I wish I had a little oak barrel. Or a little cherry barrel. Or some little barrel.
Why? Because I am married to the delightful, talented, and immensely generous Josh Legler, whose ancestry traces back to a family of small barrel makers. The barrels were small, not his relatives. And I want a small barrel to put new vinegar into.
Last year I started making fruit vinegars. I age them in mason jars, but I kind of wonder what wonderfully surprising things would happen if I aged them in small, wooden barrels.
This year I am attempting to make balsamic vinegar, without a small barrel. Here’s what I did:
I used my friend’s grape juice steamer, and Niagara table/juice/wine grapes. I poured the juice into a pot and reduced its volume by 50% by boiling. I poured it into jars (50% full) and waited until it fermented. Some of the jars were slow to ferment, so I jump started them with a jar that was quicker to ferment. After they started to ferment, I let them bubble for a week to 10 days. Then I gave them each a vinegar mother. They will hang out with her until she starts giving them outdated advice or criticizing their life choices.
I contacted our local winemaking supply store, and asked if they sold barrels or champagne yeast. They didn’t have either, and they were abrupt and unhelpful. My interaction with them kind of left a bad taste in my mouth that had undertones of Rogaine for Men with high notes of premium gasoline and a finishing whiff of attorney’s fees and divorce papers. La di da. I understand. But it made me think that maybe wine people need more vinegar in their lives, and less wine.
So, I’m still looking for a small barrel to age this new batch of balsamic vinegar.