What Is Vinegar Made Out Of?

Transform your food waste, from apple peels to corn husks, into a nutritious, flavorful kitchen staple.

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by Carmen Troesser
Learning how to make vinegar at home can reduce kitchen waste by extracting nutrients from leavings that would’ve otherwise found their way into the waste stream.
1-3 months DURATION
30 minutes PREP TIME
1-1/2 quarts SERVINGS


  • 1/2 to 1 pound fruit or vegetable skins, cores, leftover mash from straining, or anything left over from a fruit or vegetable project
  • 3/4 cup sugar, any kind
  • 1-1/2 quarts unchlorinated water, just off the boil


  • 1/2 teaspoon wine yeast hydrated in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water that's been warmed to 104 F, or 1/2 cup room-temperature wild yeast starter
  • 3/4 cup raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized vinegar, or a vinegar mother


  • Combine fruit and sugar in a sanitized half-gallon jar. Stir in 1 quart of the just-boiled water. Use remaining just-boiled water to fill the jar to the neck.
  • Let mixture cool to room temperature, then add vinegar and yeast (if using).
  • Stir well with a wooden spoon. You’ll want to get some oxygen in the mix. However, make sure the fruit scraps stay submerged; otherwise, they can become a host for undesirable opportunistic bacteria.
  • Cover the jar with a piece of unbleached cotton (butter muslin or tightly woven cheesecloth), or a basket-style paper coffee filter. Secure with a string, a rubber band, or a threaded metal canning band. This is to keep out fruit flies.
  • Place on your counter or in another spot that’s 75 to 86 F.
  • Stir once a day with a wooden spoon for the first 5 or 6 days. After that, stir now and then, if you remember. You may see bubbles: That’s good.
  • The ferment will begin to slow down in about 2 weeks, at which point it’s time to take out the scraps. When you remove the cover, you may see a film developing on top. It’s the beginning of the vinegar mother. Remove and set it aside while you’re straining out the fruit solids.
  • Transfer the almost-vinegar (and the vinegar mother, if you have one) to a clean jar and cover again.
  • Check the vinegar in a month, when you should have nice acidity. However, it may take another month or two to fully develop. Test the pH: It should be 4.0 or below.
  • Bottle the finished vinegar, saving the vinegar mother for another batch or sharing with a friend. Use immediately, or age to allow it to mellow and develop flavors.

What is vinegar made out of? Almost any fruit leftovers or leavings! Use this fruit vinegar recipe to reduce kitchen waste and make a Universal Scrap Vinegar.

Universal Scrap Vinegar Recipe

What is vinegar made out of? You can use any fruit scraps you like with this recipe: strawberry hulls that have been topped with a bit of fruit; cherry pits that have gone through pitting but still retain a lot of juicy fruit bits; the mashed steamed skins and such that come from a steam juicer; the mash after running fruit through a food mill; the fiber that comes out of your juicer after making apple, beet, or ginger juice; or tiny, seedy wild rose hips. You get the idea; using any of these food scraps will reduce kitchen waste. Besides flavor, the skins and bits of fruit often provide wild yeasts as well as nutrients for any yeast you use. If you’re using organic skins and peelings, feel free to omit the added yeast. Like the pomace left from pressing apples, though, scrap vinegar often needs to be fortified with a sugar source.

various vegetable and fruit peelings and scraps

The amount of scrap material called for in this fruit vinegar recipe may seem unattainable at first glance. Don’t worry: Collect and store scraps in the freezer until you have enough. I like to use almost a pound of scraps, but there’s a lot of leeway when learning how to make vinegar at home. Use what you can gather, and combine ingredients that seem like they’d be tasty together.

Try Another Fruit Vinegar Recipe

Excerpted from Homebrewed Vinegar by Kirsten K. Shockey. Photography by Carmen Troesser. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.