Large batch crab apple cider vinegar

One more thing off the to-do list!

This afternoon, I got the fermentation bucket from our wine making kit sanitized and set up to make more crab apple cider vinegar. I brought two of the three bins of crab apples in from the old kitchen. The apples got cut in half, de-stemmed and any damage I found was cut off. Since I picked the apples by shaking the tree, then picking them up off the ground, there was bound to be bruising to get rid of. All the pieces went into the giant enameled bowl that was ready with water and lemon juice, to keep them from browning.

Each bin held the equivalent of a 5 gallon bucket, full to overflowing. Once the apples were cut and trimmed, however, they took a lot less space. The line that you can see in the bucket is the 5 gallon mark, which is what I was shooting for. The basic instructions for making ACV in jars was to fill them 3/4 full with apple pieces, so that’s what I what I did with the bucket. After finishing off a bin and transfering the pieces from the water to the bucket, so I could see how much more I needed to cut up, I added sugar and commercial ACV with “mother” as a starter, using the same ratios that were used when we did them in 1 gallon jars. Then I cut more apples from the second bin until I reached about 3/4 full.

We buy filtered drinking water in refillable 5 gallon jugs, as our well water has developed a taste to it. I used one of those to fill the bucket to the 5 gallon line, which used up about 3 gallons from the water jug. It all got a gentle stir to dissolve the sugar and mix in the ACV mother.

The apple pieces now needed to be weighted down.

I just happen to have a large serving dish I found in a Goodwill store, years before we moved out here. It was the perfect size, and heavy enough that no other weight was need once the air pocket under the (sanitized) dish was removed.

Finally, the whole thing was covered with cheese cloth that was snuggly tied in place. Then, because we have cats, the lid was put loosely on top. It now sits next to the carboy of fermenting hard apple cider.

This now needs to ferment for 3 weeks before it gets strained off, then left to ferment another 3 weeks.

The down side of fermenting crab apples is, it attracts fruit flies. It turns out they love apple cider vinegar! So I made a couple of fruit fly traps using some of the commercial ACV in small jars topped with plastic wrap with holes pokes in them. One went into the big aquarium, where the three 1 gallon jars of ACV are fermenting. The other is now in between the fermentation bucket and the carboy.

Even after removing a small bucket of apples for my mother, we still have about a bin and a half of apples! We need to do something with them quickly, before they really start bruising.

I’m considering cooking them up and straining them for their juice. I think we’ll get a lot more juice of them that way, compared to using the juicing machine! Or maybe make some jelly? We’ve made apple jelly before, but the jars had to be kept in the fridge because we didn’t have everything we needed to water bath can them.

There are SO many apples, though, we couple probably make a few different things!

The Re-Farmer

Morning kitties, small harvest, preserving – and another change in plans

I had plans for today.

Honest. I did.

But first, the cuteness.

My plans for yard work would have had to change, anyway, as we are now getting a steady rainfall right now, but there was plenty to work on indoors instead.

The kitties were getting pretty wet, so I left the sun room doors propped open. I’ve discovered why I’ve been finding things knocked out of the top shelf of the shelf shelter. Despite the two bottom shelves being set aside for the cats, some of the little kittens have been climbing up into the top shelf, where all sorts of miscellaneous stuff are kept, and sleeping on some pieces of rigid insulation in one corner! So I am leaving the sun room available for them to shelter in, more comfortably.

Because I’m a suck, when it comes to the kitties! 😁

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to my brother on the phone, in between his attempts to call my mother. He started trying early enough to catch her before she went to church, but she wasn’t answering. It turned out she was watching her religious programming on TV and wasn’t answering the phone. Then she went to church, and stayed out for hours after.


I got a message from him after he finally got through to her, well into the afternoon. My mother’s apartment was going to be sprayed for bed bugs again.


She was wondering about staying in a hotel again, since she has to stay away for 12 hours.


So I called her, but her Polish program was on. It was almost 4, so when she said she would call me back when it was done to talk about the bed bug spraying, I said fine.

