Sweet honey, tangy vinegar: Kress Apiary offers both in Burns Harbor
"You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” goes the old saying. But Bob Kress of Northwest Indiana proves that you catch a lot of customers by producing both honey and vinegar.
Kress is the namesake of Kress Apiary, located in the rural environs of Burns Harbor, a Lake Michigan community better known for producing steel than food. As the word apiary suggests, Kress’s main line of work involves bees and their honey.
But Kress also makes cider vinegar, which, despite being hard to find (it is only available for sale at two Chicago farmers markets) has drawn a following in Michiana, Chicago and beyond. Compared to the astringent varieties typically available at the average supermarket, Kress’s vinegar is uniquely smooth tasting with an unmistakable apple character.
TAKING CARE OF “MOTHER”
Kress explains that his version of apple cider vinegar takes both extra effort and extra time.
Kress ferments his homemade cider in a liquid that contains a starter (“mother”) from an earlier batch of vinegar.
“I had mother to start with, and once you’ve got mother going you never have to buy it again,” he says. “Just take care of it.”
He then ages his vinegar for a year or more. “It takes an extra step,” compared, he says, to about a month for commercial operations. (“They force it.”)
LOCAL AND HEIRLOOM APPLES
Kress uses a variety of apples to produce his vinegar, including apples from nearby farms like Lehman’s Orchard in Niles, Michigan (see page 20 of this issue). There are Honeycrisps in the mix, as well as heirloom varieties, which he says “make the best” vinegar.
“Some of them taste kind of crappy, but they sure do make good vinegar,” Kress says, adding, “Not so good a variety to eat makes good juice. You just need a mix of many to make the best.”
DOWN THE HATCH
Kress’s product has a lower acidity level and more delicate, complex flavor than is typical for commercial vinegars. Kress says some of his customers use it “when they cook, in salads and so forth,” while some make a health tonic by mixing it with water and honey “and down the hatch.”
“It helps alleviate indigestion and acid reux; it’s good for the joints,” Kress says.
Editor’s note: Try Kress’s vinegar in our Glass Onion Shrub recipe or in our Hot Pepper Vinegar with Sautéed Collard Greens.