Raw Vinegar

wooden shelves filled with jars of fruit and vinegar

I’m obsessed with making raw vinegars. They’re flashy, simple to make, and express the terroir of my garden and the quirks of my imagination. There are a few basic ways to make vinegar, but I’ll focus on the one that’s captured my heart. I think of this recipe as the “Stuff + Sugar + Water + Backslop” method. It’s so simple that I usually have a dozen versions going at once on a rack in my barn.

To focus on the stuff, all you have to do is dream up something that might make for a tasty vinegar profile. The stuff of my first raw vinegar was a fistful of carrot tops destined for the compost bin. These veggie scraps produced one of the cleanest, crispest vinegars I’ve ever had. Mint makes a phenomenal drinking vinegar. Other stuff favorites include pineapple, lemon balm, milkweed blossoms, shiso, borage, blueberry, rhubarb, unripe black currants, and tulsi. Herb stems, vegetable peelings, overripe fruit, and underripe fruit all make great vinegar. Use your imagination. Walk around your garden for clues.

Once you pick your stuff, the rest is easy. Vinegar master Jori Jayne Emde was kind enough to let me share her personal vinegar secrets with you. The recipe-cum-formula is short enough to tattoo on your forearm and fairly forgiving. Most of what you need is patience as you wait for your batch to mature.

(inspired by Jori Jayne Emde’s recipe)
Yield: Makes 2 large bottles

“Backslop” refers to a batch of already-made raw vinegar. For your first batch, Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar will do. You’ ll also need a kitchen scale and a 1/2 gallon glass jar.


2 parts stuff (a handful or 2 from the above list, or chose your own)
1 part raw sugar
4 cups water
25% (or 1 cup) raw vinegar (Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar will do)


Weigh your stuff. If you’ve chosen a handful of flower blossoms, they’ll be much lighter than a handful of blueberries, for example. I prefer to weigh in grams because the math is easier. Add your stuff to the glass jar. 

Divide that weight by 2. That’s how much sugar you need to add. For example, if your stuff weighs 130 grams, you need to weigh out 65 grams of sugar. Add that to the glass jar. 

Add the water to the glass jar. 

Add your backslop raw vinegar. I always do this by eye. The formula calls for 25% (or 1 cup) backslop, which is about . of the contents of the glass jar.

Cover your jar with a cloth and keep in a warm corner of the kitchen. Stir and taste your concoction daily. Soon a disc-like “mother” will form at the top and your batch will shift from sweet flavors to a little nail-polish-y and finally to vinegar. It’s done when it smells and tastes like vinegar. Time varies, but figure on roughly 3 months.

This story was originally published in October of 2020.