An hour later, I finally called her myself. I could hear the TV still going, and there was another Polish mass about to start. She wouldn’t have called me back until ALL her Polish shows were done! Meanwhile, I’d delayed working on supper so I could answer the phone without being in the middle of cooking – and I’d already skipped lunch (I lost track of time and forgot to eat).


My mother has zero respect for other people’s time, but expects everyone else to respect hers.

Ah, well.

We talked about her apartment being sprayed again. She did not want to stay at a hotel again, because it’s so expensive (it was actually very cheap, but she doesn’t know what hotel stays usually cost these days). So, she asks me… What was I going to do with her for the day?


What we finally worked out is that I will wait until I get a call from her, letting me know the exterminators have arrived – which I am doing right now, as I write this. They can show up any time between 9am and 4pm. I will then go pick her up, and we will run an errand for her in the city near my sister’s place, and then she wanted to visit my sister.

Who works a 5pm to 1am shift today.

I told her to call my sister first, to make sure stopping by was okay.

Then we’ll have to figure out what to do for the rest of the day. Even then, she’ll end up having to hang out in the lobby or something before she can go back into her apartment. Unlike her neighbours, who can go back after 6 hours, because they don’t have respiratory conditions.

But she won’t stay at a hotel again.


I also had a talk to her about letting me know right away, if her apartment is going to be sprayed again. She got the letter last week, and just didn’t bother telling anyone. I have no idea what she planned to do, had my brother not gotten through to her and then told me.

So my day today is completely gone. I can’t even start anything, unless I can drop it as soon as she calls.

One of the things I wanted to do was get crab apple cider vinegar going. I ended up having to ask my daughters to do it overnight which, of course, changed their plans, too.

They were sweethearts about it, though, and we now have three 1 gallon jars in the big aquarium, safe from cats, fermenting. This time, not only did we stick with just cheesecloth to cover the jars, but the apples are weighted down with slide lock bags filled with water to keep them submerged.

They didn’t use up even half of the apples I picked yesterday!

If I had more jars like this, we’d be making more. As it is, I did have a fourth jar, but after talking to my mother about what we were planning to do with the apples, she asked for a gallon jar so she could make sauerkraut. She wanted one of her old jars in the basement, but those have been sitting for more than a decade. I’ve actually gone through and washed the dozens of jars I found down there, and those particular jars are only being kept because we will used them to make bottle bricks for the walls of the cordwood shed we will be building. I would not consider them food safe anymore. So I’m bringing her one of our newer jars, instead.

So the apples will be used to make hard crab apple cider, instead – though that won’t be started on until probably tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I still did my morning rounds, which included a small harvest.

I had not yet washed these. They are wet from the rain.

There were some summer squash I could have picked, but I decided to leave them to get a bit bigger. I was able to hand pollinate some other squash, though. Which is interesting, when the flowers have puddles of rainwater in them!

According to the long range forecast, we’ve got at least a couple of weeks of hot, mostly dry weather. After that, the overnight lows are expected to be just a few degrees above freezing. I’m hoping that changes. If we have the month of September with no frost, there’s still a chance for some things to mature.

We have more red tomatoes that I should pick later today, or tomorrow morning. The paste tomatoes will go straight into the freezer with the others, until there is enough to start making tomato paste. The others will likely be dehydrated.

Our first attempt at dehydrating them worked, but took a long time. We kept needing the oven for other things. Though my daughter did not slice them super thin, they shrank so much, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get them off the rack they were on. They came off surprisingly well, though.

It was just one tray of tomatoes, so it’s not a lot, but I definitely think it is worth doing again.

Along with the red tomatoes, the Yellow Pear tomatoes have something to pick almost every day.

I did break down and taste on of them. After all, I’d been able to eat the tiny Spoon tomatoes without gagging. Maybe I could eat these ones, too?



The Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, meanwhile, are finally starting to turn colour, but it will still be a while before we can harvest any of them.

