Finding a creative outlet that is both productive and satisfying is so important when I am working in my kitchen. I like to research and read as much as I can about certain processes before I start experimenting. In the case of this Fermented Fig Vinegar, patience and time yield an absolutely incredible end product.
With an over abundance of Figs in my garden at this time of year, I am very excited to share my knowledge of making Fermented Fig Vinegar. The fermentation process really couldn’t be simpler. A few clean jars, ripe figs, a boost from an unfiltered raw vinegar, pickling weights, a muddler, and a little time to watch the whole thing come to life right on your kitchen counter is all that is needed!
I made this for the very first time last year. I have been avidly fermenting all kinds of fruits and vegetables for quite some time now. So, it just seemed a natural to make Vinegar out of all my extra figs. I was lucky enough to stumble across @tavolamediterranea on Instagram last September, as she highlighted an ancient translation for the making of Fig Vinegar in the days of Pompeii.
Combining both the ancient guidance and my own knowledge of fermentation, I successfully produced a beautiful and floral vinegar that I have used consistently over the past year in everything from simple salad dressings to marinades.
I use 3 and 5 liter glass jars with sealed tops to process the vinegar. Wash them with a little soapy water and rinse them thoroughly with very hot water. Dry completely.
Wash and dry as many figs as you can fit into a jar. Place figs into jar. Fill with tepid filtered water. Add approximately 1/4 cup Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar per liter of water. Place glass pickling weights on top of the figs. It is really important that the figs are submerged under the liquid. Bring the liquid level up to the neck of the jar by adding a little more water, if necessary. Close the lid on the jars and place in a cool, dark corner of kitchen counter.
This process will take 30 days to transform and ferment. I like to be able to check the progress daily, I therefore leave the jars where I can see them.
After just 3 days, the fermentation process has begun. The brine starts to become such a brilliant fuchsia color and when the lid is opened, there are little “Boozy Bubbles” that have begun to percolate. There is even the sweet and boozy smell of fermenting figs. This is all a great sign!
Observing the “Mother Yeast” or scoby maturing on the surface of the brine is completely normal. Eventually, much of this bubbling will diminish during the fermentation process, leaving a slight residue on the surface. This white residue will be skimmed off and filtered. The thing to watch for here is mold development. Note: (Mold takes on a dark, furry appearance and should be skimmed off immediately). Sometimes a fig will dislodge itself from underneath the pickling weights, and rise to the surface. When this happens I usually discard that fig. There is no sense taking the risk of mold growth when the fruit meets the air.
After just over two weeks, many of the surface bubbles have burst and there is a slight residue on the surface of the brine. Again, all of this gets skimmed and filtered in the final product.
At Day 30, there is work to be done in the kitchen! The first thing to do is to skim off the white residue on the surface of the brine. I do this before I transfer and filter the vinegar. Using a relatively flat spoon, I remove as much residue as possible.
Next, I line a large colander with paper towels or a double layer of cheesecloth, and place it in a very large mixing bowl, one that will accommodate the size of the colander. I then transfer the contents of the jars slowly into the colander. Depending on how much brine and figs there are, do not let it overflow the capacity of the colander. It may take more than one time to filter all of the product.
With a muddler, a potato masher or the back of a large slotted spoon begin to break up all the figs until they become a uniform mash in the colander. Slowly begin to lift the paper towels or cheesecloth, gathering the corners. This begins the first filtration. Squeeze until only pulp is left in the cheesecloth. Lift the colander and press out any remaining liquid into the large mixing bowl.
Discard the pulp. Rinse out the cheesecloth and repeat this process until all the figs have been separated from the brine. This usually takes 2-3 passes through the cheesecloth.
A final filtering occurs before the fig vinegar is ready for bottling. Here I am using a mesh strainer lined with coffee filters. Cheesecloth is also a great way to filter out the few remaining seeds and pulp.
Using clean, decorative bottles that have tight fitting corks or tops, funnel the vinegar into the bottles.
This is the final product after three months. Upon observing closely, you will see at the bottom of the bottle the “Mother Yeast”. This will be saved for the future when I start this whole process again next season.
There is something very engaging and satisfying for me when I have this kind of project going on in my kitchen. I think it appeals to my inner science geek! I hope you find as much enjoyment in watching this process as I do making it. I think it is so important to find wonder and satisfaction in our daily responsibilities and work. It is the difference between living the mundane and the excellence in Life!
