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Friday, February 10, 2012

Make It Yourself: Vinegar

Yes, vinegar is plentiful and often cheap if you buy it in the store. And we do: rice, sherry, balsamic, pear, you name it. But we've had trouble finding a good red wine vinegar. The cheap stuff is sour and awful, and even the expensive stuff can taste a little harsh if you grab the wrong bottle, as we so often seem to do.

At the same time, we frequently end up with dribs and drabs of leftover red wine—the end of a bottle that never manages to get used for cooking, the half-glasses abandoned after a dinner party.

We were ruefully tossing a guest's half-full glass one evening when we remembered that back in Connecticut our friend Ruth Lively made her own red wine vinegar using a little oak cask she'd bought. We remembered that the little barrel made mellow, lovely vinegar. So we decided to get one of our own.

We turned to the Internet, which did not disappoint. Two-liter (and larger) casks were available at Oak Barrels Ltd.

The company recommends buying toasted oak for red, robust vinegar and non-toasted for white.

 The process of vinegar making is incredibly simple: Simply add your base (wine, cider), your starter (appropriately called "mother of vinegar" and also available online), and some water, and wait two months.

We waited eagerly for the weeks to pass, and after they had, the resulting vinegar was just as smooth and rich as we remembered Ruth Lively's to be.

So there will be no more wasted wine at this house, and lots more delicious salads.

* Photo from

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