Making Crab apple cider vinegar: airlock or cheese cloth?

Last night, I procrastinated cleaning the dining room by starting the apple cider vinegar! πŸ˜€

I slightly modified the recipe I used last year, which you can find here. (Link will open in a new tab.)

I started off by using one of my gallon jars to measure out apples from one of the 5 gallon buckets. As the apples would be cut into pieces that would fit more tightly, plus I would expect to cut away nasty bits, or even toss entire apples, I filled the jar to the top twice, then added a few extra. I have a large enough bowl to be able to give them a bit of a wash, then leave them to soak while I prepped other things.

Last year, I sterilized things with boiling hot water. Since then, we have started brewing, so along with extra airlocks, we also have sanitizing solution. So one of the changes this year is to use that to sanitize everything, instead of scalding them.

Since I was doing a lot more crab apples this year, I put the cut pieces into water with a bit of lemon juice as I worked. Last time, for the amount of apples I can, there was no need for anything to keep them from browning until I was done. I cut them all into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the apple – or used what was left after cutting off any nasty bits! As expected, there were some losses, but not all that much. In fact, I could have done with fewer apples for the jars!

The recipe said to fill the jar 3/4s full, and I ended up with almost full jars! Even after shaking down, they were still full to the shoulder.

The recipe called for 2 Tbsp of sugar for a 1 quart jar, so for these, I used 8 Tbsp of sugar per jar. The recipe calls for filtered water. Last year, I happened to have some water bottles I could use, instead of our very hard, iron rich, well water. We currently buy refills of water for drinking that is first filtered, then treated with UV light and reverse osmosis. That is what I used to dissolve the sugar in, first.

The next change from last year was the use of a “starter.”

I’ll admit that when I normally buy apple cider vinegar, I buy whatever is cheapest. It gets used as an ingredient in cooking, so I don’t feel the need to anything fancy or expensive. When making the cider vinegar last year, it relied on the water, sugar, apples and whatever natural bacteria in the air “contaminated” it. Since I plan to use an airlock this year, and everything has been well sanitized, it’s not going to get that exposure. So I picked up a bottle of Bragg raw, organic, unpasteurized ACV, with the “mother”, to use as a starter and introduce the little critters needed for fermentation.

In doing my research, I found one person who used this same brand as a starter in his own ACV. He was using a large crock and just sloshed a bunch in, with no measuring, so I was left with no real idea of how much to use. I decided that 2 Tbsp per gallon out be enough. To make sure I got some of the “mother” that had settled on the bottom, I gently turned the bottle back and forth and upside down a few times first.

Once the starter was added, I filled the jars the rest of the way, with about an inch of headspace, with the filtered water.

When doing this last year, I didn’t have any fermentation weights and made do with some small jars. I still don’t have fermentation weights, but with the nice, wide openings in these jars, I had something else I could use.

When I was a kid helping my mother with canning, snap lids wasn’t a thing, yet. She used either wax or glass lids with rubber rings to seal. In cleaning up the basements and the old kitchen, I’ve been finding lots of these glass lids. I cleaned and sanitized a couple of them, and they look like they’re just the right size to keep the apple pieces submerged! πŸ™‚

Now comes the experimental part.

The two jars were made in exactly the same way. One of them now has the airlock cap, while the other is covered with layers of cheesecloth, held in place with an elastic band. They are not sitting on top of the warming shelf of the old wood cookstove in the old kitchen. I placed a small piece of foam insulation down, first. The old kitchen stays quite cool throughout the summer, and is even cooler now, so the metal would be quite cold. During fermentation, there will be bubbling and foaming, and a possibility that the liquid might reach the cheesecloth, or even overflow, so they are in the plastic container to protect the top of the stove from any drips.

Now, it sits for three weeks. During this time, we’ll be checking them daily. I look forward to seeing what differences there might be, between the two methods, as well as comparing to how it turned out last year.

Hopefully, no fruit flies will be attracted to the one with the cheesecloth! We have a fruit fly problem in the kitchen right now, but so far, they haven’t been found in the old kitchen.

I still have about 7 or 8 gallons of apples left, even after my mother took some home. Tomorrow, I plan to juice them and start making some hard crab apple cider! The traditional way to do it is to use a press to smush the whole apples, then leave the juice to ferment on its own. We don’t have a press, but we do have a juicer, so I’ll be using that, plus some of the yeast we picked up to use for mead making. We have four 1 gallon jugs, plus a half gallon jug, to use for fermentation, so there’s plenty to be able to do both. πŸ™‚

This should be fun!! πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Update: Sept 7, 2020 – I goofed! But you won’t spot my mistake here. Visit this follow up post to see what I did wrong, and how I fixed it.

9 thoughts on “Making Crab apple cider vinegar: airlock or cheese cloth?

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