Please share with me what brings you satisfaction and joy in your daily lives! And if you give this vinegar a try, please let me know. I’m happy to help you along the way! I would love to hear from you!
THE COLOR of this is INCREDIBLE!
What brings me JOY in DAY to DAY LIVING is the fact I wake up and see the Four legged creatures assisting me to the CUCINA for the BIG MEAL of the DAY!AFTER that is finished I sit and drink TWO BIG GLASSES of WATER which go down pretty easily and THEN I HAVE MY CAFE!LOVE MY COFFEE cherish it!
I am SO HAPPY YOU are HAVING FUN in LA CUCINA!!
I believe that it is so important to have happiness and little things to look forward to everyday! Like right now! I’m on my way to the canyon to walk Leo. I’ll be calling you in just a few short minutes!
Tanti baci ❌⭕️
Those bottles are amazing! Would you by chance know where you found them?
They are Rose’ wine bottles! I repurpose the wine bottles for vinegars, homemade limoncello and infused oils. They have such a great shape. Thank you. Have a great day!
Do I need to be cautious of an explosion from the fermentation process since the jars are sealed? I make Kombucha and the carbonation can build and break the glass. In other words does this need to be “burped”? Thank you for any information!
There is no real carbonation, like that found in Kombucha, that is created in this process. I have never had a problem using these types of sealed bottles. I would love to learn how to make Kombucha, though!
This is an interesting article and process. I’m interested in the different ways you use of the fig vinegar.
The vinegar has a very delicate flavor, much like that found in a champagne or stone fruit vinegar. I use it in a fresh organic vinaigrette. When combined with a fruity extra virgin olive oil it creates wonderful dressings for summer salads and marinades. I also add it to cold summer pasta dishes such as chilled tortellini with raw organic julienned vegetables. Thanks for your question and taking the time to read this post.
You mentioned….” “Mother Yeast”. This will be saved for the future when I start this whole process again next season.”
When you start out, it is ok that you don’t have this correct? Also, how do you use the Mother Yeast in the next batch? Do you just add it to the jar when starting the fermentation?
Thank you! Can’t wait to try this! We have lots of figs in our freezer as we couldn’t keep up with them this year. They were growing like crazy! Hopefully thawing them and fermenting them will be ok to do. 🙂
You will see that the vinegar separates between the liquid and sediment on the bottom of the bottle. I use just a little of the sediment and the rest is the liquid vinegar from last year’s batch. There is a lot of room “for error” with this process. What is important is to get the fermentation process to bubble up. Thanks for your interest and good luck in your kitchen!
Are you skimming the white stuff off immediately every day or do you only skim on Day 30?
I skim it off at the end, making certain not to stir it into the fermentation of the figs.
I’m about two weeks in a lots of bubbles and I can see the mother yeast on the bottom, but I haven’t had to skim off the top? Am I still doing OK?
Yes! I only skim the stuff off the top when it starts to look like it might be starting to grow mold. That, we don’t want! I’m so excited for your progress. Please keep me posted!
Thanks so much,
Hi, and thanks for the great recipe. I do have one question though.
As the figs, water, and a bit of cider vinegar ferments how does the alcohol get turned into acid?
Should I be opening the container periodically, stirring things up to allow for fresh oxygen?
I’ve made beer hundreds of times, in airlocked containers, and never once did it produce acid so I’m a bit confused.
Thanks! – Rob
This is, for me, defined as more of a natural fermentation process rather than an alcohol to acid reaction. If you have ever experimented with a natural cabbage fermentation on the kitchen countertop, this is more along the lines of the process. I do not recommend stirring at all. You want the natural “scoby” to develop undisturbed. Let the foam form on the top, paying attention to anything that starts to resemble furry mold. (This needs to be skimmed off immediately) Let the residue start to bottom out on the bottom of the glass jar. This is the Mother Yeast/Scoby developing. This is just one way of producing a delicate vinegar. I’m certain there are many, many more. I’m not familiar with brewing beer, so I’m not quite sure of the process involved. I can describe this fermentation process as being as Old School as it gets. Thank you for reaching out. If you have more questions, feel free to ask.
To be honest, I still don’t quite understand how alcohol gets turned to acid. But, even if I file it under “magic” I’m willing to take your word that this is actually what happens.
In the brewing process, CO2 is vented via an airlock. That’s not the case here, so that may hold the key to at least part of the synthesis equation.
