What is that disgusting blob of gunk you sometimes find floating at the bottom of your bottle of vinegar? It is actually a by-product of the process that turns wine into vinegar, and it’s called The Mother.
The Mother is a mass of acetic acid bacteria that feeds on the alcohol in wine and ferments it into vinegar. It forms naturally on the surface of wine when that wine is left in contact with oxygen. Most often, the vinegar you buy in the supermarket is filtered so there is no residual sugar or alcohol that would fuel the development of a Mother. However, unfiltered vinegar, such as Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, will often have a Mother floating at the bottom. You can also make your own Mother with some time and patience, borrow one from someone else, or purchase one at a specialty online retailer.
Once you get a Mother, you can place it into a clean glass jar and use it as a starter to make your own vinegar. It’s a great solution for any unfinished glasses or bottles of wine. Just pour any leftover wine into the jar with the Mother and let it sit, covered, on your counter at room temperature.
It will take a month or two to ferment the wine into vinegar, but the Mother will last almost indefinitely. My mom has a vinegar mother that was given to her by my grandmother decades ago and it’s still going strong.
Once your wine has been converted to vinegar (taste it to find out) siphon it off into a separate jar for use, and continue adding leftover wine to the Mother jar to start creating a new batch.