Sarson’s Vinegar Factory Tour

No ‘fish and chips’ is complete without a dousing of vinegar. It’s that quintessential condiment that stealthily cuts through the grease of both fish and chips. It’s also great for pickling and marinades and is one of my store cupboard favourites. I have several different types of vinegars ranging from apple cider to balsamic, but Sarson’s malt vinegar has always been a staple since way back when. So when I received an invite to a tour of their factory to see how it’s made, I was keen to check it out.

The Sarson’s Factory is based in Manchester and there’s no mistaking when you’ve arrived as the pungent yet familiar smell of vinegar greets you. Our tour guides are Graham and Caroline, who expertly walk and talk us through each stage of the vinegar process. Thomas Sarson founded Sarson’s in 1794 and to this day the same production methods are used to create the vinegar. These methods and processes are what set Sarson’s apart from other vinegars.

“OK, so what’s their secret?” I hear you ask, well here you go:

The grains of malted barley are cracked to expose the starch, this is called a grist. The grist is then mixed with hot water in a mash tun creating a mash. The natural enzymes break down this mash and create a ‘sweet wort’. The liquid is cooled; yeast is added and then left to ferment for six days. The yeast is then separated from what has now turned into alcohol. The mixture is poured into wooden vats called acetifiers (some of which are over 100 years old). Acetobacter is added which is a naturally good bacteria found in wood wool made from larch trees. The bacteria turns the alcohol into acetic acid and then seven days later bingo – you have Sarson’s vinegar. Vinegars of a lesser quality do this process in 24 hours missing out on the rounded depth of flavour Sarson’s have created.

sarson's malted barley
Malted Barley

sarson's mash tun

Mash Tun

Sweet Wort

sarson's larch shavings
Larch Shavings

Wooden Vats

sarson's bottles empty

sarson's bottles

End of Bottle Line

The tour gave a great insight into the craftsmanship that goes into the making of Sarson’s vinegar. I now have an even deeper love and respect for my store cupboard staple. Read here for more info on the making of Sarson’s vinegar.

I attended the tour as a guest of Sarson’s and have been paid a fee for this post. All views are my own.

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