There are monsters in my cupboard. Lots of them. Translucent, slimy, slippery creatures that lurk in the murky depths. I’m speaking of course, of the Mothers. Vinegar and kombucha Mothers, that is.
Want to make your own vinegar or kombucha? You need a Mother, also known as a Scoby. A Mother is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts that produce vinegar, kombucha and alcohol. While the Mothers for vinegar and kombucha are slightly different, each cultivating their own unique blend of critters, they can be built from one another and will change form depending on the medium in which they live. In my warm dark cupboard above my stove I have three Mothers; one Mother is in wine for red vinegar, one Mother is in sweet tea for kombucha and a new experimental Mother is in beer for malt vinegar.
My own foray into Mothers started with a little wine o’clock party I threw 8 years ago. I cleaned out my dubious wine cellar, comprised mostly of cheap reds I had collected in my college days. If the bottle was good, we drank it. If the bottle had gone over, we poured it in the vinegar jar. All but one bottle was good. (Sad face) Thankfully we brought a few new bottles to supplement the party. The bad bottles when into two, one gallon glass jugs. I covered the tops with cheese cloth, set them in the corner of my basement and totally forget about them.
Several years later while cleaning out said basement, I discovered the jugs and viola! We had vinegar Each jar sported a thick vinegar Mother monster of it’s very own. I moved the ladies upstairs and have been slowly using the vinegar ever since. This spontaneous Mother-making is quite common, but it can take some time, depending on the bacteria and yeasts you have resident in your own house.
Then I read an article claiming that you could also start a kombucha Mother with a vinegar Mother. Kombucha is like vinegar, but since it feeds on sugar and tea instead of alchohol, it produces a different type of acid and is carbonated. Just my kind of challenge. After 4 months of care and feeding, I now have a thriving batch of kombucha. Now I’m on to malt vinegar, which has proved a bit tricky, but I think it’s catching on. The Mother monsters are multiplying.
Below you’ll find a basic guide to making vinegar and kombucha, along with their Mothers. Once the Mothers develop, future batches will go faster. If you’re vinegar is developing to slowly, place it in a wider, more shallow container and move it to a warmer location. These colonies need lots of oxygen exposure.
A word of warning: If you make beer and wine at home, keep your batches segregated and do not use the same containers or tools, or your next batch of booze may become vinegar all by itself. Not a bad thing, just not what you were expecting in that bottle of beer.