I got to combine fruit vinegar making and seed saving because a while back I started fermenting seed I was saving to loosen the seeds stuck to the
fruit. I had learned this at a seed saving workshop by Karen Parkin. Apparently it also protects the seeds against fungi. I started with pumpkins and then did tamarillos. I noticed that the perfume of the fermenting tamarillos was very fine, and this was also so for Carissa bispinosa and then Harpephyllum caffrum or wild plum, both African fruit trees. The seed fermented for several weeks.
The Harpehyllum has hard seeds that take months to germinate so I’m not sure of it worked for them. Very few Carissa germinated and then the seedlings disappeared again. However fermentation gave the tamarillos and the pumpkins a high germination rate.
My husband started making fruit vinegar for his cooking website lookingatcooking.com. I also describe how to make fruit vinegar on the website. He made plum first, and then pineapple.
Because we have a glut of guavas full of worms every year, I had to just throw away the fruit. This year I wanted to suppress the fruit flies which lay eggs on the guavas. The fallen fruit needed to be collected every day and I thought hard about a better use for them than composting. I collected the fruit and made vinegar out of them. It didn’t take long to put two and two together and start making vinegar with the fruit from which I am harvesting organic seeds, using the fermentation that is part of processing the seed. This year will tell if they are still fertile after processing.
I crush the fruit and add a little sugar and water if there isn't enough pulp. It is important to crush the fruit so that they cannot form anaerobic botulism colonies in the closed envelope of the skin where the acids cannot penetrate. This is more of a threat when pickling less acid fruit like olives and cucumbers. I let it ferment for approximately a month. It should smell like wine at this stage. I then remove the seeds, filter the ferment and store it in a cool place loosely covered, to let it go sour. The ferment must be filtered several times at monthly intervals. The gelatinous skin which forms on the ferment is called the 'mother'. You can use it to inoculate other ferments apparently, but I found it didn't speed up the fermenting process.
Since the first efforts I’ve made Numnum (Carissa bispinosa) vinegar, pineapple-lemon-herb vinegar, and I’m working on a Harpephyllum and a Tamarillo vinegar. I also have a grenadilla ferment which looks interesting, but the fruit were moldy when harvested and I don’t think its safe for human consumption. Likewise the Harpephyllum fruit lie on the street and then they also have tough skins which may encourage nasty anaerobes and botulism, so I plan to boil and render down the Harpephyllum vinegar into a sweet sour syrup.
Boiling is a bit unfortunate as the wonderful thing about hand brewed fruit vinegar is the great live flora they contain. Our milk products and cheeses and sauerkraut are all pasteurized, and the wines disinfected, so there is precious little opportunity to consume lacto bacteria which are so good for the digestive tract. Some people are allergic to the lactose found in milk on which they thrive, so making fruit vinegar is a wonderful opportunity to make lactose free cultures containing some lactobacillus.
The fermentation and formation of acid make this a relatively safe easy process, as the toxic microorganisms don't like acid, and the fruit tend to ferment rather than rot. I've tried making sauerkraut. The first batch was a
success. It was beginner’s luck. The subsequent batches failed and went stinky and brown, even
in the fridge. Sauerkraut is a much more complicated and finely tuned pickling process than
making vinegar which occurs naturally if you have over ripe fruit lying around. They go off, ferment
and then form
vinegar. All you need to do is assist the natural process, with air, perhaps a little water and sugar if the fruit don’t have enough pulp, and mashing the fruit so that there are no pockets (closed envelopes of the unbroken fruit skin) where the processes cannot penetrate. The result is the most delicious vinegar, each bottle entirely different.
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