Rice wine tips

Apologies to my faithful readers. Things have been quite difficult lately for a variety of reasons, but I hope they will improve soon, and there have been a number of standout moments that have been splendid, delightful, and utterly rewarding.

In the meantime, I’ve noticed I get quite a few people coming here in search of tips about rice wine, and since I’ve done quite a few batches now I’m happy to offer what advice I can.  Here are the top search terms in no particular order:

“homemade rice booze”

…is awesome.

“glutinous rice wine recipe”

Ingredients:

  • Sushi rice or glutinous rice
  • Water
  • Jiuqu which are Chinese rice wine yeast balls

You’ll also need:

  • A rice cooker*
  • A fermentation vessel
  • A strainer or fine colander

I use Japanese sushi rice rather than glutinous rice (the thin, extra sticky Chinese or Thai variety) because, well it’s still glutinous, but it’s easier to work with and I prefer the flavour.

I cook the rice at either a 1:1 or 1:1.25 rice to water ratio, in a pressurised rice cooker.

I usually cook six cups of rice at a time, but with that much water it’s usually enough to let the cooker just get itself up to pressure and then switch it off. As my wife explained to me, it takes so much time to heat that amount of water to boiling point that the rice is already mostly cooked by the time it hits pressure. If you let it go as long as the settings suggest, you’ll burn the rice at the bottom. Mind you, I’m using a very cheap cooker with basic settings. More expensive ones might account for the quantity of rice being cooked.

I let the rice cool overnight or until it’s cool enough to handle.

I use a sanitised fermenter (Starsan for the win) and rinse my hands in Starsan mix before basically digging out handfuls of rice and chucking it into the fermenter.

I do one layer of rice at a time, and for each layer I add one ground up jiuqu or rice-wine yeast ball.

You can add more rice as you go to increase the size of the batch. With my last batch I repeated this procedure twice, giving me three lots of rice added over the course of three days.

I then put the lid on the fermenter and set it somewhere out of the way.

I check on it every day, because I can’t help myself.

The mould should start to grow within a couple of days. It should be a white mould, though I have had it go a bit dark and still turn out okay. What has not turned out okay is getting large amounts of green mould. Not a good sign.

With this latest batch, I stirred it after about a week, and then left it for about a month.

I occasionally dip a (clean) cup into it to taste the wine, and when it tastes good to me, I tip it through a strainer (harder than it sounds), and bottle it (more complicated than it sounds).

What makes the straining hard is that the lees can be quite thick with wine, and the temptation is to try to squeeze out as much as possible. It may not be possible.

What makes the bottling complicated is firstly the level of clarity you’re after. If you let the wine sit in a container for a day or two it will settle quite a bit. But if you want a clearer wine, you’ll have to use some kind of fining agent. I’ve never tried this, because I don’t mind drinking it rough, and because fining agents supposedly remove some of the flavour.

The other complication with bottling will be answered in the next section.

* I use a pressurised rice cooker, but you could probably just use a saucepan so long as you do the “absorption” method, on the assumption that it is good to keep the rice grains intact. Traditional and commercial methods apparently use steaming.

“most effective way to preserve and store rice wine for few months”

If you’re going to bottle your rice wine, you need to prevent it from continuing to ferment, as this will not only change the flavour, but can cause the bottle to explode.

You can do this simply by keeping the rice wine in the fridge.

If you don’t want to refrigerate it, you can pasteurise the wine instead, which I now do routinely.

I’ve tried pasteurising at different temperatures: once at 70 degrees Celsius and once at 55. Side by side, the 70 degree wine lost a lot of flavour compared to the 55.  I don’t think 55 is a magic number, but you get the idea.

What I do now is to heat the rice wine in a large saucepan and bring it up to 55, holding it there for five minutes, and stirring to ensure an even temperature. You can pretty much bottle straight away, but I like to let it settle overnight, then I can bottle from clearer to cloudier.

“can we reuse rice wine yeast”

Yes and no.

When you’re left with a large amount of rice wine lees it feels like a waste to throw it away or even compost it. In searching for an answer to this same question, I came across the advice that while you can reuse red rice wine lees, for some reason the white lees will not successfully retain the aspergillus oryzae mould required to convert rice starch to sugar.

I tried adding freshly cooked rice to a batch of rice lees, and it failed to ferment. I then added some fresh red rice powder to the batch and it subsequently began fermenting. I haven’t yet tried it with red rice wine lees so I can’t confirm that part of the story.

Nonetheless, there is something you can do with your white rice wine lees. With my latest batch I decided to see if I could make some kind of rice-flavoured wine for cooking purposes. I put the lees back into a food-grade bucket, and added about eight litres of water and about a kilo of sugar, which I had dissolved into a simple syrup.

The yeast loved it, and I ended up adding extra sugar later to keep the fermentation going. The resulting wine tastes like a more dilute version of true rice wine. I’m planning to use it for cooking wine, and will let you know how it goes.

“dry rice wine lees for future use”

This one is tricky. I haven’t tried it. Based on what I wrote above, I suspect the lees would contain yeast, but may not contain the aspergillus oryzae mould required to convert rice starch to sugar.

Otherwise the yeast is presumably no different from other yeasts, and there are plenty of sites dealing with storage and reuse of yeasts generally.

“homemade rice wine abv%”

It’s hard to measure the alcohol level in rice wine because the usual method (hydrometer) won’t work with a solid-state ferment. There are more complex ways to do it, but I haven’t really looked into them.

Lore has it that the alcohol content can get “as high as 20%”, which is what I tell people when they ask. Tasting suggests that it is pretty potent.

Hope these notes are of some use to other rice wine enthusiasts. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer.

