Vinegar is the product of a two-step fermentation process. First, sugars are converted to alcohol by natural yeasts. Red and white wine vinegars use grapes to make alcohol, cider vinegar uses apples, but any fruit can be used to create the alcohol base. A secondary fermentation uses natural acetobacter culture to convert the alcohol into acetic acid, the essential component of vinegar. This is a slow process, often taking between six months and a year. In the end, no sugar or alcohol remains, but the colour and flavour of the fruit are preserved.
Most of the fruit vinegars available in stores are the product of infusion. This means the makers of those products are buying bulk (often low quality) wine vinegars and infusing them with fruit flavour. In most cases they are also adding large amounts of sugar and flavouring to augment their infusions. We never use bought vinegar in our products. We make everything one hundred percent from scratch. Our raspberry vinegar, for example, is not simply white wine vinegar that had some raspberries soaking in it for a while, it is actually made directly from the fruit…it is true raspberry essence, no sugar or artificial flavours added.
Bree is very committed to supporting local agriculture. Whenever we can, we grow the fruit ourselves including plums, blackberries, apples, pears, rosehips. What what we can’t grown we try to source first from Salt Spring Island farmers (strawberries, figs, currants, cherries, some grapes) and for things that we can’t find on our island we select the best that the rest of British Columbia has to offer (peaches, raspberries, wine grapes, blueberries). We are also very committed to organic agriculture and buy certified organic fruit whenever possible.
Our vinegar is raw and unpasteurized. This means that the acetobacter culture that creates our product is still alive inside our vinegars. Healthy acetobacter colonies product a natural cellulose byproduct that is often called “mother of vinegar”. Over time you may begin to see mother forming in your bottle of vinegar, looking something like a tiny jellyfish floating around. This is a completely natural and harmless result of living vinegar, and is NOT a sign that something is wrong with your vinegar! The mother is safe to consume, but if it’s appearance starts to bother you, you may simply strain is out through a sieve or coffee filter.
Lucky for us, vinegar doesn’t go off! In fact, it often improves with time, mellowing like a fine wine. After several years some of the acetic acid may start to evaporate, lowering the strength of the vinegar, but this process won’t occur as long as your bottle is closed to oxygen. Time (and exposure to oxygen) may also result in more mother growth, but as explained above this isn’t such a bad thing!
So don’t worry if you find an old bottle in the back of your cupboard, it’s probably even better now than the day you bought it!