A few falls ago, one of my husband’s coworkers invited us to come out with buckets to pick apples from the trees in his overwhelmed backyard. We came home happy with three five-gallon buckets full. Then came the endless task of processing them, and figuring out what the heck we were going to do when we got sick of apple pies.
Aside from bourbon apple pork chops, apple muffins, and EVERYTHING ELSE we wound up making, I had a massive pile of apple peels, and I decided I wanted to do something more than feed them to my chickens this year (sorry chickens, that’s what you get for trying to eat my wedding ring).
Turning to the internet for inspiration, I quickly discovered that making apple cider vinegar required little else but clean water, apple scraps, and a bit of patience, so I set to work.
By that Christmas season, I had about 64 ounces of the stuff — pure, homemade apple cider vinegar, just ever so slightly sweet, and all the more satisfying because I had made it myself.
You guys, this isn’t a complicated process, it takes SO little effort (well, aside from all that cursed peeling), and you get one of my favorite beneficial kitchen staples ever out of the deal.
Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Aside from the cooking uses for apple cider vinegar in things like dressings and sauces, there are so many fantastic health benefits to apple cider vinegar.*
- It can slow premature aging. Thanks to the natural antioxidants in apple cider vinegar, sipping this little concoction is akin to taking a beauty supplement — it actually helps to fight signs of premature aging caused by free radical damage (think: sunlight).
- It helps balance your blood sugar. This one is really interesting. Several studies have shown that sipping a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar each night can actually lower your blood sugar the next morning!
- It’s great for sore throats. Thanks to the natural antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar, it makes a great natural sore throat medicine.
- It can balance your gut. There’s a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut responsible for making digestion run smoothly and helping your body absorb nutrients properly. When you have a bacterial overgrowth, apple cider vinegar can help to balance that.
- It can reduce heartburn. It sounds crazy, right? The truth is is that apple cider vinegar, when diluted with water, can actually help prevent heartburn. Since acid reflux is caused by a shortage of acid, apple cider vinegar helps to gently restore the balance.
- It’s a great source of manganese. There isn’t much nutrient-wise to apple cider vinegar, but it does have unusually high levels of the mineral manganese, which is responsible for everything from bone health to regulating our metabolism.
Other Neat Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar
- It balances the pH of your scalp. An apple cider vinegar rinse is actually one of the best things you can do for your scalp and hair. The vinegar helps to balance the pH of your scalp, preventing dandruff.
- It makes your hair soft and shiny. Apple cider vinegar also helps to smooth the cuticle of your hair and remove buildup, making your hair shiny and resistant to tangling.
- It’s a great natural cleaner. The acidity of vinegar makes it great for removing mineral buildup in toilets and on taps, and its natural antibacterial properties offer a double-whammy of cleaning oomf.
- It prevents “pasty butt” in chicks. Many chickeneers swear by a teaspoon in their chicks’ waterers to prevent this common problem, and there might be something to it. Since pasty butt can be caused by bacterial imbalance (which leads to diarrhea), the bacteria in apple cider vinegar may help to prevent it.
- It’s a great natural skin toner. Apple cider vinegar helps prevent acne by warding off the bacteria responsible, balances your skin’s pH, and can even reduce the size of your pores — sign me up!
- It’s great for sunburns. It may seem counterintuitive, but apple cider vinegar is actually great for healing sunburns. It’s natural bacteria-fighting and pH balancing properties help your skin to recover faster and provide instant relief. Just be sure to dilute it first, and follow with a moisturizer, like aloe vera or coconut oil.
What is “The Mother”?
The bacterial benefits of apple cider vinegar stem from a downright mythical substance contained in some vinegars known as “The Mother”. The Mother is a highly acidic bacteria that lives in some vinegars.
It can look like wispy spider webs in the vinegar, a cloudy appearance, or even a gelatinous film on top of the vinegar (like a scoby with Kombuchas), and often breaks up pretty evenly with a good shaking of the bottle.
Don’t be put off by this magical goo — this is the good stuff. You won’t find The Mother in most commercial apple cider vinegar varieties, simply because it looks kinda funky, and a lot of big businesses put product prettiness ahead of the benefits of magical, gooey bacteria.
Hop into a health food store though, or take a stroll down the organic section in your local big supermarket, and you’re likely to find a few varieties of vinegar containing The Mother (don’t worry, it’ll be proudly declared on the label).
In a big, beautiful batch of homemade apple cider vinegar, these bacterium (Acetobacter) form naturally as your apple scraps ferment in the water.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for Destiny’s apple cider vinegar recipe, appearing later this week!
(*Note: If you’re considering adding apple cider vinegar to your health regimen, consult with your health provider first. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Not intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease.)