Scuppernong Vinegar

Their leathery skins. Their sweet innards. Their tannic seeds. What’s not to love? It is scuppernong season in the South and the markets flourish with the storied fox grapes. I want you to use them. The green ones are the scuppernongs and the burgundy ones are the muscadines, but sometimes they are green too. Or some people say both are muscadines. Confusing I know. For years I was scared, because the first one you eat when no one is around, and that means you lack insight, the local ways, the know how. You eat the tannic, leathery skin, and chew the pips, and well, neither is very palatable. But that center, that fruit, is a delight and worth a second chance. So what do you do with them? You can roast them with pork, but if you do so I would like them halved and the pips removed. You can make wine, but with prohibition no longer in force, I would stick with the stuff on the shelf. You can make a jelly or a jam, and there are many recipes for that. Me I want to make vinegar. I have been making a lot of it lately, so let’s talk about what I have learned. Vinegar is like a comfort zone for aerobic acetobacter, the lively bacteria that make vinegar vinegar. It is good bacteria, and nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes high-school chemistry terms confuse me though, and one of those terms is “aerobic,” which is not a Frisbee brand, but something which lives in the presence of oxygen. If you knew this without looking it up you evidently paid a lot more attention in class than I did. Gold star. So let’s make some vinegar. The basic steps are creating alcohol and sugar. You could make a muscadine/scuppernong wine first, but I chose to jump start the process by adding sugar and grain alcohol. The scuppernongs were scored to get their fruit showing, and I will mash it after a week of fermentation. You need oxygen in the first while so I just covered a clean jar with a swatch of fabric and then secured with the o-ring. Ah Ball jars, where would I be without you. Technically you can make a vinegar just by grabbing the acetobacter from the air, but to make sure it was there I also added a live culture vinegar to the mix, in this case Bragg’s cider vinegar. In about 6 weeks I will strain it off and then you can pasteurize it to 160 degrees F, if you want it to stop being alive. How to test it? Well you can use a alcohol with alcohol testers you get at the home brew shop or you can just test with a pH meter and your palate. It should, duh, taste like vinegar. Scuppernong Vinegar 2 cups scuppernongs, scored with a paring knife 1/2 cup Everclear grain alcohol 1/4 cup organic white sugar 1 cup filtered water 1 cup Bragg’s cider…

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