The “Mother” of all vinegar is a cloudy gummy substance composed of cellulose and bacteria that can oxidize sugars to produce acetic acid during fermentation. To nurture a healthy Mother capable of creating avbatch of vinegar you’ll first need to enlist the help of a starter dose of a particularly active bacteria known as mycoderma aceti, often available for purchase a brewers outlets or wine merchants. Another way is to make friends with someone already providing shelter to a fertile but idle Mother of their own.
Once you have acquired a starter dose of the bacteria, simply pour it into a large crock with two bottles of drinkable but inexpensive wine and set the crock in a warm spot in your kitchen or pantry. Thereafter, once a week or so, just offer the crock a glass or two of wine that you have managed not to consume during dinner. Obviously, this requires the discipline to serve excessive wine with dinner at least once a week for a few months. But artistic success even in the fermented arts, must come at a price.
After just a few weeks of patient crock-toasting, your Mother will make her first appearance as a hazy grayish veil that forms on the surface of the wine. Once she has appeared, its important to provide her sufficient fresh air and breathing room to thrive. To this end, a linen napkin, cheesecloth, or any porous material can be shrouded lightly over the mouth of the crock in order to provide oxygen while preventing the intrusion of any curious insects.
Now, just continue to give your Mother aglass or two of wine each week. Don’t go overboard. Too much wine at once tends to weaken her generative potency. And never give her any sweet or fortified wines such as port, sherry, etc., as they will delay, or even prevent the blessed occasion of the birth of vinegar.
Slowly, over the coming weeks, she will swell with life, thickening protectively to defend her brood of bacteria from the elements. A good Mother must be very thick-skinned, and a healthy one can thicken with surprising rapidity. Someone with way too much free time on their hands has calculated that a typical Mother thickens at a rate of roughly 1.25 inches per year.
After a couple of months the Mother becomes exhausted. She will sink to the bottom of the crock and a new “skin” will begin to form at the surface. Once your Mother has has hit “crock-bottom” in this manner, she can be moved to a new crock with fresh leftover wine to begina new batch, or be discarded altogether. The newly weaned vinegar now needs only to be strained through a folded piece of cheesecloth and stored in a clean glass bottle in order to fully mature.