INNER GARDEN

Vinegar of Wine
In the great wine producing countries of Europe such as Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, it is not always possible to find pure crude wine vinegar just as it is produced by the wine-makers.

A wine-maker doesn't like to have near the "ill-fated" vinegar because it puts in risk its precious wine.

But the vinegar is necessary for the alimentary industry. And here enters the great vinegar producers exclusively dedicated to the vinegar production on a large scale.

Unhappily not all those producers are honest and make a good vinegar of wine. Many of them use wine of bad quality and they use chemical products to accelerate the acidification.

Some years ago, we acquired, from one of those factories, 40 litres of vinegar of wine at 10%. When the employee was to fill the 20 litre vessels we noticed that in one retreat of the warehouse there was an amount of big blue plastic containers that are use for transport of chemical products.

It was not possible for us to find out whatthat product was because the employee didn't give us opportunity of doing so. But after distilling 5 litres of the said vinegar, there remained in the bottom of the cucurbit a residue of an acid salt.

We desist of acquiring vinegar from that supplier. Someone suggested us another supplier in a zone of great wine producers about 60 km away from our residence. We went there to order 40 litres of vinegar of wine.

We found a warehouse that in former times would have been a great wine cellar of a wealthy producer. We ordered 40 litres of vinegar of wine. However we glanced over at the enormous wood vats that took thousands of litres and noticed there were some big sacks of paper in a retreat of the warehouse that looked like sacks of cement.

The solicitous employee asked us if we wanted crude vinegar or ready to use. We answered that we preferred it crude although the price was the same.

Of course we could not resist the temptation of asking him if it was just pure vinegar of wine. He affirmed and, coincidentally, told us that a cistern truck that had transported the wine was still parked in a park beside the warehouse.

As we had already had a negative experience, we asked him what the sacks that were in the warehouse contained. He answered us without hesitation that it was actived coal to clear up the vinegar.

We risked asking a question more knowing that in these cases people don't like much to answer. It was how they made vinegar in such great amounts?

The employee without hesitation told us: you know, this oakwood vat takes thousands of litres of wine. We never completely remove all the vinegar and we leave about a fourth of its capacity. Now, look what is underneath the vat.

Observing we saw an electrical motor and what seemed to us an apparatus to force the entrance of air or similar thing. Here is the secret, he told us. The air transporting oxygen is forced continually through the bottom of the vat during about two or three days and, at the end of that time, we have vinegar of wine with more than 10% of acetic acid.

Everything was explained. The acidification was forced by the oxygen entering the bottom of the vat and after arriving at the wanted graduation, the vinegar was filtered through active coal to clear it up and give it that "straw" colour that a true vinegar of white wine. usually has.

He gave us a last explanation. So as not to spend a lot of coal in the clarification of the vinegar we use a quarter of red wine and the remaining white wine. As it is necessary for the acidification that there is tannin in suspension. Look, this vinegar is too strong for culinary use, it has to be diluted in water. It was what we wanted to hear because the stronger vinegar gives more spirit when it is distilled.

We left the warehouse satisfied with the employee's gracefulness and with the necessary knowledge to produce our own vinegar.

In large 5 litres plastic bottles pour 1 litre of red wine of 11 to 12º. Pour on this wine some commercial vinegar of wine. Leave the large bottles uncovered in a place sheltered to light and where the temperature is as constant as possible. In some time the wine acidifies which we can check by the vinegar smell and taste. We used a densimeter in degrees Baume to check the graduation of the acidification.

When it reaches the wanted graduation, at least 1º Baume (10%), pour into the big bottle one litre more of white or red wine. If it is was for culinary use that could be white wine. After some time the graduation is verified and when it reaches 1º another 1-litre bottle of wine at 11 or 12º is added. Continue successively like this until arriving at the 5 litres.

If you aren’t in a hurry, you leave the vinegar for a much longer time because it will reach about 2º Baume, that is 20% acetic acid.

The vinegar made at home in this way with a litre of red wine and four of white wine has a claret colour, an excellent flavour in agreement with the wine employee's quality and an aromatic smell completely different from the commercial vinegar that is made with wine and forced air.

