This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
In the Horticulturist for December and February, there are notices of the Vinegar plant, there described as " a minute fungus, allied to the mucor or mould," "Penicillium glaucum, of which the mycelium or spawn forms a tough," "leathery web." This description of the spawn would answer for the substance usually called "mother," always accompanying good cider-vinegar when left a month undisturbed, whether producing the vinegar, or being generated by it, and leads to the suspicion that the "mother," if not the spawn of the vinegar plant, stands in the same relation to one of the same class, and of nearly the same properties; as it is frequently used here for the purpose of hastening the formation of vinegar from cider, and it is generally believed to be useful for that purpose.
Leaving the vinegar plant till more as known of it and its properties, I propose to describe the method I have used for making vinegar from cider, and which, when adhered to, I have not known to fail. The cider used for making vinegar, is generally made in the early part of the season, before the weather becomes cold. The process is as follows: Grind the apples; put the pomace in open vessels a day or two, then press out the cider, put it in open tubs or casks, cover the cider one inch thick with pomace; let it remain fermenting till the pomace shows signs of separating into parts; then skim off the pomace, put the dean cider into casks, rejecting the sediment at the bottom; place the casks of cider under cover, and protect it from freezing in the winter; place a brick or board over the bung-hole, and, for a month, keep the vessels full; it is important that the casks be well cleaned from mould and mustiness; where either is suspected, it is proper to burn sulphur within them, and, afterward, rinse carefully.
At any time after the cider has been drawn from the open tubs, procure good cider vinegar, known to be such, and not that manufactured in part from tartaric or sulphuric acid; let it be in such quantity as you suppose necessary to begin with - suppose one barrel, draw off one-half, and put it in another cask; then, once in a week, add to each a gallon of cider (or, if you choose, two gallons); continue to do so till the barrels are full; afterwards, draw from each, weekly, two gallons, putting it into other casks, and fill the same quantity of cider into each that you have drawn from; in this way, vinegar can be made, with certainty, to any extent. It is better not to sell till the succeeding season of cider making; first, because, although the vinegar may be merchantable, yet it may be wanted to increase the stock, and, if not, it will improve at least till the end of a year, and perhaps longer; and secondly, the casks (which, to the farmer, causes the principal outlay in making vinegar) will last longer if kept full, or part full, than if empty.
I believe this method is the same in principle as that of making vinegar by using the vinegar plant; in each case, a liquid substance, capable of, and disposed to, the acetous fermentation, is brought into contact with substances that have, in part, undergone that fermentation, and not passed beyond it. The result of the contact is, that the action, originally confined to the one part, is continued through both.
A similar process takes place by producing the pannary fermentation, in bread, by yeast or leaven, causing and extending something like organisation through the mass. And one as remarkable, and not dissimilar, is the action produced in the human body by inoculation.
The mixing of pomace with the eider, when pressed, and leaving it to ferment, is not essential; it is, however, useful in getting rid of much sediment that is useless.
The periods of mixing and quantities mixed, are those I have used, and may be varied: but, by mixing at such periods, and in such proportions, the vinegar will not, at any time, be made perceptibly less acid by the mixture. Vinegar is frequently made of water cider, but the water does not become vinegar; the vinegar is only so much Weaker by the water in its composition. Respectfully, A. W. Corboit.