The Mother of all vinegar is a cloudy gummy substance composed of cellulose and bacteria capable of oxidizing sugars and producing acetic acid during fermentation. To nurture yourself a healthy Mother that is capable of creating a lively batch of vinegar you’ll first need to enlist the help of a starter dose of a particular bacteria known as mycoderma aceti. The starter dose can often be purchased at brewers outlets or wine merchants in your area. Another way, is to make friends with someone who is already providing shelter to a fertile Mother of their own.
Once you’ve acquired a starter-dose of the bacteria,pour it into a large crock with two about bottles of leftover or inexpensive wine and set the crock in a warm spot in your kitchen or pantry. Thereafter, once a week or so, offer the crock a glass or two of wine that you have managed not to consume during dinner. Obviously, this requires the discipline to consistently serve excessive wine with dinner every week for a few months. All success in the arts, even the fermented ones, must come at some price.
After a few weeks of patient crock-watching, your Mother will make her first appearance. She arrives wearing a hazy grayish veil that forms on the surface of the wine. Now it is incumbent upon you to continue to provide her the fresh air and breathing room to bear vinegar. A linen napkin, cheesecloth, or any porous material can be tied loosely over the mouth of the crock in order to provide ingress to oxygen while preventing the intrusion of unwanted insects.
Keep offering your Mother a glass or two of wine each week, but don’t go overboard. Too much at once will weaken her mothering skills. Most importantly, never give your Mother any sweet or fortified wines (such as port, sherry, etc.), as this will delay or even prevent the blessed event.
Over the coming weeks your mother will swell with new life, thickening protectively as she prepares to defend her brood of bacteria from the onslaught of the elements. A healthy Mother must be pretty thick-skinnedand will swell with some rapidity. In fact, someone with way too much free time on their hands once calculated that a typical Mother thickens at a rate of roughly 1.25 inches per year.
After a couple of months of thickening and nurturing the bacteria in the crock, the Mother becomes exhausted. She sinks to the bottom of the crock and a new “skin” will begin to form at the surface. Once your Mother has hit “crock-bottom” so to speak, she can be removed to a new crock with some fresh (stale) wine to start a new batch. The newly-weaned vinegar remaining in the crock can now be strained through a folded piece of cheesecloth and stored in a clean glass bottle until fully mature.