 

 

Home-made update

Tis almost Christmas and I thought it fitting as I sit here consuming home-made rice wine to fill you in on the progress of my varied exploits in home economy.

Yogurt
I’ve never been a big fan of yogurt, but since I discovered I could make delicious fresh yogurt for $1 per litre, my consumption has dramatically increased to reach parity with production. It seems that the more yogurt I produce, the more I consume; and while part of me is curious to find just how far this relationship goes, the rest of me is a little scared.

At the same time, I discovered that leaving a 3 litre jar of yogurt lying on its side in the fridge is a good way to separate the whey, leaving us with extremely thick yogurt.

Given the dynamic relationship between brain and digestive tract, I’m also curious to see the long-term effects of increased yogurt consumption. Will eating yogurt make me a happier, nicer person?

Rice Wine
The rice wine is going strong. I pasteurised one bottle at 85 degrees for about 10 minutes which killed about half the flavour. Not a great move. The second bottle I heated to 70 for 10 minutes, and it retains most of its flavour. In fact it’s more drinkable than the unpasteurised bottle, which has too strong a flavour.

I have three batches of rice wine on the go: ten cups of rice in a fermenter, and five each in two large jars. The rice in the fermenter was soaked in water for a day before steaming in a bamboo steamer. The rice in the two jars was soaked for two days, at which point it turned sour and fearing the worst I washed it thoroughly and set it to ferment (after steaming) apart from the first batch.

Nonetheless both the fermenter and the two jars are doing well. The spread of the white mold is visible, and liquid is now forming, just over a week into the process.

Beer
My Bright Ale turned out too dilute due to an inexperienced error in the boil. I’ll adjust future recipes. Chilling the beer to near freezing, it is still quite enjoyable, especially after a night run, but the first few litres I was saddened at the thought of what might have been.

I’ll try to do a Golden Ale on Boxing Day, as my supply is running dangerously low!

Ginger Beer
I cooked up a batch of Ginger Beer for Christmas, and have yet to try it. I’ve been disappointed in the past at the inefficiency of the ginger extraction in the existing recipe we’re using, so in light of that and the exorbitant price of ginger, I used less of it but cooked it in a pressure cooker for about an hour.

Normally there’s enough flavour left in the ginger after boil to bake a cake or biscuits, but this time it was flavourless dross. Success! However, it’s possible that the high pressure/temperature might alter the flavour a little. Will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’ve found a reputable Ginger Beer recipe that starts from scratch so hopefully I’ll give that a go in the near future.

Coffee
We’ve had a couple of popcorn machines die on us. Could be bad luck or a change in the tolerances of the machine, but either way it might be time to look for an alternative brand of machine or failing that an alternative method of roasting beans. There are a few other cheap methods. If worst comes to worst a heat gun and a dog bowl will do.

That’s about all there is to report at present. Future experiments may include bread, limoncello, noodles and pasta sauce.

Your money, or your life?

My latest article at Mercatornet.com looks at the distinction between artificial wealth and natural wealth, and how our increasing dependence on money may be distorting our enjoyment of life.

In our minds only the very rich love money, since only the very rich have enough of it to relax, sit back, and think happy thoughts about their bank balances and net worth. We do not think of ourselves as lovers of money, but we are nonetheless, nearly to a man, devoted to the getting, the storing, and the increasing of our share. We may not feel that we love money, but we are, like respectable men of a past era, intent on doing the right thing by it. And for nearly all of us the right thing is to chase money, accumulate money, loyally devote ourselves to the earning and the increasing of our monetary wealth.

 

Home-roasted coffee

coffee1

I’ve bean busy…

With due credit to my brother and his wife for getting me started on this project…

I’ve been roasting my own coffee beans for almost a year now.  The procedure is very simple, and achieves the ideal of a high-quality product at far below the market cost.  I can spend 30-45mins roasting beans once every week or two weeks, and enjoy the satisfaction, the freedom, and the existential high of producing my own great-tasting coffee.

Instead of spending as much as $36/kg on fresh, good quality beans, I order green beans online for about $15/kg, including postage.  I roast the beans outdoors in small batches, in a pair of $12-15 popcorn machines.  There are plenty of other ways to roast coffee, and lots of ways to modify the ‘poppers’ for greater control and consistency, but I’m happy thus far with this entry-level approach, and you can read more about it here:

http://www.sweetmarias.com/airpop/airpopmethod.php

In practical terms I’m yet to find a downside to roasting my own coffee at home.  It has become my favourite example of pushing back a little against a purely consumerist lifestyle, and producing something of value for one’s own benefit.

It’s likewise an example of my broader theme of ‘richer on a lower income’, as my family moves slowly toward an improved quality of life on a much reduced income.

How many other things could we produce – not for the sake of self-sufficiency, but for the sake of enjoying higher quality products without having to spend more hours in a meaningless job just to pay for them?  How much autonomy could we regain by having in our own skills and possessions the ability to produce rather than merely consume?  How much more fulfilling is a life spent cultivating the knowledge and sufficiency that past generations took for granted, and which we have all but abandoned?

This tiny step of making (and then drinking) my own coffee is pure inspiration.  It symbolises knowledge, freedom, power, wealth, and principle.  It points the way to a better life in which we can break the ruling conventions of 9-5 jobs and supermarket trolleys.

This isn’t about self-sufficiency in the most literal and demanding sense, nor are we about to dig a bomb-shelter, stockpile weapons, or form a fringe religious cult (coffee-cult, maybe).  It fundamentally is not about making life more difficult, onerous, or weird.  Rather, it’s about the kinds of improvements that would be common-sense if so many of us weren’t alienated and estranged by the demands of mainstream employment, and a culture increasingly dependent on a false dichotomy of career and consumption.