But we don’t need to drill down to that level.
Instead I’ll just say “Thanks for the answer” and see what I’ve got underneath the the dish towel i a month 🙂
Thanks again, especially for the prompt replay! – Rob
One bit of research that may shed a little light for you is to look up @tavolamediterranea on Instagram. She is a food archaeologist and that is where I sourced this process from. I hope this helps.
Don’t tell my wife but, I think I love you 🙂
Note to self. Do not reply to online posts after the 2nd Martini
Well, at least it’s all in the alcohol and brining departments! Cin Cin
My last comment was meant as a comical reply to this comment of yours.
Hi – I have a follow up question. Hope this doesn’t appear twice as the first time I posted it appeared to fail.
Anyway, the guy from whom I get my figs is getting an unexpected 2nd crop. But once these figs start to ripen they do so very quickly. To the point where if he doesn’t pick them within just a few hours of them becoming fully ripe they begin to “self ferment”.
Are these figs usable for the vinegar making process?
Thanks in advance – Rob
That’s a great question. I have used perfectly ripe figs and ones that are becoming over ripe. The only thing to watch out for is mold development. If I am honest, I don’t use the ones that are becoming over ripe in the vinegar preparation because I don’t want to take that chemistry risk. I use the almost over ripe figs to make Cocoa Fig Jam with Walnuts.😋
Thanks, that all makes sense. But in the interim it occurred to me, what have I got to lose?
I already have one batch “cooking” that appears to be coming along perfectly.
Wish I could post a picture for you here!
This next batch will be just an unexpected bonus. If it doesn’t work, well so I wasted a bit of time. Ample precedent for that.
But if it works, well hot diggety dog!
I’ll let you know in about 5 weeks.
Go for it!
Yes, ma’am, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
BTW – On the off chance you’re curious, I found the answer to my initial question.
Existing on the surface of the figs are yeast, and that’s what turns the sugars into alcohol.
But there’s also bacteria – unsurprisingly called ascetic bacteria – that then turn the alcohol into acid!
It’s all there in one delicious package right from the first moment.
That’s incredible! I love it! Thank you for being the chemistry sleuth! Well done!
As a follow up, I decanted, strained, and bottle my first batch of fig vinegar.
It’s absolutely perfect.
Pretty much the same color as yours, perhaps a little bit more pale, but absolutely delicious.
Just a great blend of sweet and acid!
And, somewhat to my surprise, the yield was right around 2.5 quarts from 3 liters of figs/water with just a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar to kick things off.
Next, and last for this year, batch will undergo the same process sometime next week.
Thanks for all your help!!
It’s great to hear from you! Sorry for the delay. Life gets in the way sometimes. I’m thrilled that your first batch of Fig Vinegar was a success. Thank you for all of your feedback along the way! Great Job!
Thanks, and great to hear back from you as well!
I do have a question/issue that has arisen since I poster last though.
Now that the vinegar has been bottled for a week or two, there is what appears to be more SCOBY forming at the top of the vinegar.
I’m thinking perhaps the batch wasn’t quite “done” yet, and if I leave it for an unknown number of weeks, it will finally be finished.
And I then I can simply strain it a few times through coffee filters.
But I’m hoping you can give me something more concrete. That you’ve experienced this before and have a real solution.
Thanks in advance!
It happened to me, as well. In my batch, there was so little of it that I left it as is. Remember that Apple Cider Vinegar with “the Mother” has a similar resemblance. If there seems to be more than what you think is acceptable, just strain it, as you think necessary. Instead of using coffee filters to strain it, I prefer a good quality cheesecloth because it leaves a little more of the foundation of the vinegar intact. I found some great cheesecloth through Amazon.
As soon as you mentioned the Apple Cider Vinegar I knew exactly what was going on!
I filtered some – through cheesecloth, though I’m not an expert on that so can’t speak to it’s quality – the then pasteurized some, left some whole for next year’s batch.
As always, thanks a bunch!!
You are welcome! And as always, thank you for all of your feedback!
I have made my vinegar, but I did not seal it. I had only put double layer cloth. So it had a contact with the air. Is it good for use? It smells nice and interesting. It is the first time I did it. Should I throw it? Greetings from Belgrade.
Hello! Mine is not sealed airtight either. As long as you don’t see a mold form on the top, you should ok. Thank you for taking the time to let me know.