Going Bad: Making Vinegar with Chef Soucy
Chef Patrick Soucy’s favorite part of the day is jumping on the John Deere four-wheeler at Applecrest Farm to check on his ingredients, which flourish on the more than 200-acre land of greenhouses, crop fields and hundred-year-old apple orchards in Hampton Falls, NewHampshire. This summer marked the opening of the Farm Bistro restaurant where he serves dishes inspired what what’s picked each day in an attempt to “reeducate people about using food, right down to the economical cut of a roast beef sandwich.”
The food pioneer is elbow deep in eating culture, galvanizing old habits with over eighty varieties of fresh produce and a taste for creativity. His mission includes harvesting a curiosity about farm-grown foods by bringing his meals from foundation to feast in front of diners through the Bistro’s open kitchen concept. “By eating at Applecrest, you’re helping the community,” he says.
Currently, Soucy is fermenting many foods in his kitchen, including sauerkraut, green strawberries, chili peppers and vinegar. “Vinegar works in a very circular way,” he explains. It is essentially something gone bad on purpose, which is the fermentation process. Once fully fermented, the finished product can be used to pickle perishable foods, keeping them fresh during long winters or preserving them through the off-season. It also forms something called a mother, a layer of cellulose, which can be peeled off the top and used again to create more vinegar. In a chivalrous twist, Soucy offers this to those attempting their own: “Don’t think of it as a project. Think of it as saving an old-world tradition that’s disappearing.”
Fresh squeezed, raw, unpasteurized cider (you can get this at your local farm stand)
Two wide-rimmed glass mason jars (be sure to use a glass container as metal will ruin the vinegar)
A piece of cheesecloth
A large rubber band
Pour the raw, unpasteurized cider into your mason jar. Leave a little room at the top. Cover the jar securely with one piece of cheesecloth, using the rubber band to hold it in place. Find a dark place to let the cider breath. Light will kill the yeast, so it’s important that none gets to it.
You’ll know your vinegar is finished once the mother has formed. This will look like a rubbery layer of substance that you can peel off the top. After 3-4 weeks your vinegar should be ready.
Now that you have a mother, you can make different flavored vinegars using any kind of infused juice as your base. You’ll want to weigh this first. Once you know how much juice you have, you will need to add 10% sugar and 7% mother.
For example, if you have 16-ounces of juice (an average mason jar), you can use a 1-ounce shotglass to measure 1-½ ounces of sugar and 1 ounce of mother. Put these three ingredients into a glass jar, cover it with a piece of cheesecloth, and leave it in a dark place for three to four weeks.
Don’t get too literal with the word “juice.” Soucy recently made vinegar out of spruceleaves by steeping them into a tea for his base.
Where are your possibilities growing?