Why Vinegar is a Bug Out Essential
This article contains:
- History of vinegar
- How to make vinegar
- Vinegar medicinal uses
- Cleaning with vinegar
- What NOT to do with vinegar
- Vinegar as a preservative
Surviving in the backcountry has its limitations. You will no longer have a 3-car garage to store junk, boxes, materials, or supplies. This may sound ironic but the more space you have in the wild, the less you have. This is because no matter how much security you may think you have to protect from wild animals, humans, or material degradation you will have less than an urban environment. This is fact and should be embraced by living simply.
What is the practical meaning of this? You have to do more with less and this is when the versatility of what you have becomes paramount. One of the most versatile products out there is one which has also been available for thousands of years, good old vinegar.
Why is vinegar a bug out essential? Let us first examine the history of vinegar and try to understand how it was discovered and what the early uses were, to help answer that question.
History of vinegar
There is some romantic charm in using the same goods as our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents. Vinegar is the king or queen of any of these as it has reportedly been around going back to 5000 BC.
And like penicillin or your third child, vinegar came into this world by accident. Lore has it that vinegar was discovered in ancient Babylonia by noblemen who came across unattended grape juice, intended to ferment it into wine but left it uncorked! Oxidized wine will turn sour only after a few days, and hence vinegar was born into history.
This begs the question, if vinegar was originally made by pure accident, it must be easy to make yourself, right? You would be correct in that assumption, sparky! It is incredibly easy, and the most difficult part is the time (unless you have mother of vinegar on hand). This is one of the primary reasons vinegar is a bug out essential.
How to make vinegar
If you are looking to learn how to make vinegar yourself, there several steps in the process. This will generally take anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months. This depends on the combination of temperature, storage material, and the volume of acetic acid bacteria. There is also a way to speed up the process by buying Mother of Vinegar first, but this is not necessary and it will be produced as a byproduct of the first vinegar batch. The process to make vinegar from scratch is as follows:
- Start with a sugar containing medium such as beer, wine, or hard cider.
- Next, find any size of container to store the medium. I have always used a large stone pot, just like ones you can find at nurseries for planting. You can also use bottles or other containers, sometimes it is interesting to have a glass bottle to monitor the fermentation process.
- Dark storage area which stays about 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Fermentation occurs best at warm temperatures and in the dark, so you will need to choose between a dark container or dark storage area. A few examples can be the crawl space, basement, cellar, or in a rarely-used cabinet.
- Allow oxygen to access the liquid. Cover the container with a breathable material, cheese cloth or a towel works great. You can fasten the cloth with string or a rubber band to keep the container covered.
- Wait. Never mix and try not to disturb the contents. Check back in a month and test a small amount and taste it. Does it taste like strong vinegar? If so, then you can move on to filtration.
- Filter out the mother of vinegar. You can even use the same cloth used in covering the container to keep things simple. Coffee filters, fine mesh sieves, dish towels, or even a paper towel can be used as a makeshift filter. The slimy residue at the top is your mother of vinegar, which can quicken the process of making subsequent batches of vinegar.
To give the vinegar flavoring, mix it with garlic, dill, or basil (any herb works, though). Let the container sit with the herb and shake once per day until the mixture smells to your liking.
Now you have a jug of vinegar, what is next? Well, let us discuss the many things you can now use that vinegar for.
Vinegar medicinal uses
Because in most cases 5-15% of vinegar is acetic acid, that acid helps to ward off many types of pathogens. This was known going back over 2,000 years ago by Hippocrates (ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath?), one of the greatest physicians in the history of medicine, who used vinegar proactively to treat wounds and other ailments.
Some of the top medical uses of vinegar include:
- Treat sinus infections and chest colds.
- Control blood sugar levels as it relates to diabetes.
- Lessen and eliminate warts.
- Treat and fight off lice.
- Eliminates yeast infections and overgrowth.
- Detoxifies the liver.
- Treats and helps to manage acid reflux.
- Kills fungal growth on feet (looking at you, tinea pedis)
- Helps to lower blood pressure.
- Provides skin toner for eczema and acne.
- Fights seasonal allergies.
For someone like me who experiences sporadic seasonal allergic reactions, dropping a couple tablespoons of vinegar into a glass of water 2-3 times a day during the allergic periods works absolute wonders. Mowing the grass is no longer a mucus-spewing circus thanks to a small amount of vinegar.
Cleaning with vinegar
Vinegar is an incredibly versatile cleaning agent as well. It is also one of the most affordable ones you can buy, considering everything that it can clean. Think about buying Windex, porcelain cleaner, bathtub/shower cleaner, separately and compare that to a single bottle of vinegar which can handle each of those tasks. Vinegar is the Swiss army knife of cleaning!
I use white vinegar to clean my cabin interior, and it works wonders. Generally, I mix 75/25 or 50/50 water to vinegar in a simple spray bottle, spray the dirty areas, then come back around the cabin to wipe it down after letting it sit for a few minutes.
Vinegar as a cleaning agent works best on:
- Glass; windows, sinks, any glass tchotchkes.
- Shower walls.
Not only that, but it will get rid of many smells as well – including pet mess, water/moisture smells, or general stagnant air smells. Clean the cabin plus freshen the scent, vinegar helps by doing both.
What not to do with vinegar
Do not be confused in thinking vinegar is a reliable disinfectant across all cases, however.
Any material which has a negative reaction to acidic substances should not encounter vinegar. While vinegar makes an excellent cleaning agent for many materials, it can damage stone and even the finish on hardwood floors. Remember that vinegar is acidic, and acid can dull, weaken, or dissolve materials.
Keep it away from hard countertops like granite or marble, stone tile, porous rock, iron,
Vinegar as a preservative
Food preservation is one of the most popular uses of vinegar and is an essential ingredient to pickling food. Pickling also goes back thousands of years, to ancient Mesopotamia.
Pickling with vinegar is incredibly easy and allows food to be stored for years if done properly. The acetic acid from the vinegar keeps bacteria and microorganisms from the food to prevent spoilage. From a supply’s perspective, all you need is:
- Vinegar (of course)
- Perishable food
- Blueberries, cherries, grapes
- Peppers – bell, hot, sweet
- And more!
- Glass jar
- Airtight seal
Growing up, we kids would always look forward to mid-spring when we could roam about on the ditch banks in rural Idaho, cutting the wild asparagus and bringing it back for mom to pickle with jalapenos and spices, it made for an excellent and quick side dish which went well with everything. Asparagus is still one of my favorites to pickle to this day.
For any not convinced by the versatile nature of vinegar, at very least you should be able to see its only use is not just for cooking and salad dressing. In just a single bottle, you have got an effective medical aid, cleaning agent, preservative, plus fabric softener, pesticide, deodorizer, rust remover, and more.
It should be one of the essential items in your bug out bag, should be always kept on-hand, and used widely across your many daily pursuits. And the best part is that it can be homebrewed.
Do you have ideas for what else you can use vinegar for as it relates to surviving in the backcountry? We would love to hear your stories.
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