Ask a Scientist: Vinegars in Paradise
Our favorite scientist-in-residence considers legacy vinegar starters for a Hawaii-based chef.
July 5, 2017
Q: So we made vinegar from guavas.
We fermented them for a week using natural yeasts and strained it, then aged it for two months until no alcohol was remaining. Now we have this epic guava vinegar. I want to see if this can be used to start another vinegar like a sourdough starter, and if so, should it be used with other fruits or wine? – Chef Jeff Scheer, The Mill House
A: Nice! And yes! If you want to use some of this vinegar as a starter, I’d try using it at a rate of about 10% by volume. You could use it with either fruits or wine, just depends on what you want to make. One thing to note: if you start with fruit, make sure to leave some peels (or another source of yeast) in the mix. The acetic acid bacteria in your vinegar can’t do anything with sugar—they need yeast to ferment the sugar to ethanol first, at which point they take over to turn ethanol into acetic acid. Fruit will still get there, but it will take longer than starting with booze.
Also, since you worked so hard to make that awesome guava vinegar, I’d consider just starting your next one with some store-bought, raw apple cider vinegar instead and keeping the guava for more special uses!