For millenia, fermentation has been a primary method of preserving foods and of introducing nutrients.
Throughout the Americas, there is a strong tradition of making fruit vinegars, using either pineapples or bananas. These fruit vinegars make a delicious condiment and have many of the health giving properties widely attributed to raw apple cider vinegars.
- Fermented beverages and fruit vinegars have healthful properties similar to kombucha. They are rich in probiotics that promote a healthy immune system, acting as a natural antibiotic.
- Fermented products promote healthy bacteria in the stomach, which aids digestion.
Francisco Jiménez, a food artisan from Costa Rica, prepares and sells his raw vinegars at the Phat Beets farmer’s market in North Oakland. Phat Beets is a justice-centered farmer’s market, bringing real food to working people and providing space for workshops on sustainable food for all. We attended one of Francisco’s workshops, where he taught how to make traditional fruit vinegars only the ripe fruit—no added sugars. We’ll share methods for making vinegar from ripe bananas. Note that bananas were present in the Americas before colonization, although most of the bananas we consume today are of the type that originated in Asia. Francisco describes small red bananas as making the most exquisite vinegar.
Francisco is featured in this article as a “fruit hacker.”
Ad for one of Francisco’s workshops. He presents regularly on heritage fermentation.
You can purchase Francisco’s vinegars at the
- North Oakland Farmers Market @Destiny Arts Center Grace @Lowell St, Oakland Ca. 94608
- Every Saturday from 9:30am to 2:30pm
- Still on SALE! Francisco’s Paradiso Raw Fresh Vinegars ONLY $11!
- Francisco’s Paradiso Raw Fresh Vinegars! Made from all-natural ingredients from local fruit trees and farmers market produce, these delicious Costa Rican Vinegars come in Pineapple, Banana, Red Onion & Garlic and Sauerkraut! Only $11 each bottle!
Bananas must be ripe, ideally overripe: that is, no green on skin. Bananas that are mostly brown are perfect. 2 cups of peeled and cut bananas will yield 1 cup of delicious vinegar.
- •Two bunches of very ripe bananas
- •Time (3-6 months)
Peel bananas. (Compost the skins.) Mash or puree the fruit. Put in a glass or ceramic jar. Fill jar about ¾ of the way. Cover jar with cheesecloth. Place the jar in a large bowl, because the vinegar may foam up and overflow the jar. You don’t want to lose the overflow. Just pour it from the bowl back into the jar.
The fruit will start to separate into liquid and solids. We started this vinegar on July 27. Here it is after just two weeks.
Over the course of the fermentation, the brew change colors. the fruit pulp will looks strange and funky.Don’t be concerned: it’s all part of the process.The fermenting vinegar will draw fruit flies, and some may even get through the cheesecloth in to the vinegar itself. Some vinegars may even have larvae among the fruit pulp. Don’t worry about them. Fruit flies are very clean – they only go from fruit to fruit. When it comes time to harvest it, you’ll just strain that all out.
You can harvest the banana vinegar at four months, but it’s better at six months.
When you harvest it, strain out all the fruit pulp. The first straining may seems a bit chaotic: all kinds of crazy stuff will be strained out. Don’t worry. Compost the solids. Strain your vinegar again. Francisco strains his vinegar seven times to make the finest, clearest medicinal quality vinegar. It is potent for about a year and then it starts to lose its potency and will turn to water. You can refrigerate it to stop the fermentation process.
How to use the vinegar: You can take this vinegar as a tonic, as it is alive and full of beneficial properties, similar to apple cider vinegar or kombucha. This vinegar brings its bright flavor to salad dressings or drizzled over vegetables. You can also use these vinegars to make a quick curtido: add chopped garlic, sliced onions, grated carrots, slivered cabbage, chile, and oregano.
Flavoring: After the vinegar is done, you can flavor it with herbs. We like to add some yerbanis (pericón, Mexican mint marigold) to the vinegar and allow it to set for one week and then strain.