Monday, May 7, 2012

The Making and Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

    -The first recorded mention of apple cider vinegar came around 5000 B.C. from the Babylonians as used for flavoring and preserving foods.
   -Archeological evidence shows the Egyptians utilized apple cider vinegar as far back as 3000 BC.
   -Hippocrates, considered the Father of Western Medicine, recommended a tonic of apple cider vinegar and honey to increase energy, overall health and cure such ailments as coughs and colds around 400 BC.
   -The Greeks and the Romans recorded using vinegar for flavoring, healing purposes, and to increase the strength and energy of their soldiers. Japanese Samurai warriors also reportedly drank apple cider vinegar for strength and power.
   -Columbus, like many explorers, kept a supply of apple cider vinegar on his sailing vessels for its many uses, notably for its assistance in preventing and fighting scurvy.
   -Apple cider vinegar was commonly used as an antiseptic on the battlefield during the American Civil War.
   It’s clear that apple cider vinegar has survived the test of time as a versatile, beneficial substance, from flavoring food to fighting and preventing infectious diseases. Many of its beneficial properties have been thoroughly studied by modern science and proven as such, while some of its purported abilities remain in the realm of folklore. The absence of “credible” evidence however, should never in and of itself be grounds for dismissal -the earth was once considered flat after all, until someone went there. The benefits of apple cider vinegar I outline in this article have been derived from a variety of sources, both scientific, as well as yet debatable. I recommend researching these claims further yourself before making any definitive judgments, especially in regards to your health.

   Vinegar can be made from nearly any fruit. If you’ve ever tried to make homemade wine, you may have ended up with vinegar since both are results of the natural fermentation process -oxygen being the prime differentiating factor.
   As always, I recommended using organic ingredients if at all possible. Look to organic growers at your local farmers market.

*The sweeter the apple variety, the stronger the resulting vinegar will be.

The Basic Process-
  • Wash the apples and cut into quarters, peel, core and all (You can even enjoy your apples and use only the scraps to make vinegar)
  • Place apple pieces in a sterilized glass, enamel, stainless steel or stoneware container and allow them to air and turn brown.
  • Cover them with water, filling the container no more than ¾ full, and secure a cheese cloth or other similarly woven material over the container to keep the dust and bugs out, but still allow oxygen.
  • Place in a warm, dark place (60-80 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Once your mixture begins to smell like vinegar, periodically give it a taste. When it’s fermented to your preference, strain out the large pieces and bottle it up.

   That’s it!

   There are no stringent laws governing the timing of vinegar, it’s more about personal taste and stopping the process when that’s been achieved, which can take anywhere from just a couple weeks to six months, depending on the amounts of sugar and yeast.
   The white frothy substance that forms on top of your mixture simply means it’s fermenting properly. Grayish scum on the surface is normal. If colors such as green or black form on the surface this means your mixture has spoiled. Thoroughly cleaning your fruit and sterilizing the containers will diminish this possibility, but not eliminate it -sometimes nature simply doesn’t unfold as we intend.
   Some people prefer not to thoroughly strain or pasteurize their apple cider vinegar, giving them “raw” vinegar for its extraordinary health benefits. The milky stuff that forms on the bottom of your stored, raw apple cider vinegar containers is “Mother of vinegar” and is safe and normal.  Raw apple cider vinegar will naturally be cloudy -more on its nutritional value and health benefits later.
   Pasteurizing apple cider vinegar will eliminate any possible further fermentation and the forming of mother of vinegar, but most of the health benefits along with it. Even raw apple cider vinegar can be stored indefinitely, but pasteurizing it will better the odds of it not ever spoiling. Pasteurize by heating between 160 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit (use a cooking thermometer to determine the temperature) and hold this temperature range for 10 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized containers with tight-fitting lids, such as canning jars.
   Store all forms of vinegar out of direct sunlight. Refrigeration is optional.

Adding Yeast-
   All fruits contain wild yeasts, but you can speed up and ensure the fermentation process by adding yeast to the mix. Some homemade vinegar recipes refer to using bread-making yeast, adding a lump of fresh bread dough, or even a moldy slice of bread to the mix. Using bread yeast will indeed work, but adding a lump of dough or bread is a hit-and-miss prospect. For the best results, including taste, it’s recommended to use yeast specifically bred for wine and beer-making, called “vintners yeast”. Yeast comes in different forms and quantities so follow the recommendations on the product you choose. The ratio of yeast to liquid is not critical for a reaction to occur, but does effect the finished product. For active dry yeast, ¼ tsp. per gallon of liquid is a common recommendation, but this too will need some experimentation depending on the amount of sugar there is for the yeast to feed on. Adding too much yeast can leave a leftover yeasty flavor in your product.
   You can crush and strain your apple pieces and just use the juice if you like, but yeast will need to be added as wild yeast resides in the skin of the fruit, as does most of the nutrition value. Store bought apple juice can be used as well, but unless otherwise advertised they contain preservatives that will hinder the fermentation process.
   You can infuse your apple cider vinegar with cinnamon, cloves, garlic or herbs by securing them in mess pouches and steeping them for at least two weeks in the finished product.

