Over on Tamara’s site, she’s going for a week of peaches. I’m going to go sideways here and make an ingredient. It’s not a dish, it’s something you use in dishes. It’s a slight repeat of earlier posts, but I think it worth doing anyway.
We’re going to make two things, both called peach vinegar. One is fast and good, one is slow and amazing.
The first takes four days, give or take a day. Fast is, you see, a relative term. Peel, pit, and chop enough peaches to get 6 cups of chopped peaches. Put in a non-reactive dish and add 2 cups of rice wine vinegar. Cover, and let it macerate for four days – stirring once or twice a day. Strain as much liquid out of the result as possible. You should get at least four cups if your peaches were ripe. Save the result in sterilized jars.
Let’s dissect that a bit before I go on to the second peach vinegar. Peel, pit and chop. If you’ve never done this with peaches it’s going to seem like a LOT of work. In reality it isn’t. Here’s the deal. Set up a (largish) pot half full of water, and get it boiling. Set up a bowl filled with water and a lot of ice. Next you want a workstation for peeling and pitting, and a bowl into which to put the halved and pitted peaches. Now what you’re going to do is drop three or four peaches in the boiling water and leave them for about 30 seconds. Scoop them out (not with your hands, please) and right into the ice water. Stir till they’re cool enough to touch. Pull one at a time from the icewater and run a sharp knife around the pit from the top, following the crease in the peach. Now twist and one of two things will happen. Either the peel will come off the peach or the peach will come off the pit. Whichever happened, rub or twist the halves to do the other event, and toss the peach halves into the container. Pull them back out, rough chop and put them in your measuring cups so you know how many more to do.
Oh – you’re going to get juice while chopping. Make sure it goes into the maceration mix as well.
Second dissection is my choice of vinegar. I like rice wine vinegar for this sort of thing because it’s one of the milder vinegars. it’s also a clear vinegar which allows the peach color to develop.
Sterilized jars is obvious. You can use the rice wine bottle for one if you want, but be sure you boil the bottles and lids for a few minutes.
So we’ve the fast vinegar made. It’s actually sorta sweet due to the sugars from the fruit. You can use it just about anywhere you use vinegar, but I usually think of this as good for shrubs, vinaigrettes, and marinades. Oh, for a special taste drizzle just a little – a tablespoon or so – over peach ice cream. Yeah, I know, but trust me on this.
Let’s go to the slow vinegar. The end product is much more complex, not as sweet, and can be used the same as the fast. Even so, I’m going to make a slight shortcut. You’re going to need two ingredients: a peach wine, and a bottle of unpasteurized, unfiltered vinegar — the stuff with what looks like strings in it. (You’re most likely to find cider vinegar – fine for now.)
The strings are bacteria and fermentation residue from when the vinegar was made. While it’s not going to make the vinegar any stronger, it is still active.
For equipment you’re going to want a jar that will hold twice the volume of the wine. So if you’ve got a 750ml bottle of peach wine (standard wine bottle) you want a 1.5 liter bottle. Sterilize it, please. You’re also going to want enough cheesecloth to spread across the top, and a band of some sort (food safe rubber band, screw top ring if that’s the sort of jar you’ve got, etc) to hold it in place.
Add the wine to the fermentation (larger) bottle. Add half that amount of the unfiltered, unpasteurized vinegar. Cover with the cheesecloth and fasten it down with the band. Move this to a dark, warm closet where it can be for about six months. Yep, six months – it’s going to take that long.
After the six months is up, pour this into smaller bottles for storage. Test it carefully since it’s home made — it might be stronger (or weaker) than what the stores sell and you’ll want to adjust accordingly.
Now let me be a bit honest here – this still isn’t the best you can do. Thing is, by using existing vinegar you’re protecting the wine from other bacteria while the mother works on it. If you’re trying to do it ‘right’ you’re only going to add mother, and you’ll need to sanitize your jars and protect the fermentation mix till the vinegar’s established. Also, six months may be too early or too late — it’s a general guide for the true beginner. You want to stop when the fermentation is done.
Wait – fermentation. As I’ve noted in other articles, vinegar is basically a second stage fermentation. It converts alcohol to an acetic acid. (I said “AN” acetic acid as there are variations.) You can make vinegar from any alcoholic beverage you desire – the higher the alcohol content at start, the higher the vinegar concentration when it’s done. Malt vinegar was barleywine (or beer), rice wine vinegar was sake, cider vinegar was apple hard cider, and so on and so forth. But here, we’re using a fruit wine for our base to get a fruit vinegar.
It is more complex than the ‘fast’ vinegar. It’s even more so if you have the practice and concern to make it all using a mother and no additional vinegar for protection, but it’s still amazing.
As with the first, the options are to use it anywhere you’d use ‘regular’ vinegar. It’s just you’ll have that hint of peaches, just as apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar have their underlying tones.