What: Slimy strings and globs at the bottom of a jar of vinegar
What it is: They may look gross, but these little blobs of goop are what’s known as “mother of vinegar”—essentially, they're clumps of the bacteria and yeast combo that turns alcohol into vinegar.
Eat or toss?: Eat! Well, maybe not the slimy bit, but the surrounding vinegar is fine!
I was throwing together a salad and had just splashed on some red wine vinegar when suddenly it appeared that someone had fired a bloody sneeze into our food — dark red snotty strings clung to the lettuce. Gross! But it turns out I stumbled across something pretty special—mother of vinegar. (I know, it makes me think of “Mother of Dragons” too, but that’s something totally different.)
MedGenMed writers describe these little strings as a “nontoxic slime composed of yeast and acetic acid bacteria.” It’s known as “mother of vinegar” for good reason—the yeast turns sugars into alcohol and the bacteria then turns alcohol into acetic acid, creating vinegar. Vinegar makers pasteurize and filter to keep these creatures at bay, but after I opened this bottle, some mothers still managed to set up shop.
In any event, feel free to filter out the clumps and enjoy your vinegar. You might even save the “mother of vinegar” bits. Of course, no promises about any randomly appearing globs, but you might be able to use them to make your own vinegar from wine. After all, our word “vinegar” comes from the French “vin aigre,” which means “sour wine.”
Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect. MedGenMed.
Vinegar Fermentation. Thesis. Sam Chiang Tan. Master of Science. Louisiana State University.
Holy Mother of Vinegar! What is that thing floating in my vinegar bottle? Canadian Living.
Can Vinegar Go Bad? Food Republic.
Hints From Heloise: 'Mothers' Found Floating in Vinegar.
Dictionary.com - Vinegar
Bon Appetit - How to make your own red wine vinegar
It's just some microbial mothering!