We most definitely need a mild September. Hopefully, a mild October, too!

Ah, well. Whatever happens, happens. We’ll deal with it.

Hmm. I really should be making myself something to eat before going to my mother’s, but… Murphy’s Law. The moment I start something, the phone is sure to ring! 😂

This is going to be a very long day.

The Re-Farmer

Crab Apple Cider Vinegar: bottling day

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you may be wondering what happened with our cider vinegar.

Yeah. The stuff we were supposed to taste test 2 months ago, to see if it was done!

It’s been sitting in the old kitchen all this time.

Given how cold it gets in there, I wasn’t too worried about it.

For those who are new to this blog (welcome! Happy to see you!), you can check these posts out. All the links will open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place here. 🙂

Prepping a cap for an airlock – using the tools at hand
Making Crab apple cider vinegar: airlock or cheesecloth?
I am such a goof: crab apple cider vinegar reboot!
Crab apple cider vinegar, fermentation progress
Crab apple cider vinegar: straining day

One of the issues I had was, what to store the vinegar in? The last time I made it, I could just use a quart jar. What did I have that was big enough, easy to pour from, and that I could close? I discovered that one of our 1 gallon (4L) glass jug that we have for making mead has a top that fits the same caps from the 3L jugs currently holding hard apple cider vinegar (which is also ready for bottling), so I was able to use that.

Once I had the bread dough rising, I brought the ACV in out of the cold!

Both of them had visible mothers, floating on top. There was very little visual difference between the airlock and the cheesecloth jars. The airlock one had some condensation near the top of the jar, and that was about it.

I drew some out of each jar, using a turkey baster, to taste test.

Both of them had a mild, vinegar smell to them. Both of them were also had a VERY strong vinegar taste!

The girls taste tested them, too, and we all agreed that there was a slight difference in taste between them. The cheesecloth one (the girls did not know which glass was from which jar when they tasted them) has a slightly milder, more pleasant taste.

Meanwhile, I did a bit of research on what to do with the mother. We won’t be making this again until next fall. Can the mothers be kept for that long?

It turns out they can.

I was able to remove the mother from the cheesecloth jar before pouring, but didn’t have as much lock with the airlock jar. 😀 So I put a small strainer over my funnel when I poured the vinegar into the cleaned and scalded jug. There wasn’t enough room for both jars in the jug, though. Yes, I mixed them together. I’d have kept them separate, if I’d had another small jug, but I did not.

Which was okay. I read that the mother has to be immersed in vinegar, and kept air tight, for storage. So the remaining vinegar was left in the jar, along with both mothers.

The gallon jug of ACV will go into the fridge for later use.

The jar with the mothers was sealed, and is now back in the old kitchen for storage.

I am quite happy with how this turned out. Having left it for so long, it’s a lot stronger than if we’d bottled it back in October, like we originally intended, but that’s okay. Using our own crab apples, from the one tree with the best, sweetest apples, not only resulted in a gorgeous colour, but it’s own unique flavour.

We will definitely be doing this again! Next time, though, we will just use cheesecloth and skip the airlock.

Now we just have to do a hydrometer test on the hard apple cider and see how it is. It would be awesome to have some of our own hard crab apple cider to enjoy with Christmas dinner! 🙂 Hopefully, I can get that done in the next day or two.

The Re-Farmer

Crab apple cider vinegar: straining day

After three weeks (and a day) the crab apple cider vinegar has been strained.

For those new to this blog, you can catch up on the process by clicking on the following links. Each should open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place.

Part 1: getting started
Part 2: oops
Part 3: progress

While I have not been checking on them every day, I have been checking regularly, and the last I did, it they still looked like this.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I brought the jars over to strain them, and saw this.

Oh, dear.

Both jars appeared to have mold at the top.

Now, part of what we’re doing this year is seeing if there’s a difference using cheesecloth to cover the top, or an airlock. Theoretically, because the cheesecloth allows oxygen in and an airlock doesn’t, the one with the cheesecloth should have been worse.

