Making & Using Red Wine Vinegar
By Paula Wolfert (From Food and Wine Magazine October 2006)
1. Buy a 1-gallon ceramic crock with a top-quality wood or plastic spigot (we just so happen to have some). Add water to the crock to check for leaks; drain the crock.
2. Buy an 8-ounce bottle of commercial mother from a wine- and beer-making supply shop (or get it from a friend).
3. Add 2 cups of good red wine and 1/4 cup of filtered water to the crock (or enough to at least cover the spigot), then add the mother. Cover the crock with a double layer of cheesecloth and fasten with a rubber band (or just use the lid with the hole in it).
4. Set the crock in a warm (70° to 90°), spot and let stand for 1 1/2 weeks.
5. Add red wine to the crock in three 2 1/2-cup installments at 1-1/2 week increments; the crock should then be about two-thirds full. Once a thin veil has formed on the surface, add the wine through the tube of the bulb baster tucked under the edge of the veil. Let the crock stand for a total of 10 weeks. Check periodically: If your vinegar ever begins to smell like furniture polish, discard it, wash the crock and start over.
6. Bottle the vinegar when it smells sharp and crisp: Strain it into sterile bottles through a plastic funnel lines with a paper coffee filter. (If you plan to start the process over, leave 2 cups vinegar in the crock and just add wine and water.) The vinegar will mellow in the bottle and improve with age, but if you plan to keep it more than 4 months, pasteurize it: Slowly heat the vinegar to 155° in a stainless steel saucepan and hold it there for 30 minutes. (Use a cooking thermometer. It is important not to go much above 155 degrees F.) Store the vinegar in sterilized, well-sealed bottles in a cool, dry place. Use homemade vinegar for dressings and sauces and as a seasoning; never use it for pickling.
(Alternatively you can store your vinegar in a jar in the refrigerator, removing a bit of starter and putting it in a small amount of wine at room temperature. Refrigerating the mother will slowly kill it.)