"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Steve's Evil Kitchen Rises From the Tomb

Yes, all my cooking exploits have titles from bad horror movies.

I decided to make apple cider vinegar. Of course, I decided to make the ultimate extreme ultra vinegar, because that's the way I roll. It's become bacteriological warfare.

The first step is choosing the apples. Red Delicious are almost universally reviled for making apple cider, because the aroma is overpoweringly perfumy and the flavor is bland; they're actually preferred in some areas, however (Alberta for one), so that seemed to be the place to start. I wanted to go beyond the standard 5%, so I had a choice of using concentrate or adding sugar. I decided to use a concentrate and then add fresh Red Delicious during the process.

The bugs for fermentation is where I went wild. Beside yeasts, there are two bacteria that will ferment sugars to alcohol. The first is Erwinia amylovora, which causes the dread apple disease of fire blight. No one in their right mind would use it - I have it on a slant in my freezer. The other is Zymomonas anaerobica, the most dreaded bacterial infection of breweries, which causes beer to have an overpowering smell of rotting apples (could it be any more perfect?), due to release of acetaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide; it's used in making mescal, so I have it too.

To get the alcohol level where I want, I need a yeast and the perfect choice is Dekkera bruxellensis, found in some Belgian beers and formerly added to British exports. It's the only yeast that ferments better in the presence of air than anaerobically; it forms a pellicle on the surface, as do most bacteria, and it produces many unusual aromas (some a matter of taste) which I like. It's big problem is that it is fastidious and needs a lot of growth factors not usually found in apple juice. The solution to the problem is to add another fast-growing yeast, which supplies the required nutrients. Two readily available yeasts were used: a chablis yeast, which creates a strong fruity profile and an actual cider yeast which produces a fruity finish.

To convert the alcohol to acetic acid, my first choice was Gluconobacter suboxidans, which creates a cidery aroma, but it doesn't make enough acid fast enough, so I also added a standard vinegar mother of Acetobacter, which can go up to 12-14%, before it starts using the acid itself as a source of energy. Acetobacter creates a slimy mass (the "mother") which I don't especially want, but the Dekkera makes an enzyme that digests it!

Bwa-ha-ha-ha! It's alive!

It'll be a while before it's ready, but right now my kitchen stinks like rotting apples.


wildknits said...

Interesting... and a bit scary. And I thought hardening off cider by leaving it on the front porch for an extended amount of time was daring!

Question - what will be the final yield and how long will it take?

Cider is hardening off here and has joined the holiday beer (very tasty year 2009) in the basement.

SteveQ said...

Lisa, I'm making a very small amount (how much vinegar does one need, after all?) and I have no idea how long it'll take - primary fermentation should be two weeks, acetification two months, perhaps.

Jean said...

Very cool, Steve! I love reading about what is going on in Steve's Evil Kitchen.

On a related note, did you know there is an International Vinegar Museum? In Roslyn, SD, no less!

wildknits said...

"How much vinegar does one need?" Well, it depends on what else you have going on in the evil kitchen. ;-> Seems like during herring pickling season we use a fair amount... then there is the zucchini relish... Not sure which vinegar is used for the herring, my guess is white, but pretty sure it is cider for the relish.

I will be curious to hear the outcome in 2.5 months!

SteveQ said...

Jean, I know the Vinegar Museum well. It's director was the first new person to move to Roslyn in a decade - and a black, Buddhist (and I think gay) newcomer was never more surprisingly welcomed.