When I opened them up, though, there really wasn’t much difference. They both looked like this.

Yeah. Gross.

It seems the glass weight I used was not large enough to keep all the apple pieces below the level of liquid. Why it was enough to do so for almost 3 weeks, I don’t know.

On taking out the glass weight, I found that the pieces still immersed looked fine.

After scooping out the pieces at the top, the ones below all looked fine. The photo on the left is the jar that had the airlock, the one on the right had the cheesecloth.

I see no difference at this point.

After straining the pieces out, I checked them, and everything still looked fine. It was only the very top pieces that showed mold.

Took keep the experiment going, I made sure to do each jar from start to finish separately, cleaning and sanitizing the jars (and the airlock with its lid) before pouring the baby vinegar back.

The vinegar on the left is from the airlock jar. The one on the right is the cheesecloth jar.

Again, I see no difference between them.

Both of them also resulted in 2L (about half a gallon) of baby vinegar. If I weren’t testing the two different tops, I would have poured it all back into just one jar.

One thing I noticed very quickly when straining them, is that they both have a surprisingly strong alcohol smell. A rather pleasant one! I might have a bit of hard cider going at the moment!

No, I didn’t taste them.

The question is, will the mold that was at the top be a concern? Will the continued fermentation – which is really just controlled decomposition – eliminate any potential problems?

There’s only one way to find out.

Back they go to the old kitchen, for another three weeks. Then it’s tasting time before deciding to let it ferment for longer or not.

These are supposed to stay out at room temperature. Room temperature in the old kitchen is a fair bit lower than the rest of the house – which isn’t particularly warm, either! When I brought the jars over to strain them, I used the temperature gun and they were both at 12C. If we were wanting to make an alcohol, that would be too cold, but is it too cold for a vinegar?

Well, we’ll see how it is in three weeks!

The Re-Farmer

Crab apple cider vinegar, fermentation progress

Today has been one of those write-off days.

Yesterday, we hit 27C/80F. An unexpected result of that is, all number of house flies and other flying insects emerged from wherever they were slumbering in the previous cool, and got into the house.

Which meant a night of cats making a ruckus while chasing bugs all over the house.

I got very little sleep.

Today was much cooler, but rather than being outside, taking advantage of it, I ended up passed out for a couple of hours.

Cuddled by a couple of cats, of course. The buggers! It’s a good thing they’re so cute.


While puttering about the house, trying to get at least some productivity in, I was in the old kitchen and checked on the apple cider vinegar. It’s been a couple of weeks since I started – or should I say, restarted – them, so I figured it was time for a progress report.

For my new followers (welcome! Happy to see you here. 🙂 ), you can visit our first making of apple cider vinegar with our crab apples here. This year, we decided to make a larger quantity, with some experimentation. You can read about our first attempt here, and after discovering I made a really silly mistake, the reboot is written about here. (All links will open new tabs, so you won’t miss your place. 🙂 )

Here is how the jars look now.

The old kitchen is a very dark room. The south facing window has the sun room in front of it, so it doesn’t get any direct sunlight. The west window, which would normally provide a lot of light at the end of the day, is covered with aluminum foil (which predates our moving here), so there is zero light coming through there. The north facing window is what’s providing what light you can see in the above photo. Without turning the light on in the room, it was too dark to get a photo without moving to the window side of the jars.

This is a good thing. The instructions said to put the jars in a cupboard, and we just don’t have any with the space for these jars, so a room that never gets bright works just fine. The concern I had was how cold this room is. Fermentation requires warmth.

As you can see, there is no activity in the airlock at all. If there had been, the plastic cap on the inside would have been pushed to the top as it filled with CO2.

However, this is not the same as fermenting alcohol, so not seeing activity in the airlock does not necessarily mean nothing is happening.

And things are most definitely happening in there!

Both jars look the same. At this point, I see no difference between the one with the airlock and the one with the cheese cloth. Both have this layer of bubbles at the top, and when turning the jars to check them, more bubbles enthusiastically make their way up the jar. There most definitely is active fermentation going on.

