Chef John Currence shares a simple method for making your own vinegar from leftover wine — and a story that will inspire you to get started.
Before talking to chef John Currence, I would’ve told you that old wine is wine that doesn't get corked after a dinner party. In fact, I doubt Currence would disagree with that definition — outside his own home. You see, right now, in Currence’s home, sits a collection of very meaningful, old wine, slowly transforming into vinegar at this very moment. To him, that wine is the spirit of his mother.
"My mother just passed away around Thanksgiving," Currence said. "Behind her, she left a tremendous collection of …" He pauses for a moment in hesitation. "This is going to make people cringe when I say it, but she left a tremendous collection of Burgundies. A lot of them sat in the months after [Hurricane] Katrina, when it was absolutely brutally hot in New Orleans, in the high 90s for a couple weeks. It basically just cooked. And there was a little bit of flooding, so some of it floated and lost the labels. So, this just sort of became what my mom called, 'the house hamburger wine'. It was great wine that had sort-of been damaged or treated poorly. So, when we had hamburgers or spaghetti or something, she’d pull out a bottle of hamburger wine."
Of the many wines his mother left behind, Currence says some were exquisite, expensive varieties. "She hung on to them, sort-of believing she’d go through them and that they would, at some point, magically transform into something amazing. And they just never did," he explains. "My dad didn’t know what to do with them [after her passing]. He was going to throw all this wine away, and I was like, 'No, absolutely not. Bring it to me, and I’ll start this project and transform all this wine into sick, delicious vinegar.'"
Currence, the owner of several restaurants, plans to use this vinegar in his kitchens. He shares the simple method behind this passionate project below.
There are many ways to make vinegar, some significantly more difficult than others, but most very easy. The process of turning alcohol into vinegar is nothing more than a natural conversion of the alcohol into acetic acid by naturally-occurring bacteria.
The best way to start is with leftover wine, only because Currence doesn’t recommend using perfectly good wine for anything other than drinking and occasionally cooking. In a large, two-gallon glass, ceramic or stainless steel container (do not use aluminum, steel or plastic), place two quarts of red or white wine and one cup live, unfiltered vinegar. Cover the top of the container with a cloth, and place in a warm, dark place. Allow to stand for two months.
Strain and pour vinegar into small bottles, and allow to stand for another month, at least, to mellow.
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