I Made Apple Cider Vinegar! (For Basically Free)

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Do you use apple cider vinegar? I use it in a surprising number of things. The chickens like a few tablespoons in their water, a couple tablespoons go into making soaked whole wheat bread, adding it to meat rubs and sauces help it pull apart when cooked low and slow, the applications are endless. The good stuff is pricey, and it goes quick around here.

Apple cider vinegar with mother.

Apple cider vinegar with mother.

I didn't know you could make apple cider vinegar until I read Lisa Steel's Fresh Eggs Daily book about natural chicken keeping. The method she shares in the book is a common one found just about everywhere once you look for it. She recommends adding it to their water in a ratio of 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water to help keep the water clean, increase good gut bacteria, and it can help prevent yeast growth in your chickens' crop, which can be deadly. There are a host of other benefits, but that's not what this post is about, it's about how to make it. So let's get on with it.

You need just a few things:

  • Apples, 10 - 12 small ones, 6 - 8 if they are monster grocery store ones
  • Large Stoneware or glass bowl
  • Plate that covers the bowl, like a dinner plate
  • Kitchen towel
  • Cheese Cloth 
  • Filtered water
  • Sterilized canning jars, lids, and rings
  • 4-6 weeks of patience 
Foamy apple goodness in a big 'ol bowl.

Foamy apple goodness in a big 'ol bowl.

Ok, maybe that is more than a few, but it is a pretty comprehensive list. You will likely already have everything except the apples and cheese cloth. I reused my canning jars and lids from last year's applesauce, because we aren't going to water bath them. This vinegar is shelf stable. When I water bath to can, I use new lids. 

Start by peeling and core the apples. Use whatever method you like, but I find the peeler corer slicer is the easiest. Next you'll put all the apple flesh in a crock pot on low with a squeeze of lemon, and a cinnamon stick. Cover and cook for 6 hours.

You're welcome, that's my applesauce recipe! I'm pretty sure I make it a tad different every time, but that's the gist of it. If you have kids they'll eat it all while it's still warm and you won't get to can any of it. You can really do whatever you like with the apples (this hand pie recipe is to die for!), but I found apple sauce to be the least labor intensive.

I purposely made applesauce while the kids were at school just so I could can it.

I purposely made applesauce while the kids were at school just so I could can it.

Next you'll put all your peels and cores in the large stoneware or glass bowl. Fill the bowl with water until all your apple parts are submerged. Top with the plate bottom down, cover it with the kitchen cloth, and find a dark corner of the kitchen to stash it in for a week. After a week you will check on it, and if your mixture is all foamy you are ready to jar it. If there's no yeasty activity going on, re-cover it and check again in a few days. If your kitchen is really cold, getting the process going can take a little longer. If you find mold, don't despair, just scrape it off and discard it. Pieces sticking out of the water tend to mold, so make sure they are fully submerged.

If your mixture is ready to go, get out your cheese cloth, and strain the liquid into a large bowl and pour it into your sterilized jars. I found one batch made 2 quarts. Don't worry about head space, fill them up. Some of the liquid will dissipate. Cut a rectangle large enough to double into a square and cover the jar opening, then secure it to the jar using the rings. Your cider vinegar needs to breath for the mother to form, and without the cheesecloth fruit flies will invade and the rings will rust. Mark the jars with the date so you know how long it's been sitting, and store them in the dark corner of the kitchen again. I stored mine in the built in bread box.

Once a week you will open them up and stir the mother around so new mother will form at the top. After 3-5 weeks your jars will be filled with mother and your vinegar will be ready. You'll remove the cheesecloth and secure the lid on. It should last indefinitely in your pantry.

I made 3 batches this season. I could have, should have made more, but I didn't have enough hands to process the apples. Our orchard was a bit neglected so our apples were wormy and labor intensive to clean and process with so many bad spots.

There are color variations in the batches. The 1st batch used both peels and cores, the 2nd and 3rd batches were just cores because I either gave the peels to the chickens, or was making hot apple cider, which the peels are left on for.

Apple cider vinegar ready to breath.

Apple cider vinegar ready to breath.

My apple season was busy, but did not produce what I had hoped. I canned two quarts of applesauce, and froze two gallons of apple cider and 8 cups of chopped apples. I made a few batches of fresh apple things for immediate consumption. No apple butter at all this year, but I still have a few jars from last year we need to use up. 

Just one of the three totes our trees gave us this year.

Just one of the three totes our trees gave us this year.

If you find you don't process apples in large batches, keep a gallon bag in the freezer for cores and peels as you have them. When the bag is full you can submerge in water and start the process. I was excited to find out there is a usable product to be made from something that used to just go in the composter. 

While this year didn't produce as much as I had hoped, it was incredible to just pick apples out of our yard and use them! The orchard is going to get some serious TLC this spring, so next year can be less messy, wormy, and more fun! I have no idea what variety our apples are, but they made great cider, pies, and sauce, and the kids were slicing them and eating them left and right (once they were confirmed worm free!), they are great apples!

So did you make some? I'd love to hear about it! Comment below or on Facebook, I truly enjoy chatting with you.

This post contains ads & affiliate links which means we make a small commission when you purchase from some of the links shared in this post. Making a purchase from a link will not cause you to pay more or affect your purchase in any way. It will however, support our wildest farmin' dreams, which is mighty awesome of you.