That’s the Little Mama on the right, offspring to the Grandmother who hails from a 1965 French kitchen. They’re red wine vinegar, potent and rich, filled with the flavors of decades of nurturing and countless glasses of leftover wine. Some friends gave Mamita to me most generously, the Grandmother brew passed down in their family through the generations.
Do you see that blobby bit popping up out of the vinegar in the little jar? That’s the Mother of Vinegar, which Wikipedia says is a “substance composed of a form of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria that develops on fermenting alcohol liquids,” and basically turns them to vinegar. Think of kombucha and you can imagine what the Mother looks like. In time, daughters grow and can take charge of their own vinegar.
I brought Mamita right home, gave her an honored position on the top shelf of the cupboard, and declared we had to have wine with dinner in honor of the newest member of our family. Of course I shared the leftovers with her, and she’s happily topped off.
I love having food in my kitchen so alive – so sentient! – that it demands a name. Take care of me, Mamita, and I’ll take care of you. For a long, long time.
1/20/10: Just found this very comprehensive post on making/maintaining vinegar. Enjoy!