Wine time

Things have been a bit slow on the home-productivity front, due to other commitments and occasional low morale. Still, when you’re feeling a bit crap it’s great to be able to mull things over with a glass of your very own fruit wine!

Fruit Wine

Each time I make rice wine I have a bunch of ricey lees left over, and thanks to a friend’s donation of about a hundred and fifty lemons, I decided to have a go at making some lemon wine.  I followed this recipe roughly, leaving out the raisins, estimating the amount of sugar required based on ignorance, and using rice-wine lees for yeast. After a few days the mix begun to bubble and the lees swirled around in the jar like a lava-lamp.

After about three weeks the wine had gone quiet so I decanted and strained it into bottles, getting 2 litres from the first batch. As promised in the recipe, the flavour changes with age. In the beginning it was best described as ‘refreshing’ and a good palate cleanser. After about a month and with one bottle remaining, the wine is not quite as harsh and has met with approval from about half a dozen tasters.

Success with the lemon wine led me to realise that you can make wine out of pretty much anything, so long as it doesn’t taste foul or inhibit the yeast. Onion wine? Apparently it’s good for cooking, but I haven’t gone that far yet. Instead I made Feijoa Wine (surprised to note that excellent feijoa flavour came from boiling the skins), which independent tasters have confirmed “tastes like feijoa”, and am currently fermenting a little persimmon wine, another batch of lemon wine, and a lemon marmalade wine that is helping me deal with the results of an imperfect batch of lemon marmalade.

I’m experimenting with adding tea for tannin, and have a few ideas for future fruit flavours. It’s a simple process regardless, and a great way to reuse the rice-wine yeast, deal with surplus fruit, and keep us stocked with cheap and interesting liquor.

Rice Wine

The rice wine is a personal favourite, by which I mean most people don’t like it. I have two 1 litre bottles aging in a cupboard, one sweet and one dry, and I try a little occasionally to see how the flavours have developed. I’ve read that it takes six months for the rice wine to come into its own, but already after three months the flavour is more complex and interesting than before. I’ve switched from Sushi rice to glutinous rice (sticky rice), which has thinner grains and seems to hold less water. For my current batch I also experimented with aspects of a sake fermentation process, creating a moto or koji and yeast starter, which I suspect failed at some point, leaving me to hastily sprinkle additional jiuqu or mould and yeast balls over the rice to give the all-important aspergillus oryzae mould a fighting chance.

I just checked it, and it was covered in mould, hopefully the right kind of mould:


I’ve got hold of some red yeast rice which carries a different mould and will produce a red rice wine. Apparently the wine tastes like punch, and the bright red lees are used in various Fujianese dishes.  I’ll let you know how it goes in about a month or so, assuming the current batch of rice wine doesn’t kill me.


Home-made soy sauce

soy 1

You can officially add soy sauce to the list of things you probably would like less if you saw how it was made.

What you are looking at is a batch of soy and wheat cakes floating in a fermenter full of brine.

The white stuff is Aspergillus oryzae mold, the same mold used in the fermentation of rice-wine.

The procedure from here on in is apparently to leave the fermenter in the sun for the next three months or more, stirring it twice daily. Traditionally the pots are left uncovered, but I’m a bit wary of local wildlife, curious passers-by and air pollution from nearby traffic, so we’ll be keeping it mostly closed.

As strange as it sounds, I’ve been really yearning to make soy sauce since it occurred to me a couple of months ago. From what I’ve read, traditionally brewed soy sauce has pretty amazing flavours. It’s one of those ideal situations where the home-made product can outstrip the commercial varieties without much difficulty.

I’m hoping to get somewhere in the vicinity of 20 litres, with the cost of ingredients at about $10. But the flavour is much more of an incentive; and while my beer and rice wine tend to disappear quite quickly, I like the idea of ‘cellaring’ a few bottles of soy sauce for years to come.

Home-made rice wine

rice wine

About a month ago I read a recipe for home-made rice wine and couldn’t wait to try it. Not only is rice-wine a relatively easy drink to make, it employs an unusual fermentation method and results in a surprisingly high alcohol/volume ratio ranging from 15% to the mid-high 20s.

The method at its most basic is almost absurdly simple: cook some glutinous rice, let it cool, then mix it in a large jar or fermenter with a ground up jiuqu or Chinese wine yeast ball. The jiuqu contains not only yeast but also mold, which facilitates a process of ‘parallel fermentation’ or ‘mash fermentation’ whereby the solid mass of rice is simultaneously broken down into sugars by the mold and the sugar converted into alcohol by the yeast.

I used 13 cups of Japanese rice (dry) and cooked it in a 1:1.25 ration of rice to water. I’ve read online that a lower ratio of water yields sweeter, lower alcohol wines while a higher ratio yields dryer, high alcohol ones.

After 21 days this yielded me more than 2.4 litres of rice wine, though a fair bit of straining was required to salvage this much from the significant quantity of lees.

The plan is to reuse the remaining lees in the next batch, for which I am trying a different method of first soaking and then steaming the rice. I’ve never steamed rice before, but it is apparently a more gentle way to cook the rice, though I’m not sure how this effects the fermentation of the wine.

It is possible that steaming maintains greater integrity of the individual grains, which would influence the rate at which the starch is converted to sugar.

Either way, so far the wine I’ve produced is like a sweet dry white grape wine, with a unique flavour that I think comes from the wine yeast. It’s quite pleasant, though it may be a somewhat acquired taste. I don’t yet have a way to measure the alcohol content, but it seems high to the taste, and a small amount left in the freezer for a few hours failed to freeze.

I’ve read that the wine will go sour if left unrefrigerated, so I might try to pasteurise the two smaller bottles and see how they turn out!