GOOD FOOD AWARD FINALIST FOR 2015!
It's a simple idea, really. What if apple cider vinegar were made slowly, with care, using only the best apples, instead of an industrial process invented to use up the worst of the rotten apples? That is what we've done, and we now have a small amount of our apple cider vinegar from our 2013 harvest to share with Good Eggs customers.
There is nothing fast or easy about how we make our apple cider vinegar on our organic farm in Sebastopol. We press the juice for it by hand on a wooden press, using only hand-picked, sound, organic apples (compared to industry regulations, which state that any apple less than 50% rotten can be used). It takes us three bushels, or 120 pounds, of apples to get 5 gallons of juice on our press -- one third the production of a commercial hydraulic press. But our apple juice is vibrant, complex and alive. We immediately ferment the juice in 5-gallon carboys, turning it into hard cider. When the cider is ready (and it's delicious!), we decant the carboys into French oak wine barrels.
And then we wait. And wait. And wait.
Slowly, the hard cider goes through another fermentation. A thick layer of vinegar mother, white and rubbery, develops on the surface of the cider. Over the course of months, the flavors begin to coalesce and sharpen. It takes a year, or more, to be right. When it's ready, our apple cider vinegar emotes both smoky tannins at the bottom and floral notes at the top. We bottle it right out of the barrel, no filtration, no pasteurization, no dilution with water.
The vinegar that we're offering comes from our 2013 harvest. We only had a total of six barrels of juice when the season ended, and we're only releasing three barrels now. When it's gone, it's gone. We're fermenting more juice now, but it won't be ready until December 2015, if all goes right.
We use our apple cider vinegar in salad dressings, in sautees, in bone broths, and just drinking straight. We use it in any recipe that calls for white wine vinegar. We also a few spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar to sparkling water -- it tastes remarkably like kombucha, at a fraction of the price.
Over time, a layer of vinegar mother will develop in the bottom of the bottle. This is a good thing! You can use the vinegar mother to inoculate other fermented things, like wine, to create other vinegar. And being a live product, the vinegar will change in flavor over time. The first year we made apple cider vinegar was 2009, and that vinegar now tastes like a mellow sherry, rather than the full, exuberant richness of our latest vintage.