to be very thick-skinned in order to create vinegar. Somebody with a serious excess of free time on their hands once calculated that a Mother grows in thickness at a rate of 1.25 inches per year.

As you offer your Mother wine for the next dozen weeks or so (that’s right, you’ll have to learn to drink wine on a regular basis for this science experiment to work), your Mother will slowly sink to the bottom of the crock and a new “skin” will again form again at the surface.

Once your Mother has hit “crock-bottom” she can be removed to another container to birth  another batch of vinegar, or be discarded altogether. Meanwhile, the newly-orphaned vinegar left abandoned in your crock needs only to be strained through several coffee filters or a folded cheesecloth before being stored and enjoyed.

Don’t forget to feed your Mother at least a glass of wine every couple of weeks or so-and never too much at a time, as it will disturb her health. And never give her any sweet or fortified wines (port, sherry, etc.) as it will delay or even prevent the blessed event.