This easy fermented fruit vinegar uses two ingredients: fruit and water. It's the perfect way to use fruit scraps and overripe fruit to make homemade apple cider vinegar, berry vinegar, and more!
I try really hard to not waste food.
A few years ago, as fruit season came into full swing, I started reassessing how much fruit was going into our tumbling composter.
And while yes, it's true that compost isn't exactly "wasting" anything, since the food scraps eventually get worked back into our garden, I still wanted to make the food work harder for us.
The answer seemed clear. I needed to make this the summer of fruit vinegar.
If you've been following along on my Instagram stories, you've probably seen my fruit vinegar in progress. Some of you have even asked about it.
This easy fruit vinegar tutorial is a perfect way to use extra fruit, overripe fruit, and fruit scraps to make your own homemade fermented fruit vinegar.
Can I Really Make Vinegar From Fruit?
You sure can!
All you need is fruit and water, and lacto-fermentation does the rest.
If you're new to fermenting, I recommend checking out the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.
Make sure to check out our other fermenting recipes too! Some of our most popular posts are tutorials for how to make kombucha, water kefir, milk kefir, yogurt (in a yogurt maker), Instant Pot yogurt, homemade sauerkraut, and red cabbage sauerkraut.
What Kind of Fruit (or Fruit Scraps) Can I Use for Vinegar?
Basically the answer is, if it's fruit, you can use it!
And also, fruit peels, fruit cores, or fruit pits. Especially when those fruit scraps still have bits of fruit attached to them.
You can use fresh, undamaged, perfect fruit, but this fruit vinegar really shines in its ability to take unwanted fruit and turn it into liquid gold.
Use fruit scraps, fruit peels, bruised fruit, and overripe fruit. If your fruit has a pit with bits of fruit still attached, you can use that too.
You can also used dried fruits.
The only rule here is to avoid using moldy fruit, because you don't want to encourage mold growth in your ferment.
Here are some of my favorite fruits to use:
- apple peels + cores
- strawberry hulls (the leafy green part + the top of the strawberry)
- cherry pits (Pit the cherries into the vinegar jar to catch all the juice.)
- overripe grapes, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries (squash or cut them in half to get the juice out)
- citrus peels
You can also add fresh herbs or spices to the vinegar ferment. I like to add mint or basil to my strawberry vinegar.
What Equipment Do I Need?
The only thing you really need is a clean glass jar.
I like to use a 2-quart (half-gallon) jar, but you can go smaller or larger.
Technically, that's it. You don't need anything but a glass jar and something to cover the jar (like a paper towel and a rubber band).
That said, if you (like me) live in fear of summer fruit flies, you may want to buy a few airlock fermenting lids. These lids work on any standard wide-mouth glass jar, and do a wonderful job at keeping fruit flies out of ferments.
Can I Freeze Fruit Scraps Until I Have Enough?
Yes! Most definitely.
During the busy summer fruit season, I've been freezing scraps because I don't currently have enough jars and airlock lids to use all my scraps at once!
How to Make Fermented Fruit Vinegar
Start by filling a glass jar ¾ of the way full with fruit.
Add some herbs if you want to.
Do not fill the jar more than ¾ of the way full. As it ferments, the liquid will become active and bubble up.
If your jar is too full, it will overflow and create a mess.
You may want to add something on top of the fruit to help keep it from floating above the water.
I like to use citrus peels, but you could also use a use fermenting weights or a small glass jar filled with water and sealed.
If you don't add a weight, that's fine too. You'll just want to keep a closer eye on your ferment and occasionally push the fruit below the water.
Next, cover the fruit with unchlorinated water.
Cover the jar with one of your airlock fermenting lids, or use a paper towel and secure it with a rubber band.
Fruit Vinegar: The First Ferment
And now, you wait.
Fruit vinegar goes through two ferments. The first ferment (this one) lets the fruit infuse the water with flavor.
Let the fruit ferment for one to two weeks.
How do you know when the first ferment is finished?
As it ferments, the water will go from clear to very cloudy, and then will become clear again. When the water is clear again, you're ready to move onto the second ferment.
That said, some fruit vinegars will remain fairly cloudy, so it can sometimes be tricky to use the cloudiness of the water as a guide.
For example, apple cider vinegar is relatively cloudy even after fermenting.
If the water doesn't seem to be clearing, move onto the second ferment after two weeks.
Fruit Vinegar: The Second Ferment
When the water becomes clear again (or after two weeks), it's time to move onto the next stage of the ferment.
Strain all of the fruit out of your vinegar. I usually strain mine through a mesh sieve into another container.
Clean out the glass jar, and pour the liquid back into the jar.
Cover the jar again.
Now the question is, how long do I have to ferment this vinegar?
There are two options. One option is "fast" (if you can call two-plus weeks fast), and the other will take more time.
Fermenting + Refrigerating
Option one: Let the vinegar ferment until you like the flavor and then refrigerate it.
I love this option, and it's my preferred method for a sweeter vinegar.
After straining out the fruit, I recommend fermenting it for at least two more weeks.
At this point, you can smell and taste the vinegar periodically. When you like the flavor, pour the vinegar into a glass bottle and stick it into the fridge.
Storing the vinegar in the fridge will drastically slow fermentation, and your vinegar will continue to taste like it did when you put it in the fridge.
Fermenting for Room Temperature Storage
If you continue to leave the vinegar at room temperature, it will continue to ferment. It will also become less sweet.
