Feeding Your Mother



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


Once at home, pour the starter into a large crock (What a crock!) with at least a bottles quantity of  old wine that you have somehow failed to drink in time. Set the crock in a warm spot in your kitchen or pantry.

Thenceforth simply continue to provide 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 forthwith. You’ll first notice her as a hazy grayish veil that appears upon the face of the murky depths.

In order to keep your Mother healthy you must remember to 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 in order to provide access to oxygen but avoid ingress of flying insects.

Slowly, your Mère de Vinaigre will begin to 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 way too much 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 important science experiment to work), your Mother will slowly sink to the bottom of the crock and a new “skin” will form again at the surface.

Once your Mother has hit “crock-bottom” so to speakm she can be removed to another container to engendeer another batch of vinegar, or discarded altogether. Meanwhile, her newly-orphaned vinegar abandoned back in the crock now needs only to be strained through several coffee filters or a folded cheesecloth before being stored in a bottle and aged as vinegar.

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.