As we move towards autumn I notice the smell in the air, the light cast by the sun, and colour of leaves take on a distinct change. I can’t believe the Autumn Equinox is just a week away— a sure sign of deepening into the the fall, which will certainly draw me more internal. Since childhood, there is no sign more telltale that autumn is here then apples ripe on the tree. And apples ripe on the tree indicate it’s time to make apple cider vinegar, one of nature’s most powerful healing elixirs and one of my favourite autumnal home garden projects.
Apple cider vinegar is so easy to make, and each time I do, I think back to the thousands, possibly millions of generations of people who have been doing so, and I find myself drifting into a distant memory of how our ancestors first came to understand its countless health benefits. With a natural acidity, it proves to be an antibacterial, and due to the naturally containing “good” bacteria it assists in breaking down food and is perfect for sorting out upset stomaches and augmenting our infection-fighting medicinal vinegars (read more about those here). Apple cider vinegar makes an excellent hair rinse, especially in the treatment of dandruff or fungus on the scalp and it makes a fabulous facial toner (for these two purposes, you must dilute with 50% water or else it’ll really sting!).
The National Arthritis Association lists it as a potential remedy for easing arthritis due to its Malic acid content; and it is also listed as a possible solution (some swear by it) for weight loss by breaking down undigested food, balancing blood sugar levels (thus minimizing food cravings), and improving overall efficiency of digestion. And there are plenty of ancedotal claims of people stating it has lowered their cholesterol (it’s natural pectin attaches to cholestrol globules) and even blood pressure. I’ve had many people in my practice try it for eliminating Gout — with success I’m happy to report. How much? Just 2 tablespoons taken a day is the general dose for gaining health benefits from apple cider vinegar. Yes, you can mix it with water and honey to make it more palatable. And you can also add it to salad dressings, veggies and more. Just do not cook it or heat it excessively or else you’ll kill all the good stuff.
Apple cider vinegar is also known to relieve constipation, sore throats, coughs, sinus infections, headaches and more. For a more exhaustive list on what apple cider can do for your health, check out this book here, written by one of the “authorities” on the subject, the Bragg family. Personally, I am skeptical of any ONE thing being promoted as a cure-all, and I cannot atest for all of the health claims given to Apple Cider Vinegar. But, I do have personal and professional experience with it easing constipation, dandruff, scalp fungus, sore joints, a myriad of digestive complaints, a skin toner, gout, and decreasing food cravings. And, as mentioned on this blog under Herbal Vinegars in February’s post, I adore it most for serving as one of the best extracts for herbal medicines. It really brings home the concept of local medicine if you ask me!
So let’s get to it: HERE’S HOW YOU MAKE YOUR OWN APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
**If you cannot make your own apple cider vinegar, you can purchase some at your local health food store or natural grocer. However, read the fine print on the bottle and ensure that it is organic and unpasturized apple cider vinegar.
1. Start by either pressing your own apples for juice, or purchase some freshly pressed apple juice from a local farmer. Be sure no water has been added. It must be real, whole, unadulterated apple juice with nothing added or taken away. I have never used pasturized juice, only the fresh stuff right from the farm. Confirm these apples have not been sprayed! It’s important the apples have been drug free.
2. Defrost your juice if it has been frozen. This is a great way to use last year’s batch if you still have some in the freezer. Next, find yourself a large, wide mouth jar or earthenware crock. Clean it meticulously. Then dry it, and pour your juice into the vessel.
3. Next, you want to cover your vessel to prevent dust, bugs, or other unwanted particles from entering your cider. However, you also WANT some healthy air exchange for it to breathe. Keep in mind that this substance is alive. Anything that is alive, ferments. We want to assist in the fermentation process by allowing healthy exchange to occur, and for that, we do need some air circulation like anything alive does.
I like to cover my vessel with a tightly woven, very clean and dry cloth. I tie it with a string to fasten it, and as always, I date the cider so when it is done, I know how long it took to get the right taste and acidity to my liking.
That’s it! You do not need to add anything to it. The next step is just to let Nature do her magic.
How do you know it’s done? Taste it. It can take anywhere between 3 weeks or 3 months to get the acidity you like. I find that 3 or 4 weeks usually makes for a good cider vinegar. If you like, you can purchase pH strips from the health food store and test it for acidity. You’re looking for a pH reading below 4.5. However it is not necessary to test your vinegar with strips. Let your taste buds be your guide.
- Within a few days – depending on the temperature outside and in your home — a frothy foam may manifest. That’s ok, it means that the natural sugars are being digested by the good bacteria and fermentation is taking place. You can, with a clean spoon, scoop away the foam.
- If blue bacteria shows up on the foam, it doesn not mean the cider is bad. Again, just scoop it away.
- You will notice clumps of concentrated particles begin to form this is called the “Mother“, and is a positive sign. Do not scoop these away! This is the concentrated good bacteria. Some people prefer to filtre these out once their cider is done, and compost them. This is a personal preference. You can also save these, add add them to your next batch of juice to speed up the process of a fresh batch of cider–however in this case they’d need to be used immediately.
Once you’ve reached the acidity you like (determined by taste or test strips), strain it through a mesh strainer and either compost the majority of the “Mother” or hold it back for a new batch (remember it must be used immediately). Bottle the cider vinegar in clean glass bottles. Mason jars will work, so will wine bottles, or anything else you like. It does not need to be refridgerated; but if you do, that’s okay too. It will naturally age, slowly, over time.
Now, use it in salad dressings, pour it over your food, take in water, tea, mixed with honey, or any other which way you like. As mentioned, my favourite is using it for even further health benefits by turning it into a medicinal herbal vinegar. I hope you find this home project as satisfying as I do.