The Health Benefits of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar-
   In the 14th century during the Black Plague, four thieves in France were able to rob the homes of plague victims without being infected themselves. When their crime spree finally came to en end, the Judge offered to grant the thieves their freedom if they revealed how they managed to be exposed to the plague and yet remain healthy. The thieves claimed that a medicine woman provided them with a potion made of garlic soaked in soured red wine (garlic infused vinegar). Variations of this recipe, called “Four Thieves Vinegar”, have since been passed down for hundreds of years.
   Raw apple cider vinegar contains a wealth of minerals and trace elements such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, chlorine, sodium, sulfur, copper, iron, silicon and fluorine. It also provides Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Pro-vitamin beta-carotene, Vitamin P (bioflavonoids), as well as enzymes, amino acids, and roughage in the form of potash and apple pectin.
   A daily tonic of 2 tsp. of raw apple cider vinegar mixed with a glass of water is reported to have tremendous health benefits including-
  • Balancing high cholesterol
  • Protection against food poisoning
  • Fight allergies
  • Prevent muscle fatigue after exercise
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • ncrease stamina
  • Alleviate pain from arthritis and gout
  • Prevent bladder stones and urinary tract infections
  • Reduce sugar cravings and boost metabolism, promoting healthy weight loss
  • Prevent bacterial infections
  • Improve skin and hair health
  • Help maintain a healthy digestive system

   The most scientifically proven attribute of apple cider vinegar would have to be its PH stabilizing effects on the body, which is suspected of being responsible for most of its health benefits. Most bacteria and viruses can only thrive in an acidic environment.
   Though apple cider vinegar is acidic it has an alkaline effect on the body’s PH, neutralizing high acid. Poor diet and lack of exercise can attribute to detrimental levels of acid in your body, making you more susceptible to illness and infection, but some conditions specifically cause acid build-up. Gout for instance, an extremely painful joint condition is directly linked to high acid levels in the joints. Gout and arthritis suffers can find continued relief beginning in just a few days after drinking a daily apple cider vinegar tonic as outlined above.
   Treat minor burns by rinsing the affected area with cool water and applying a soft cloth soaked in a solution of 2 parts apple cider vinegar to 1 part water. When the dressing becomes warm, soak again and reapply. This will nourish the skin, reduce damage, promote healing and soothe pain.
   To treat occasional diarrhea or constipation drink the tonic above once a day for 3-5 days or until symptoms improve.
   Mix 2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar in a cup of warm water and sip slowly to relieve symptoms of food poisoning, upset stomach, and heal a sore throat.
   Diabetics can help control spiking levels of blood sugar after eating by drinking an apple cider tonic with a pinch of salt before every meal.
   Adding a tsp. of honey to an apple cider vinegar tonic will not only help counter the sourness and improve the taste, but honey itself comes with some amazing health benefits -more on honey’s amazing properties in an upcoming article.

More Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar-
    Effectively control body odor by wiping your under arms with undiluted apple cider vinegar, or add a splash of vinegar to a bucket or shallow pan of water and soak your feet for fifteen minutes. You can also eliminate odors like garlic, onions and fish from your hands by similarly treating them. Soap and water can remove the vinegar smell thereafter.
   Marinate meats in apple cider vinegar to enrich their flavor and tenderize.
   Any vinegar with 5% acidity will kill 99% of all bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs, making it an effective, all-purpose cleaner.

A Homemade Vinegar Caution-
   The acidity of homemade vinegar can vary greatly. It’s not recommended to use homemade vinegar for canning or pickling long-term storage foods because its acidity may not be sufficient to prevent pathogen growth. You can, however, pick up some PH test strips at your local pharmacy and test your vinegar. Vinegar with 5% acidity has a PH around 2.4, but PH levels below 4.5 are sufficient to kill most pathogens. The PH of high quality, store bought apple cider vinegar typically runs between 2.8 and 3.


Hard Apple Cider and Homemade Wine-
   Since we’re on the subject… by restricting the amount of available oxygen to your fruit mash and water mixture it will become alcoholic. Instead of covering your container with cheese cloth, wrap the opening with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band -not too tight though so the buildup of gases can occasionally “burb”. This will limit oxygen exposure, but still allow the gases to escape. A two-liter plastic bottle works great for making hard cider this way. The less headroom the better, but the surface of the liquid still needs a couple inches or so to froth.
   A more reliable way to prevent oxygen exposure is to make an “air lock” by completely sealing the container, but keeping a small plastic tube inserted into the top. With a two-liter bottle setup you can drill a hole in the cap slightly smaller than the tube and squeeze it through. A few drops of wax or non-toxic glue will help seal it. Place the other end of the tube into a container of water. The gases will bubble out through the tube. This method makes it easier to judge when the fermentation process has run its course because the little gas bubbles coming from the tube are much easier to monitor than surface frothing.
   As with making vinegar, adding yeast and sugar will ensure and expedite this process, but is completely optional. The amount of sugar will determine the alcohol content, so you’ll have to experiment.
   After the surface frothing stops, or the gas bubbles from the tube stop, drain off the clear liquid, otherwise known as “racking” -bottle, store and enjoy. Like any good positive person, its character will improve with age.
   If too much oxygen invades your container you’ll end up with vinegar, as many an amateur wine-maker has discovered, but like an ever-positive artist once said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

   Enjoy, stay healthy and be more self-reliant.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, now I want to try making vinegar! Thanks!


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