Apple Cider Vinegar
Europeans brought apples to America and they flourished. They not only grew well in the climate, they could be stored in a cellar for a very long time, dried for even longer storage, drunk as fresh apple cider, or canned as apple butter or applesauce. Apples were an important food for many early Americans.
Aside from the above yummy ways apples could be used, the scraps themselves provided one of the most important of pioneer staples: Apple Cider Vinegar. Using only the discarded cores and peels of apples, vinegar was crucial to everything from preserving to flavoring to cleaning! And it is very easy to make!
Leave the scraps to air (covered by a clean cloth to keep bugs and debris out). When they have browned, place in your bowl or jar.
Quantities are flexible in this recipe. . .but a good rule of thumb is to add your scraps to your container and add water just until covered. Leave about a quarter of the container free.
Cover with cheesecloth and then store anywhere the temperature stays between 60 and 80 degrees (most homes are in this range), and is dark. If you have a cupboard for your water heater, for example, this is a great option.
From here you have two choices. Some people say to leave your mixture alone for at least a month to ferment and complete the process. Others suggest stirring every day or two to introduce more oxygen. It's up to you. You might even try an experiment: fill two wide mouth mason jars and stir just one. The theory is that the more oxygenated one will ferment faster.
The contents will thicken and a scum will form on the top. . .don't panic. This is supposed to happen!
After a month or so, taste a small teaspoon of the liquid. When you feel it tastes right and is the correct strength for your purposes, it's time to strain and bottle your nectar!
You can either just strain through cheesecloth, or, if you prefer a clearer product, through a coffee filter. I opt for the cheesecloth because it leaves some of the sediment that is called 'The Mother' and provides a lot of great nutrients. You might not like the cloudiness or sediment, which is fine, too! Strain away!
Some folks like to just pour into a clean bottle and be done at this point by placing your vinegar out of direct sunlight at room temperature. Vinegar does have a pretty good shelf life as is.
However, I prefer to make a LOT of something when I do it. . .just saves me time and effort in the long run, so I do two things. One is just to pour some into jars as is. And the other is to pasteurize some for the future. I like the health benefits of the first, but I like the longevity of the second. I use the second primarily for canning things that will be refrigerated and such (because the acidity of homemade vinegars vary, it's best not to use them for canning items that will be stored at room temperature. Before I learned this, I never seemed to have a problem, but it's better to be safe than sorry!!).
Filter your vinegar (via a coffee filter!) into a large enough pot to hold your liquid comfortably.
Bring the temperature up to at least 140 degrees and no higher than 160 degrees. 140 is needed to sterilize the product, but over 160 and you destroy it. Use an accurate thermometer to ensure you are in the correct zone.
After hitting the correct temperature, pour into clean, sterilized, hot jars (using sterilized equipment!).
Close with sterilized rings and lids and place CAREFULLY in a canning pot half filled with very hot water. If the water does not fully cover the top of the lids by at least an inch, add more boiling water to the pot until it does.
Process at a boil for ten minutes.
CAREFULLY remove the jars and let cool. If the jars do not seal, repeat the process.
Once cool, store out of direct sunlight at room temperature.