Apple sauce, apple butter, apple jelly and apple cider vinegar are things I try to make for my family every fall. I try very hard to forage my apples to use in these recipes. I hate to see one of my friends let a tree full of healthy organic apples go to waste. So every summer I start looking around at who has apples that they do not use and try to remember to ask them if I can have them. This summer I was a little unsure of where I was going to get my apples. We moved and I did know to many people who had apple trees in our new area. I remembered a huge apple tree at my favorite public library. Why not ask the librarian of the Lewis Bennett Library what they were going to do with some of the apples…. it couldn’t hurt to ask right?
So after asking the head Librarian Karen about the apples, she said no one had asked for the apples and most of the time the apples just fell and made a huge mess on the library side-walk. She let me have as many of the apples as I wanted. The tree is well over 100 years old and they do nothing to maintain the tree so they are again chemical free, of unknown species and cost me nothing, a perfect fit for my foraging personality.
So after a couple of hours with my apple picker in the yard of this historical mansion I had filled my buckets with about 70 pounds of a soft yellow-green apples.
Most people call these deer apples and never plan to use them at home but let the deer enjoy them.Today I was able to make 6 quarts of apple sauce from 8 pounds of these little apples.( I have a DIY post about how to make Home Made Apple Sauce here) They made a very nice sweet apple sauce so I am guessing they are a golden delicious type of apple developed in Clay County West Virginia around the time the house was built.
To make Apple Cider Vinegar I took the peals and cores from these apples and split them between two gallon containers. I left enough room at the top to let water stand over the top of the cores and peals. The apples will begin to ferment under the water’s surface but Some mold may grow if a peal is sticking up to high.
Next I added 2 and 1/2 quarts of warm water that I had added 2 1/2 heaping tables spoons of white sugar to each jar. Making a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to water. The sugar helps feed the Bactria to get a good start to the fermentation. It also adds a sweetness to the vinegar. I use most of my vinegar for cooking so I want a strong apple flavor without much sweetness. If I was drinking this everyday I would add more sugar to make to flavor more drinkable. One recipe I read had 1/2 cup of sugar per gallon. It is not necessary to use this much sugar, apples ferment quickly! Apples have a lot of natural sugars and yeasts that ferment so well it is hard to stop raw apple juice from turning to wine and vinegar in a matter of days with out a chemical to stop the fermentation. Believe me no sugar is really needed to ferment apples, we have had a few drunk cows on the farm from eating rotten apples in the pasture,what a funny sight !
Here I am trying to keep the apples under the water surface with a small bowel to prevent mold or scum from growing around the top of the jar. I then cover the jars with cloth to prevent bugs or dust from getting into the jars. I store my jars in our laundry room. Where the temp in the summer is more constant much like a cellar. It never freezes but is never as hot as the house on a hot summer day. The best fermentation happens between 60 and 80 degrees F.
Now I wait two weeks to strain out the apple cores and peels. The fermentation will actually take several weeks and the smell of vinegar will increase as the amount of sugar decreases. At about 4 weeks the sugar should be eaten up by the bacteria that converts the sugar to alcohol than into vinegar. At this time you can filter the vinegar to make it look clear or rack it just like wine. I will filter mine with cheese cloth just to remove the large pieces of apple and return the vinegar back to the shelf for two more weeks to make sure that all the fermentation is finished at 6 weeks. If by chance you notice that the apple cider vinegar has a slimy pad floating in it (smile really big)… you have grown a “Mother” or “Scoby” that should be removed and stored to make the next batch of ACV ( apple cider vinegar) and reduce the time for fermentation to about 4 weeks on another batch.
The raw ACV can at this point be bottled and kept in the refrigerator and it will be good up to 1 year. My family goes through about 1 gallon in a year so this is the amount I try to make. If you want to keep it on the shelf for easy storage then the you need to cook and bottle the ACV. The cooking process does two things. It will kill the good Bactria growing in the ACV ( pasteurizing the ACV) but will also stabilizes it so that you can store it almost indefinitely. ACV is processed like any other canned food with sterile bottles or jars and correct processing times.
So if you are a fan of raw apple cider vinegar you can make this for pennies. I think the most expensive part would be to get containers. Most families do not use as much vinegar as we do so with just an old spaghetti sauce jar ( 1 quart size) and 3 apples you could make enough ACV for at least 6 months. It is just another way to make some thing from free healthy foraged food.
So when I finally get the 18 quarts of apple sauce finished, the 8 pints of apple butter, the 10 jelly pints of apple jelly, and the gallon of apple cider vinegar finished in 6 weeks, I will feel like I stocked my pantry well from these free ugly old deer apples that no one wanted! Here at links to my post on Slow Cooker Apple Butter and Apple Jelly they are also made with free apples and made much like this with a two for one process.