Cortland or Empire apples, chopped into large pieces (including peel and core
distilled water, room temperature
Place apples in clean, large glass jar such as 8-cup (2-L) Mason jar. Add distilled water, ensuring apples are submerged; check that there are a few inches headspace at top of jar. Stir in raw sugar. Cover jar with double-layer of cheesecloth; secure around jar neck with elastic band.
Store at room temperature in a dark spot. Gently stir once or twice a day (re-covering with cheesecloth each time) for about 2 weeks, or until bubbles start to form, apples are soft and there is a yeasty aroma. Strain out apples and discard. Return liquid to cleaned glass jar. Cover jar with clean cheesecloth, secure with elastic band. Return jar to dark spot for another 3 weeks, or until desired level of acidity is achieved. The longer the fermentation, the more acidity.
Strain vinegar through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer, discarding the cloudy "mother culture". Transfer vinegar to clean jars or bottles with tight, re-sealable lids. Store in cupboard or dark spot. Use as desired in vinaigrettes, marinades and as an accent to finish stews and sauces in place of wine or lemon juice.
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