The Mother is the cloudy, gummy substance composed of cellulose and bacteria called mycoderma aceti that tranforms wine into vinegar. If no one you know is currently providing shelter to a working Mother you can always buy a starter-dose a Brewers outlet or local wine merchant.
Back at home, just pour the Mother-starter into a large crock with a bottle’s of cheap but drinkable wine. Next, set the crock in a warm spot in your kitchen or pantry and once a week or so provide it a glass or two of wine that you have somehow managed not to consume during dinner.
After a few weeks your Mother will make her first appearance. You’ll notice her arrival by the hazy grayish veil that begins forming in the wine.
Keep your Mother in good spirits by letting her breathe. A linen napkin, cheesecloth, or any porous material can be shrouded lightly over the mouth of the crock to provide her access to oxygen while prevent the intrusion of flying insects.
Now feed your Mother a glass or two of wine each week and generally not more. Adding too much wine at once tends to weaken your Mother’s generative potency. Most importantly, be careful never give your Mother any sweet or fortified wines (port, sherry, etc.) as they will delay, or possibly prevent the birth of vinegar.
Slowly she will begin to swell with life, thickening protectively in the crock to defend her brood of bacteria from the influence of the elements. A good Mother must be e pretty thick-skinned and can grow with surprising rapidity. In fact, somebody with way too much free time on their hands once actually calculated that a typical Mother can thicken at a rate of roughly 1.25 inches per year.
After a couple of months your Mother will sink to the bottom of the crock and a new “skin” will begin to form at the surface. Once she has has hit “crock-bottom”, so to speak, you can remove the Mother to another container to start another batch, or discard it altogether.
The newly-orphaned vinegar left in your crock needs only to be strained through a folded piece of cheesecloth and stored in smaller glass bottles in order to complete its miraculous transformation into fully mature vinegar.