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The Production Of Vinegar From Honey

Vinegar, or dilute acetic acid, is

produced by a process of fermentation

from certain vegetable substances.

After alcoholic fermentation has taken

place there follows, under suitable

conditions, a further decomposition, by means

of which the alcohol is converted into a more

highly oxidized body, acetic acid, with water as

a by-product.

These condi
ions require that the liquid

shall contain alcohol, nitrogenous matter, and

alkaline salts in certain proportions, and that it

shall be in contact with the air, at a suitable

temperature, for a sufficient length of time.

The researches of Pasteur showed the

process of oxidation to be due to a microscopical

fungus (mycoderma aceti), possessing the power

of condensing oxygen and conveying it to

the fermentable substance. This organism,

which is a true bacterium, as the fermentation

proceeds, forms a leathery membrane (slightly

differing according to the substance fermenting)

on the surface of the liquor, which constitutes

the so-called mother of vinegar, or vinegar


The oxidation of alcohol into acetic acid can

also be performed independently of the organic

agent. Finely divided platinum, for instance,

is capable of effecting disintegration of the

alcohol, and of placing it in immediate contact

with the oxygen of the atmosphere, thus

accomplishing the acetification.

Vinegar, on the continent, is prepared from

weak or sour wine, hence its name (~vin aigre.~)

In this country it is, to a large extent, produced

from an infusion of malt, but considerable

quantities of inferior quality are made from sour

beer, etc.

The vinegars thus produced, if properly

purified, and providing no injurious adulterants

are resorted to, are, for many purposes, almost

all that can be desired; but for table use, for

sauces and salads, where delicacy of flavour

is appreciated, and for medicinal purposes

where pureness and wholesomeness are essential,

I venture to say that no vinegar can be compared

with that produced from +Honey+.

~In the first place it possesses a delicious

flavour and aroma, altogether lacking in the

ordinary vinegar.~

Agreeableness of taste and smell are to

a large extent dependent upon the substance

from which the vinegar is manufactured, and it

is impossible to supply these artificially.

That the malt vinegar manufactured in

this country is conspicuously wanting in these

qualities must be a matter of general experience.

Moreover, owing to its great cheapness,

acetic acid distilled from wood (besides being

employed for pickling and other purposes, for

which it is well adapted), diluted and treated

with volatile oils, is every year superseding to a

larger extent the vinegars in general use. That

this bears no comparison as regards the agreeable

qualities, even with the ordinary vinegars,

need scarcely be pointed out.

On the other hand, +Honey+, of all saccharine

substances, containing as it does all the essentials

for harmonious bouquet and flavour, is the one

~par excellence~, from which we might expect to

produce an ideal vinegar. The result is found

amply to justify the anticipation, and that its

superiority in this respect will be duly appreciated

by the connoisseur in salads and condiments goes

without saying; but, indeed, so marked is this

distinction that I venture to think it would be

readily admitted by all who gave it a trial.

~On the ground of wholesomeness honey

vinegar is to be preferred.~

It has been clearly ascertained that large

quantities of vinegar sold in this country contain

injurious adulterants and impurities. Many

samples, upon analysis, have been found to

include a considerable percentage of sulphuric

acid, or nitric acid, added either as a preservative

or to increase the acidity. Others have contained,

as the results of carelessness in manufacture,

such poisonous ingredients as copper, arsenic,

and lead. Little wonder that disagreeable

consequences so often follow the taking of

vinegar, even in small quantities!

Immunity from these impurities and

adulterants, producing as they so frequently

do injurious effects, especially in the case of

invalids, is surely greatly to be desired, and

every possible improvement, either in respect

of the material employed or in the process of

manufacture of so important an article of consumption,

surely deserves to receive the most

careful attention.


If honey and water in proper proportions

be exposed to the atmosphere, at a suitable

temperature, for a sufficient length of time,

acetic fermentation will in due course ensue.

At the same time, to obtain the best results,

careful attention must be given to certain

details, and various precautions taken. The

alcoholic ferment must be carried on under

suitable conditions, in order that it may be

complete. The temperature must be neither

too high, nor too low. Suitable and sufficient

nutrient material also for the ferment germ must

be present; that is a proper proportion of nitrogenous

matter, together with certain inorganic

salts, which may be added in the form of a little

ammonium phosphate and potassium tartrate.

The acetic fermentation which follows must

also be regulated with due care, and not allowed

to continue longer than necessary, or deterioration

of the liquor will take place with a gradual

loss of acidity.

The fining also of the liquor must be carefully

attended to, in order to render it perfectly

clear and bright.

And finally, it is only when the alcoholic

and acetic fermentations have been effected, in a

completely satisfactory manner, and the vinegar

stored for a sufficiently long period under the

most suitable conditions, that the ripening

process is effected, without which it will be

found lacking in that agreeable flavour and

aroma which are its special characteristics.

[Sidenote: Proportion

of Honey

to Water.]