As the vinegar continues to ferment, the bacteria inside will gradually become less active.
If you have the counterspace and the desire, you could let the vinegar just do its thing. Be aware that this could take months.
To test the vinegar for "doneness," pour it into a bottle and seal it.
I recommend using pressure-resistant bottles for this step (like a beer growler, used kombucha bottles, or pressure-resistant swing-top bottles meant for kombucha or beer).
Bottles that aren't pressure resistant could burst if there is still a lot of fermentation happening.
Leave the bottle sealed for about a day. If it hasn't begun to carbonate, test it again in a few days.
When there is no carbonation, you can leave the lid on and store your vinegar at room temperature.
Does Temperature Matter When Fermenting Vinegar?
Yes, it does!
Ideally, the room you ferment your vinegar in should be between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep in mind that cold slows fermentation and heat speeds fermentation.
If your vinegar doesn't seem to be fermenting well, try moving it to a warmer space. If it's fermenting too quickly, try finding a cooler space.
Troubleshooting: Mold Growing in the Vinegar
In general, you won't have problems with mold growing if you keep the fruit pushed below the water level.
If you see cloudy things growing in the bottom of your vinegar, it's probably the vinegar mother forming. The vinegar mother helps the good bacteria grow, so it's a good thing.
If you see white residue forming on the top of the vinegar, simply skim it off.
However, in the unlikely event that you see actual mold growing in your vinegar AND your fruit was kept below the water at all times, you'll want to discard the vinegar.
What could cause mold growth? Three things.
A lack of airflow. Avoid storing your vinegar in the back of a musty cabinet.
Mold in your home. Again, put the vinegar in a place where there is airflow.
It was too hot to ferment. If your home is above 75 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, I recommend storing your fruit scraps in the freezer and waiting to make vinegar a cooler time of year.
How to Store Fruit Vinegar
But really, you could use any any glass container.
Keep in mind that the vinegar will cause metal lids (like the ones that come with canning jars) to rust.
How to Use Fruit Vinegar
If you're making a different type of fruit vinegar, you can try swapping the fruit vinegar for apple cider vinegar in recipes.
Additionally, when recipes call for lemon juice or rice vinegar, but those ingredients are not pivotal, main ingredients, I often swap the listed ingredient for fruit vinegar.
You can also use fruit vinegar to make a shrub drink by adding a splash (or more) of vinegar to a glass with water or seltzer water. It's surprisingly refreshing!
If a batch of fruit vinegar turns out less delicious than you expected (because it fermented in temperatures that were too hot or you simply don't like the flavor with certain fruits), you can always mix the vinegar with some water and use it to fertilize your garden.
It's also worth noting that you should not use homemade vinegar for canning recipes, because you (probably) aren't testing the acidity level.
If you tried making homemade fruit vinegar, let me know what kind you made in the comments!
- Large Glass Jar (2 quarts recommended)
- 6 cups fruit and / or fruit scraps Measurement an estimate. Use enough fruit to fill a jar ½ or ¾ full.
- herbs or spices (optional)
- 1 orange peel (optional)
- Fill the jar ½ to ¾ full with fruit and any herbs or spices. Do not fill the jar completely.
- Weigh the Fruit Down:If desired, top fruit with the orange peel. Alternatively, you can use fermenting weights or a small glass jar filled with water and sealed.When to Skip the Weight: If your fruit is heavy, or already has large sections of thick peel, you can probably get away with using its own peel as a weight. (Ex: For mango vinegar, I use a few layers of mango peel to weigh down the vinegar.) If the fruit tends to float (as with apples, berries, or grapes), I recommend using an orange peel or other weight.
- Fill the jar with unchlorinated water. The water should be an inch or two above the fruit, but there should still be a 2"-4" space in between the water and the top of the jar.Cover the jar with a paper towel or tea towel, and secure with a rubber band. Alternatively, use an airlock fermenting lid (to help prevent fruit flies).Do not seal the jar with a lid (such as a canning lid). The vinegar needs airflow.
- Store the jar out of direct sunlight for 1-2 weeks. Check on the fruit daily to make sure it's staying below the water line. If any fruit pops up above the water, push it down.As the ferment continues, the water will change from clear to cloudy to clear again. Note that some fruit vinegars will always appear cloudy, so if your water doesn't change from cloudy to clear, go ahead and move on to the next step after two weeks.
- Strain the fruit out of the liquid. I usually set a mesh sieve above another container and pour the vinegar through it.Discard or compost the fruit. Clean the jar, and pour the vinegar back into the jar. Recover the jar with the paper towel and rubber band or the airlock fermenting lid.Again, do not seal the jar with a lid (such as a canning lid). The vinegar needs airflow.
- Two Week Ferment + Refrigerate the Vinegar:For a relatively sweet vinegar, let the vinegar ferment for at least two more weeks or until you like the flavor, and then store in the fridge.Longer Ferment + Shelf-Stable Vinegar:For a more acidic vinegar, let the vinegar continue to ferment until the bacteria in the vinegar is finished fermenting. This may take several months.To test the vinegar for doneness, pour it into a pressure-resistant bottle and seal the bottle. Wait 24 hours and open the bottle. If the vinegar has begun to carbonate, let it ferment in the jar longer. If it hasn't, try sealing it in the pressure-resistant bottle again for a few days. When there are no signs of carbonation, the vinegar is done. Store it at room temperature and use as desired.Use vinegar within 6 months for the best flavor.