Can I make vinegar with a sourdough starter?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

They say there are no stupid questions, so here goes. I don’t possess a mother for making vinegar, but I do have a sourdough starter. Would it achieve the same results?

—Christopher D., Santa Rosa, Calif.

Dear Christopher,

Wow, you guys sure have a lot of questions about making vinegar from leftover wine. (In the past I’ve covered making it from red wine, from white wine, why it’s a bad idea to try to make balsamic vinegar, and some ideas if your homemade vinegar is too acidic.)

While I can follow your train of thought, a vinegar starter and a sourdough starter are not interchangeable, because they’re used for two different chemical reactions. A vinegar mother is formed from an acetobacter (which converts ethanol to acetic acid), while a sourdough starter is formed with yeast and lactobacillus (which converts lactose to lactic acid). If you mix the two, I’m pretty sure you’ll just end up with a yeasty mess.

—Dr. Vinny

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