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.

 

 

Blue cheese, rice wine, beer, pickled vegetables and glorious shelving!

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It’s been a while since my last productivity update, but as you can see I have been busy!

I started a blue cheese on October 7th, and it bloomed faster than I’d expected. I inoculated the curds with a small chunk of a blue brie, which turned out to be not at all how blue brie is made. Apparently the way to make blue brie is to inoculate the curds as if making a blue, then scorch the surface of the cheese itself with hot water and re-inoculate with the white mould for brie. The trick is to keep the blue from overtaking the white.

I’m quite happy to end up with a blue, so I’ve poked holes in the cheese to encourage the blue mould to grow inside. Apparently I’m supposed to scrape off the exterior mould at some point, at least once per month over the next three months. I want it to cover the cheese completely first, and since the mould has sprouted ahead of schedule I think it should be fine to leave it for a while.

Hopefully it will be readyish in time for New Year’s.

In other productivity news, I’ve been making and drinking rice wine more or less continuously.  I may have mentioned previously that I find a strange allure in drinking the highly alcoholic liquid run-off from mouldy cooked rice. No one else seems to like it that much, but to me there’s a purity and pristine quality to it because it is little more than the product of rice, mould, and yeast. It’s so unprocessed and rustic.

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The red was admittedly a little disappointing, though it was made with glutinous rice instead of sushi rice. The white is quite sweet and seemingly of a higher alcohol concentration. I’ve forced myself to save a bottle of each to see how they age, and to share with returning friends.

With the warmth of summer fast approaching, we’re back into beer season. I don’t consider myself a brewer, but I can follow a recipe well enough and friend J has given us an amazing recipe that is a clone of Stone Ruination, an American IPA.  To buy Ruination in Australia would set you back $180 per carton. I’m not about to sample the real thing, but this clone has pretty much ruined me for lesser commercial beers. Coopers still hold their own as a very different beer, but I’ve been severely disappointed by some other “craft” brews that had as much flavour as one of my early failures where the post-boil volume somehow overshot the mark by about 5 litres!

The great lemon-wine experiment has about reached its peak with the unhappy conundrum of what to do with 25 litres of poorly fermented overly sweet lemon wine. Unfortunately the answer turned out to be “bottle it” in a hurry, to free up a fermenter for beer purposes. I’ve been looking into stuck fermentation and may try to restart it later with some champagne yeast. Various other little batches of lemon and lime wine are not so bad, having at least attained a reasonable level of fermentation, but lesson learned: don’t over-sweeten.

Finally, we’ve started branching out a little into preserved vegetables. I managed to find a recipe for zha cai, a delicious condiment typically marketed as “preserved chinese vegetables” but actually made from the ugly bulbous root of the mustard plant. Apparently the process is very similar to kimchi: salt, marinade, and allow to ferment. We’ve started with something simpler in the form of preserved Chinese cabbage, which just sits in salt water and a bit of vinegar for a week.

All of these activities require equipment and storage space, which has just become more readily available with the purchase of a cool room shelving rack! Dominating the landscape of our small kitchen, this four-tiered monolith can carry up to 100kg per shelf, and stands at 1.8m high, 1.5m wide, and .53m deep. It is now home to our microwave, coffee grinder and espresso machine all on one shelf, with others holding bags of rice, vegetables, cheese-esky, press, about 30 litres of beer and a dozen of aforementioned disappointing rice wine. It’s been such a benefit to us, we’ve only had it for seven days but it feels like it’s been with us forever.  To top it off, we got it at about a third of retail value from an auction. Every now and then the wife and I like to just stand in the kitchen and gaze at it in awe.

Until next time!

 

 

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.

 

60 sqm homestead

I’ve never been a very productive person, so I’m relishing my current spate of home-made produce, which I hope will only increase in future.

In the past I would have found any number of obstacles to every item I’ve thus far produced; even something as simple as not being able to find strong flour for bread-making at my local supermarket. You could say I was a little too easily defeated.

I’ve been reflecting on my progress thus far, and have to give credit to two elements that have inspired all the subsequent productivity. Firstly, my brother and his wife got me started on roasting coffee, which in many ways remains the easiest, quickest, and most rewarding activity. It meets the ideal of providing a high-quality product at or below commercial prices. Half an hour of roasting literally doubles the value of the coffee beans. Other adventures in home produce have followed this same goal – creating something that tastes as good as or better than anything I could afford, but at a much lower cost.

The second major element is all thanks to my friend J, over at Gray’s Brewing. J did everything to get me brewing, short of threatening physical violence: before heading overseas he showed us the process from start to finish, and left us with a cube of wort, a bunch of fermenters, a freezer, a sachet of yeast, and assorted bits and pieces in what is effectively the brewing equivalent of pre-chewing your child’s food so he doesn’t choke on it.

Brewing all-grain beer likewise produces a high quality product at much lower costs, but unlike my coffee roasting, it also introduced a number of basic technical skills and equipment that have lowered the cost of entry to other products.

For example, if it were not for brewing beer, I would never have tried brewing rice wine. If it were not for the rice wine, I would never have started brewing soy sauce (don’t worry J, I’m using my own fermenter for that). All three require fermenters, familiarity with yeast fermentation, and for the latter two a familiarity with Aspergillus oryzae.

Beer also required the use of a thermometer, which, as simple as it sounds, was otherwise an obstacle to producing yoghurt. Producing yoghurt led to simple mozzarella cheese (more complex cheese to follow). Cheese and yoghurt are both closely related to butter, with yoghurt providing cultures for both, and butter producing buttermilk as a by-product, which is (in name at least) in turn useful for the cultivation of a different variety of cheeses.

Making the soy sauce required a huge amount of brine, for which I used my brewing hydrometer to establish the specific gravity and hence salt-content of the brine. Having made so much brine for the soy sauce, making another brine to wash the butter was no obstacle.

Salt has been the common ingredient in both the soy sauce and the bacon, and with lemons coming into season we’ll likely be using it to preserve lemons as well. Preserving lemons will be easy now that we have the mason jars purchased for the sake of the pasta sauce; mason jars that turned out to be very handy for making and storing yoghurt, as well as for whipping cream into butter.

I even used a mason jar the other day to store cold-pressed coffee, an experiment which proved dangerously good for making impromptu iced-coffees.

If you’ve read this far, what I’m getting at is that there’s a basic knowledge and familiarity with these various ingredients, techniques, and skills that lowers the threshold to an array of wonderful products. They are interconnected in surprising ways, such that I could, in the near future, have a bread dough, yoghurt, cheese, beer, soy sauce, and rice wine in the one fridge, all undergoing varying permutations on the fermentation of yeast or culture of bacteria.

I’m struck by how limited my knowledge and skills were before, and how enriching by contrast this new-found productivity has already become.

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.

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!