First, the preserved lemons. I'm not calling these pickled lemons for some reason, I think because they are so salty; but then what's pickling? There's definitely some bacterial activity going on, because it's building pressure and releasing gas when I loosen the lid. I did not put it in the refrigerator, as recommended by the recipe, it's been in a cabinet under the counter, in the dark, relatively cool. I opened it once or twice, and the lemons are definitely softer and somehow "greasier" if that's possible. Also, now, after a week, they are yellower, too; more "lemon-colored." The jar is usually pressurized a little when I look at it, and I always open the lid *just* until it vents some gas. it always heaves a sigh of relief and bubbles a little bit. Sometimes I think it's just air slowly escaping from the pulp of the rind, but the pressure buildup tells me there's definitely lactic acid bacteria afoot. I want to rush out and fill another dozen jars with lemons, but not until I cook something that calls for preserved lemons.
Next, Vinegars. There seem to be conflicting reports out there about exactly how long and under what conditions vinegar is made. The instructor and several people I talked to in Reedsburg said it took weeks or less. Some of my vinegars have been going for nearly two months. Admittedly, they are in my basement which is in the low 60s, but I've got them above my furnace, which is the warmest spot. I'm just now starting to see what looks like a thin film of mother starting to form on a couple of them.
Other sources indicate that it takes much longer to make vinegar. The Cooks Illustrated DIY book mentions 3 months in a crock, and talking about it with my mom on the phone over the weekend, she said her grandparents used to make vinegar, and it took all winter in the basement. She also said they guarded the mother with their lives, I assume until they could get another batch going. The Kentucky Housewife Cookbook (from 18-who-knows-when) lists a recipe for vinegar something along the lines of: "in the fall, throw all your apple cores into an open topped barrel. Set it under a tree, out of the sun, but where it fill with rainwater. By the middle of the next summer, it will be vinegar." For real.
I think my results are more in line with the second set. I made some salad dressing with the Concord grape vinegar I got from my Fermentation Fest friend, and it was darn good. I really hope my batches take off and I can get some real production going. I have a couple cases of questionable beer bottled that I would *love* to turn into vinegar, and I think I would make a quart of vinegar out of every batch of wine I make. Come on, acetobacter.