Chris Crawford founded TART Vinegar as a way to bring some security to her unpredictable life as a professional chef. What began as an at-home hobby has become a full-fledged fermentation operation, though the entire endeavor is still a one-woman show. TART headquarters is lined with rack after rack of five gallon buckets filled to the rim with vinegar in various states of maturity. Beneath each lid floats a disc of vinegar mother, slippery and luminescent like a sci-fi creature, responsible for the microbial alchemy that extends the short life of fruits, vegetables, and herbs indefinitely. Turning celery, rose, and kombu into shelf-stable elixirs that provide steady income has proven to be a more mercurial process and trickier business than Chris could have anticipated. Some batches go sideways before they can be bottled, fresh produce not quite translating into fermented magic, and the buying power of customers fluctuates with the economy. Still, the rewards are sweet — or sour, really, though not quite as sharply acidic as the grocery store vinegar you grew up on. That commercial stuff is made fast and dirty en masse, using techniques that cut production time down and short-change flavor as a result. TART vinegars are made in small, slow batches that dance on the tongue, tasting sometimes floral, sometimes funky, and always exciting. There is no filler or faking it with so few ingredients. Chris, honest, thoughtful, and acerbic, is just as straightforward as what she makes and sells.