One good thing about doing this in the larger jars like this: it’s nowhere near as messy as our first attempt! The fermenting vinegar had bubbled up enough to reach the coffee filter covering it and leaked a bit, inviting all sorts of fruit flies to check things out. This year, had I not had to throw away the first batch, with the its very full jars, it may well have bubbled up, and the one with the cheese cloth, at least, would likely have had a mess. There may be more headspace than needed in these jars now, but it seems to be better that way.

There also doesn’t seem to be any sign of mold or rot or anything of concern. The glass canning jar lids being used as fermentation weights are doing the job of keeping the floating apple pieces submerged.

So far, everything is looking good!

Next week we’ll hit the 3 week mark and, according to the instructions I’m following, that’s the time to strain out the apple pieces, return the vinegar to the jars, and let them sit for at least another 3 weeks.

I’m very curious to see if there will be a noticeable difference between the two jars.

The Re-Farmer

I am such a goof: crab apple cider vinegar reboot!

Today, the girls and I worked on juicing apples and getting some hard crab apple cider started (which I will post about next). While I was de-stemming the crab apples and cutting off any nasty bits, they took care of sanitizing the gallon jugs and the various items that would be needed.

They usually did the sanitizing part during our few beginner attempts at making alcoholic drinks.

That’s my excuse!

You see, when I used sanitizer to start the crab apple cider vinegar a couple of nights ago, I made a mistake. A silly, forgetful mistake. A laughable mistake, even.

But for the cider vinegar, it was a deadly, disastrous mistake.

As I listened to the girls chatting while using the sanitation solution, then rinsing everything off and setting it aside on a towel to drip dry, I suddenly realized my horrible mistake.

When I sanitized everything for the vinegar, I set everything out to drip dry – but forgot to give them a final rinse, first. Which means, when I made the vinegar, everything had dried sanitizing solution on them.

There’s no way they’d be able to ferment at all!

Later, while my younger daughter and I were juicing apples, I mentioned it to her. Oh, my, the look on her face!

Sweetheart that she is, she took over the juicing while I went and got the jars.

There was, of course, no sign of bubbling in the air lock, but after only 2 days, would there have been any? I don’t know. However, when I opened them up, I could see they were already a loss. There may not have been any fermentation happening, but decomposition had already started at the very top. 😦

Thankfully, since I had prepped all the other apples for juicing, I was able to wash, sanitize and RINSE THE HECK OUT OF everything, then quickly chop apples into pieces for a new batch.

The only thing different from last time, aside from actually rinsing everything after sanitization, was to not fill the jars as much as I had before. The recipe had said to fill the jars 3/4 full. I think I was still over that, but the first batch was full almost to the top. Here, you can sort of see through the container they are in, that there is a fair bit of space under the floating apple pieces.

I foresee only one problem right now.

These are in the old kitchen and, right now, it’s pretty cold. It was cold enough today that the furnace actually turned on – and the thermostat was dropped quite low over the summer! As I write this, it’s already dropped to 4C (39F), and we have frost warnings for tonight. Amazingly, we’re supposed to go above 20C (68F) in a couple of days, but for now, it’s downright chilly! The old kitchen doesn’t have any heat going into it. Back in the day, with the wood stove going, it was a source of heat for the rest of the house, not the other way around! I don’t even know what the old kitchen has for insulation, if anything. It stays cools in the summer, and in the winter, it gets pretty close to freezing in there. We can actually use the room as an extra refrigerator in the winter.

The cider vinegar should be done well before we reach those sorts of temperatures all the time, but the next couple of days might slow things down a bit!

We shall see how it goes.

I still can’t believe I made such a silly mistake!

The Re-Farmer

Making Crab apple cider vinegar: airlock or cheese cloth?

Last night, I procrastinated cleaning the dining room by starting the apple cider vinegar! 😀

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! 🙂

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. 🙂

This should be fun!! 🙂

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.