In the first place, we have to

determine the proper proportion of

honey to water.

Commercial Vinegar is required by law to

contain a minimum of 3 per cent. acetic acid.[2]

Proof Vinegar contains 5.4 per cent., with

a specific gravity of 1.006 to 1.019. For all

ordinary purposes this is a convenient strength

and first-class vinegars contain about this percentage.

Of course, the percentage of acetic acid is

dependent on a satisfactory alcoholic fermentation

and suitable conditions for the development

of the acetic germ; but, supposing the conditions

favourable, it is possible to obtain from an

aqueous solution of 1 part honey to 8 of water,

about 5 per cent. acetic acid. A suitable

proportion will thus be 1 part honey to from

7 to 8 parts of water by weight.

[Sidenote: Suitable


When made in small quantities

almost any open vessel will serve as

a receptacle for the liquor, always excepting

glazed or metal ones, in which vinegar must

never be allowed to stand. Owing to the

solvent effects of the acid, the liquor is, in these

cases, liable to be injuriously contaminated.

The vessel used should be covered with

muslin or cream cloth, to protect from insects,


A small cask is also a convenient receptacle,

but this should not be filled more than three

parts full and the bung hole must be left open,

protected with gauze or other coarse material.[3]

[Sidenote: Starting

the Fermentation.]

In due course, if left alone, alcoholic

fermentation, by a natural process,

will be set up; but I am inclined to think, from

my own experience, that it is best to add, in the

first instance, a small quantity of yeast. If, as

sometimes happens, the fermentative action be

too slow, putrefaction of a portion is liable to

take place, and the vinegar is spoilt.

The acetic fermentation is accelerated by

the addition of vinegar plant, and also by the

presence from the commencement of a small

quantity of vinegar.

[Sidenote: Temperature.]

A suitable temperature is 70 deg. Fah.,

or from that to 80 deg. Summer is

therefore by far the best time for vinegar

making, as this temperature is then easily

obtainable, especially if the vessel be exposed

to the heat of the sun.

At a little over 100 deg. Fah. the development

of the acetic germ ceases, while below

68 deg. it is gradually arrested.

[Sidenote: Duration



The length of time before the completion

of the process varies according to

circumstances. While usually, under completely

favourable conditions, in from six to eight

weeks sufficient acetification has taken place,

not unfrequently a longer period is required.

[Sidenote: Racking



When the proper degree of acetification

is reached, the liquor should be strained,

or, if in a cask, be racked into a fresh one,

without tilting. Then fined with isinglass,

or allowed to settle for a week or two, when it

may be drawn off clear and bottled. It may

subsequently require decanting and re-bottling.

The membrane or plant is useful for restarting

the action, but it must not be allowed to

remain for any length of time out of the liquor,

or be exposed to a low temperature, or it will be


[Sidenote: Colour.]

The colour will at first be found to be

quite light, but in course of time it will assume

an amber shade and gradually darken with age.

That this colouration may proceed as rapidly as

possible, the vinegar should be bottled in light

glass bottles, and exposed to the light.

* * * * *

Dilute acetic acid has been in general use

from remote times.

The ancient Hebrews used it, as we know

from the several allusions to it in the Old

Testament. It is mentioned also in the New

Testament. The Greeks and Romans, too,

made use of it. It is frequently spoken of by

classical writers, as Pliny, Livy, and others.

In our own times it is almost universally

employed for culinary and preservative purposes,

besides being largely used medicinally.

Vinegar is anti-scorbutic and anti-bilious.

Largely diluted it forms a very refreshing

beverage. It has been in past ages and in

modern times so used by soldiers on long

marches, and by others employed on hard and

exhausting labour, with beneficial results.

The vapour of vinegar inhaled greatly

relieves hoarseness, and, diluted as a gargle, is

useful in throat complaints.

Honey and honey vinegar in equal quantities,

and taken a teaspoonful at a time, is an

excellent remedy for sore throat and cough.

Mixed with water it is cooling and

invigorating for sponging the body.

Taken in moderation, owing to its effect

upon fatty and other substances, vinegar is an

~aid to digestion~. Pure vinegar is usually only

unwholesome if taken in large quantities.

~Raspberry Vinegar.~--Pour 1 pint of honey

vinegar on a quart of bruised raspberries.

Let it stand in a closed vessel for three

days, and stir occasionally. Strain through

flannel without squeezing, and to 1 pint of

liquor put 1-1/4 lb. of honey. Boil for ten

minutes, skim, and bottle when cold.

* * * * *

One great advantage in using honey vinegar

is that, being quite free from sulphuric or nitric

acid, it does not stain silver or table linen.

* * * * *

C_2H_6O + O_2 = H_2O + C_2H_4O_2

Alcohol + Oxygen = Water + Acetic Acid.

The proportions of the chemical constituents of Acetic Acid are as

follows:--Carbon 46.83, Oxygen 46.82, Hydrogen 6.35.