A while back I posted a recipe for Mexican pickled red onions. although I used cider vinegar, the traditional recipe calls for pineapple vinegar, which is a home-fermented vinegar made in Oaxaca. I was curious, so I searched for recipes online.
You'll find two kinds of recipes. One, pineapple-flavored vinegar, calls for steeping chunks of pineapple with spices in vinegar. While that sounded interesting, I was more drawn to the second type - which uses water, sugar, and natural wild yeasts to ferment pineapple rinds. I like recipes that use stuff you'd normally throw away.
The method is quite simple. After you take the rind off your pineapple - use the fruit for whatever you like - you put it with brown sugar and water into a big jar, and put it away in a dark cupboard. After a certain period of time, you take it out and strain it, then put it in bottles. After another amount of time, it's vinegar.
The only problem was - none of the recipes agreed with one another. Leave the jar covered with cheese-cloth or cap it? How long to leave it before straining - the recipes varied from a week to six weeks. Shake it up or leave it alone?
I decided to cover the jar with plastic wrap and then put the lid on - I didn't want fruit flies in my kitchen. I left it in a dark place for 18 days.
It didn't put off much of a smell - just a slight fruitiness when I opened the cupboard door.
When I finally took it out, the liquid was golden yellow. The pineapple rind stayed beneath the surface - some of the recipes warned of floating rind where mold formed on the exposed surface. That didn't happen to mine.
When I opened the cover, I could see white stuff floating on the top of the liquid.
I strained the pineapple and liquid first through a colander. A brownish-tan gunk that smelled like yeast collected at the bottom of the jar -this tan gunk and the white blobs are part of what's called the "mother" of the vinegar - a gloppy mass of yeast bacteria.
I strained the liquid again through a fine mesh strainer, and then again through a strainer lined with a double layer of paper towel.
Then I decanted it into clean bottles - I have one pretty stoppered bottle that originally held French Lemonade, and one that held prosecco.
I stoppered the bottles and, according to the recipes, put them back in the dark cupboard to ferment for another couple of weeks. Since I didn't have enough vinegar to fill the second bottle, I'm curious whether it will ferment more quickly, with more surface area exposed to the air.
I stuck my finger into the liquid and tasted it - it tasted pineapple-y and sour, but not really vinegary, not yet. The whole thing is an experiment now - I can always throw it away if it spoils.
If you want to try it yourself, here are three websites with information about making pineapple vinegar:
And here's an article by Paula Wolfert about homemade vinegar in general: The Virtue of Homemade Vinegar.
Give it a try! What can you lose?