Instead of five large bottles, you can use more, but, from experience, we can tell you that it is easier to acidify small amounts of wine than large amounts without using forced air. Or it will take a long time to acidify to the 10% at least.

When it reaches the necessary graduation it will be ready to distil. You can also use it for culinary purposes after having diluted it in water until 10% or even using depending on your taste. The commercial vinegar has a graduation of 6% of acetic acid that is to say 0,6º Baume.

Distillation of the Spirit of Vinegar

It is known from the most remote times, even before written history, that wine under certain circumstances and conditions sours and turns into vinegar, a word that means "sour wine".

During this transformation, the alcohol disappears completely and is changed into acetic acid.

Acquire a minimum of 50 litres of good, pure red wine vinegar at 10% acidity. Reject any industrial vinegar, because it usually contains chemical products.

Arrange four plastic 1.5 litre bottles such as the ones used for mineral water or soda.

Pour the vinegar into the bottles, without filling them completely, leaving at least the headspace the size of a hand.

Place the bottles in a refrigerating ark or in a freezer, and tilt them slightly so the liquid doesn't touch the bottle caps.

Let the vinegar freeze solid. When all is completely frozen, remove the cover of one of the bottles and tip it into a large mouth flask of 1 litre capacity. Let 500ml of vinegar drain into the flask. Switch the flask and drain another 500 ml. What remains in the bottle is a discoloured ice that contains only water. The water is rejected.

The first flask of vinegar will be about 4 degrees Baume. The other will be only about 1 or 2 degrees. A graduated hydrometer of 0-10 degrees Baumé will be very useful.

Join all the 4 degrees vinegar you collect in a 5 litre plastic bottle. Join the weaker vinegar in another bottle.

Now fill the 1.5 litre bottles you used earlier with the weaker vinegar and freeze them as was done earlier to obtain vinegar of 4 degrees. Join it to the other vinegar of the same graduation.

Always repeat the same process until you obtain, by freezing, vinegar of at least 8 to 9 degrees. It is very slow but effective work, and you will need a lot of patience and perseverance.

When you have all the vinegar with this graduation, proceed to your distillation. For this procedure, you will use an alembic and the same oven that was used for the distillation of the spirit of wine (6-litre alembic).

Pour 5 litres of the concentrated vinegar in the cucurbit. Distil about 2.5 litres on a gentle heat and the remaining amount with a stronger heat. The first spirit to come over is a beautiful lemon colour, and it will be about 1 or 2 degrees. The other will be stronger. Caput will remain in the bottom of the cucurbit, like a thick dark honey that you must place in a separate container.

Pour 5 more litres of vinegar in the cucurbit and repeat the process until you have distilled all of your supply.

Fill the bottles with the distilled spirit again and freeze, as previously, always separating the spirit of different graduations. It will be very difficult to freeze beyond the 5th or 6th cycle.

When you have the whole spirit to 5 or 6 degrees Baume, pour it in the cucurbit after you have washed it very well with a solution of caustic soda. Distil in the same way, using weaker heat in the beginning. The spirit that leaves first is always the weakest and what remains in the cucurbit will approach 9 to 10 degrees.

Repeat the process until you have all your spirit to 10 degrees. At this graduation, the vinegar spirit contains more than 80% of natural acetic acid, which will dissolve most of the metallic oxides. It is greasy to the touch, like tartar oil.

This is a true work of Hercules that few artists will know how to do correctly.

In regards to the honey (Kaput) that remained from the distillation, pour it in the cucurbit and distil with very strong heat. It will produce a highly graduate, empyreuma spirit that will join to the other. Faeces will remain in the bottom of the cucurbit that you must remove with a wood spoon with a long handle, and you can calcine it in a mud porringer or in a frying pan of iron, over a gas stove with very strong fire. After it is well calcined and no longer contains any combustible material, leach the ashes with rainwater and coagulate the salt, as demanded by the Art.

This salt is very deliquescent if it is well calcified. For this reason it should be kept well closed in a glass flask. It is a true tartar salt that will be very useful in several spagyrical operations.

Rubellus Petrinus