Vinegar Fail, Green-and-Yellow Mould Win!
So just an update on the vinegar situation. I uncovered the vinegar keg to reveal a cloud of blue smoke, and sadly, inside, all I saw was yellow and green mould! :( Recently I'd noticed that it had smelled a little funny - I guess I should have taken that as a sign, but I wish I knew what I could have done about it. I wonder if the beer I made it out of just had too low an alcohol content to keep the mould at bay.
I'm still trying to figure out how to clean the keg so I can start over. I'm afraid that bleach will stay in the wood and contaminate future batches, but I'm not sure how else to kill the mold spores. I guess I could go out and buy 3 gallons of distilled white vinegar and fill it up and leave it for a couple days, but it just seems like throwing good vinegar after bad, so to speak.
Anyway, when I get that figured out, I've still got some of the mother that I set aside before it went funky, so maybe I'll take a trip down to Midwest Supplies and craft up a special, super-strong, hopless beer and start over.
On the bright side, however, the red wine vinegar is kicking some serious ass, aided in part by the cases and cases of 3-buck chuck from the wedding. The mead vinegar is also doing well. Unfortunately, I can't give any specifics, because I'm out of the solution I use to test the acidity, but more generally, I think I've come to some sort of understanding with the red vinegar, which is that if I add a quarter cup of wine to it, it'll be turned into vinegar by the next week and the vinegar is perfectly usable. We've used it a time or two in salad dressings, and it's rockin'! We have close to a quart of it by now. About the same with the mead (I've been adding a little mead every week), but I haven't dared to try that yet, partly because it was so low acid the last I checked, and partly because I'm just not sure what it would taste good with.
I also have an inordinate amount of white wine left over from the wedding, which, frankly, isn't very good to drink. I've been toying with the idea of starting a batch of white, but I've heard that white vinegars are kind of a pain in the ass; id est they take about a year to even start forming mother. And as easy as it is to say, "Well, just stick it in a corner and leave it alone," I know myself well enough to know that six weeks in, I'd be in there poking at it and trying to measure some sort of results and I'd mess it up or contaminate it somehow.
Someday, I envision a lovely row of casks full of malt, red, white, mead, cider, and other vinegars just sitting there being lovely in our kitchen. But in the meantime, this is working nicely so far.
Hmmm... maybe a nice stout vinegar? Or perry? I'm also thinking about making an onion-jalepeño wine that might also make a nice vinegar. But anyway, that's for another day.