Accept and Embrace it: this Apple Cider is now Apple Cider Vinegar February 24, 2013 17:36

For a good while after last apple season, I enjoyed drinking a sweet, tangy glass of fresh apple cider on many a quiet midafternoon.

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who is that handsome fella?

 Most of the cider got boiled and bottled, but there were a few gallons left over in a bucket that I covered loosely and let be, just to see what would happen.  Before long, it became noticeably carbonated.  I helped myself to a few ounces every few days.  Ultimately the wild yeast converted this lovely raw juice into hard cider.  Just the thing to take the edge off the afternoon!

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cider all in a row. Note the sediment at the bottom of each jar

I thought this stuff was pretty good, and I'd have a small glass every few days.  Each time I'd remove the loose-fitting lid and let lots of oxygen down into the bucket.  Before long, a thin white film began to form at the top.  I'd brush this aside to get to the cider beneath, which was becoming distinctly more acidic.  The film at the top got thicker and became more of a sheet.  You can see it crumpled up in the photo below.

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hmmm... an uninvited guest?

 The cider had become cider vinegar.  This sheet is a colony of acetic acid producing bacteria widely known as a "vinegar mother."   Some other examples can be found here.  Yeast break down the sugar in fresh apple cider to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide, making a carbonated, alcoholic drink.  In the presence of oxygen, bacteria break ethanol down into acids - in this case, acetic acid, or vinegar.  The cider vinegar was pretty harsh when it was new, but I'm saving it in jars to see if it mellows with time.  As for the vinegar mother, it's living in a jar in the back of a refrigerator, waiting for next time.