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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I would like to make some red wine vinegar. How do I let the yeasts develop naturally with a mother?
—Denise S., Raleigh, N.C.
You can start vinegar either naturally, or by purchasing a vinegar “mother” (available where wine- and beer-making supplies are sold), which looks like a jelly blob that sits on top of the liquid before it finally sinks to the bottom. It’s frankly easier to start with a commercial mother, but if you want to start naturally, find a wide-mouthed jar or jug (a large surface area is good) and fill the container about 2/3 or so full of wine. Be careful about the amount of alcohol in the wine you choose, as too much alcohol can inhibit the bacteria you want to keep.
Cover the jar, but not airtight—cheesecloth secured with a rubber band will keep the flies out. A warm but not directly sunlit spot is preferred, and give the container a shake once or twice a week. It will take a couple of weeks to a couple of months before you find out if your wine has turned into vinegar, or if it’s not working. You can continue to add fresh wine to the existing vinegar—it’s a terrific way to use any leftover wine you might have.
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