The Mother of all vinegar is a shroudy, cloudy, gummy, wondrous substance composed of both cellulose and bacteria. This is the generative environment that engenders the miracle of fermentation, that mysterious process where oxidizing sugars suddenly begin to transform and produce acetic acid.
In order to nurture a healthy Mother that is capable of creating a lively batch of vinegar, you’ll first need to enlist the help of a small starter dose of a very friendly bacteria known as mycoderma aceti. The dose can be purchased either online or at a brewers outlet or local wine merchant in your area. Once you’ve acquired an active starter-dose simply pour it into a large crock along with a couple bottles of wine,. Set the crock in a warm spot in your kitchen or pantry.
Now, every week or so for the next few months, simply offer the crock a glass of wine that you have somehow managed not to consume during dinner. Obviously, this requires that you serve a slightly excessive amount of wine once a week for a few months. What can I say? Success in all the arts, even the fermented ones, always come at a price.
After a few weeks your Mother will make her first appearance in the crock. Wearing a hazy grayish veil, she will drape herself upon the surface of the wine. To keep her healthy you must now provide her plenty of fresh air and breathing room. To this end, a linen napkin, or cheesecloth can be tied loosely over the mouth of the crock. This will provide easy ingress to oxygen while also preventing the intrusion of flying insects.
Keep offering your Mother a small glass of wine each week. Don’t go overboard. Too much wine at once will weaken her maternal instinct. Most importantly, never give your Mother any sweet or fortified wines (such as port, sherry, etc.), as this can delay or even prevent the transformation of wine to vinegar.
Over the coming weeks your mother will thicken protectively to defend her brood of bacteria from the impact of the elements. Someone with way too much free time on their hands once actually calculated that a typical Mother thickens at a rate of roughly 1.25 inches per year.
After a few months your Mother will weaken and begin to sink to the bottom of the crock. Once your Mother has hit “crock-bottom”, so to speak, she can be moved to a new crock with some fresh wine in order to begin a new batch of vinegar,. Or, she can simply be discarded altogether. The newly-orphaned vinegar left in the crock now needs only to be quickly strained through a folded piece of cheesecloth and stored in a clean glass bottles.