Fermented foods and beverages are definitely on the come-up these days, but while the kombuchas, slaws, and yogurts of the world are busy getting wild style makeovers lest we forget about the ever humble, vinegar.
Vinegar (Latin translation: vinum 'wine' + acer 'sour') is about a bajillion years old, and over those bajillion years has been a go-to resource for both food preservation and medicinal uses. Traditionally vinegar can be made from essentially any carbohydrate – apples, grapes, coconuts, potatoes – using a slow, prolonged fermentation process that can take up to several months. Slow and steady wins the bacterial race though! The longer the fermentation period, the more accumulation and higher potency of beneficial enzymes, acids, yeast, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. The buildup of these cultures, appropriately named "Mother", produce the murky, slimy substance you often see swirling round the bottom of an vinegar bottle. Yr mouth may not be that stoked to slurp up such slime, but TRUST that gut couldn't be more excited. This matronly presence is a sure sign that the vinegar has been unprocessed, unfiltered, and ultimately will provide the biggest bang for yr good bacteria buck. This is why it's important to pass on pasteurized vinegar products and stick those that are clearly labeled "raw" and "unprocessed".
One of the most common vinegars for internal health consumption is apple cider vinegar (ACV), because it contains valuable minerals, live enzymes, and anti-fungal/microbial/bacterial acids. But beyond its internal benefits, beloved ACV puts out for just about any practical health or cleaning purpose:
Full of live enzymes, amino acids, and probiotics, ACV is a powerhouse of good gut nutrients and bacterias. Increasing the presence of these acids has shown to improve the makeup of presh intestinal flora. Drinking just a few tablespoons of ACV may help food digest more efficiently and also restore imbalanced acid levels in yr tum tum - making this an effective natural solution for acid reflux. The antibacterial and pectin properties make this a great solution for stomach viruses and constipation, too! Because ACV is a natural detoxifier, regular consumption can encourage the body's natural ability to flush toxins from the liver. The pectin fiber found in apples has shown to soothe the gastrointestinal tract, which can ease cramps and bloating.
Because vinegar is anti-glycemic, this can be beneficial to balancing blood sugar. ACV has high levels of acetic acid, which has shown to regulate digestion and improve the body's ability to break down carbs by slowing the entry of sugar into the bloodstream. This anti-glycemic effect has been proven in several studies with nod to treating diabetic conditions.
Immune System Booster
Happy intestinal flora = happy immune system. So it's a no brainer that encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria to help flora flourish would improve your overall health. Better yet, ACV's malic acid acts as a strong antiviral, which can help bust germ and infections from the body before they have time to spread. Another natural effect from encouraging a stronger immune system is increased stamina and energy. ACV and its powerful alkalizing effect has long been used as a natural tonic to improve overall health and wellbeing.
Sinus & Sore Throat
However if you aren't privy to the ACV immune booster and happen to catch a cold, it's not too late to reap its benefits. The antibacterial properties and high potassium levels in ACV are germ busting badasses that do wonders for the lymphatic system: working hard to heal sore throats, break up mucous, relieve congestion, clear sinuses, and fight infections.
Skin & Hair
The bacterial balancing benefits of ACV work just as well outside the body as they do on the inside. There are SO many amazing skin and hair benefits to enjoy from using this vinegar. Easy external application to the scalp can effectively balance pH levels to ward off dandruff and also lock-in moisture to dry or damaged hair tips. ACV and its pH balancing magic also can do wonders for the skin: antibacterial properties make this a great natural toner; present malic and lactic acids may soften and exfoliate skin and reduce blemishes.
Plants have proper bodily functions to maintain for goo health too! When diluted, ACV can be a great fertilizer to acid-loving flowers, plants, and soil. It can also be the perfect snack for plucked flower stems to maintain freshness, but only a small tsp is needed in the vase.
Because yr skin, hair, and garden all already smells like ACV, why not just drench the rest of yr house in the stuff! ACV makes an amazing all-natural cleaning alternative, that can do wonders on removing a plethora of stains, candle wax, rust, mildew, kitchen grease, and will eagerly disinfect and deodorize just about any surface you put in its path.
Now that yr brain is spinning with the endless internal/external possibilities provided with fermented goddess ACV, time to learn just how ridiculously easy it is to make on yr own. As in like, five simple steps in five short minutes and then a pinch of patience. Sweeten the pot by the fact that it's boiling outside, and less fermentation time is required before you possess liquid gold. Rest assured though, this process is all but fool-proof and laughably inexpensive.
Having an abundance of apples littering my front yard, sugar in the pantry, and an unused jar waiting for use, the process was absolutely F-R-E-E fo' me. Like sweet nature, you've done it again. However, if you don't have a few blessed apple trees within arms reach than be sure to purchase organic apples from the store. Remember that the fermentation process allows bacteria to flourish off the beneficial nutrients of the source, and within these bioactive cultures is all that good stuff we just covered. So you want yr base for this process to be as pesticide-free as possible.
3 to 5 small apples
3 tsp raw sugar
1. Wash and chop apples into equal, medium sized pieces. Apples should fill at least half of your jar, so the amount will vary on the jar size. You have a few options here: use the entire apple excluding the stem; use the peels and cores from leftover apple pie that I'm sure you just made; simply de-core the apples that you use.
Pro tip: Using several different apple varieties can be a great way to improve the taste and enhance its healthful properties.
2. Place apples into a well sterilized jar and then add sugar.
3. Fill the jar with filtered, room-temperature water so that it fully covers the apples. Stir well so that the sugar is completely dissolved.
4. Cover the jar with a cheesecloth or paper towel and secure with rubber band. Place in a warm, dark place for about two weeks. Stir occasionally.
5. After two to three weeks, you should begin to see the apple pieces sinking to the bottom of the jar. By now, your apples have reached the fermentation stage of a cider. When this happens, you will want to strain the liquid from the jar and discard the apple pieces.
6. Pour the strained liquid back into the re-sterilized jar and cover with cheesecloth. Put back in yr same warm, dark place and wait another month or so for yr vinegar to fully ferment. At this time you should begin to see that bacterial sediment filled with cultured gut goodies.