Subtitled: I Threw My Mother Down The Drain!
While making waffles yesterday, I realized the jar of syrup in the fridge was nearly empty. And I remembered seeing another jar of syrup in the pantry. So, rather than go all the way to the cellar for a new jar of syrup, I grabbed the one from the pantry.
Now, let me back up a little bit. A lot bit, actually. The jar in the pantry? It was put there at the end of last syrup season. About eleven months ago. And when I put that jar in the pantry, I did so because it was not filled all the way to the top, and I had capped it with a plastic screw cap instead of a canning jar lid and ring. Then I had put it into the pantry with the intent of using it as soon as the then open jar of syrup in the fridge got used up.
Eleven months ago. We've gone through several jars of syrup (from the cellar) since then. Obviously I forgot that I had that not-quite-full jar of syrup (unsealed, since it didn't have a proper canning lid on it) in the pantry to use.
When I took it out of the pantry yesterday, I could see it had a scum floating on top of the syrup. But never fear! Syrup does not spoil, because of the high sugar content. All I needed to do was skim the scum layer, put the syrup into a pot, and heat it to a rolling boil. Then it would be good as new.
However, when I stuck a spoon into the jar to remove the scum with, I was surprised to see that the entire layer of scum held together and came off in one scoop. Usually with mold, which is what typically forms on syrup in storage for a long time, when you put a spoon in to scoop with, the mold breaks up around it and you have to carefully get every little blob. It does not come off in a gooey sheet.
But that is what I had on my spoon, and that is what I tossed into the drain of my kitchen sink. And as it was going into the drain, I thought "That looks like mother!"
Mother being what forms on homemade vinegar. Mother being what has eluded me the couple of times I have tried to make vinegar from fruit peels and cores during canning season. As a result, I have, so far, been unable to make my own vinegar.
Even as I was thinking about mother, I dumped the rest of the contents of the jar--the syrup--into a small sauce pan to heat it up. Then, as I went to turn on the burner under the pan, I caught a whiff of, not syrup, but vinegar.
Hmmm. Could syrup, improperly stored as it had been, with air in the jar and a lid that wasn't sealed, and held at fluctuating room temperature (sometimes up to the high 80's during the summer since we do not have air conditioning at this little place here), turn into maple vinegar? Was there such a thing?
Yes. Yes, there was such a thing. A quick internet search confirmed that maple vinegar was not a figment of my imagination. But could I have inadvertently made some?
Yes, yes I could. In fact, I had. What I had in my pot was not syrup. It was maple vinegar. And what I had thrown down the drain, was the coveted mother. The magic ingredient that would have made it so simple for me to make future batches of vinegar. Drat!
Apparently maple vinegar can be used in the same way as malt vinegar. What I had in my little sauce pot was not to be boiled, it was to be saved just as it was. I returned it to a clean jar, put on a new lid, and put it in the cupboard with my other (store bought) vinegars.
Then I had to go down to the cellar to fetch a sealed jar of maple syrup to go with our waffles.
My goodness, I can't believe I made vinegar without even intending to. I probably couldn't make vinegar again if I tried. Especially not after throwing my mother down the drain!