Skull Gang Foraging Club: Moonshine!
Every week the Skull Gang Foraging Club go on a loose adventure in the pursuit of culinary satisfaction, passing on everything from how to pick mushrooms, milking goats for their cheese, pagan apple blessing and the odd recipe. This week Sam makes moonshine.
In theory making moonshine is fairly basic. You mix together a sugar rich solution (the mash), toss in some yeast and leave it to ferment for about a week. Then you distill it. In reality, it’s fucked.
Things started out OK. We made the mash to the soundtrack of Willie Nelson’s ‘Red Headed Stranger’ (best album EVER). We felt like hillbilly kings.
In a 20L water-cooler bottle we put 3 kilos of corn meal, 2 kilos of sugar, and enough warm water to fill it. After giving it a good stir, we threw in the baking yeast. We secured a latex glove over the opening with rubber bands and pricked a hole in one of the fingers. Fermentation produces all sorts of gas, and this allows it to escape without letting the airborne bacteria in. After the yeast worked its booze-magic we were left with a beery smelling corn-wine the colour of canal sludge.
To refine this further involves heating, or distilling. Good alcohol boils at about 80 degrees, the shit make-you-go-blind stuff a touch cooler. If you keep a steady temperature of around 80 to 85 degrees you should be able to burn off the alcohol and leave behind the other useless stuff like water. Then it’s just a matter of capturing that vapour, cooling it until it regains liquid form, and drinking it.
The contraption used to extract the alcohol from the mash is called a still. Stills are usually made from copper or stainless steel. Copper is meant to be the best, somehow producing a better smelling, more flavoursome end product. Which is weird considering that copper is poisonous in high concentrations and tastes like shit. There are a few definite do not’s in still construction. Do not use anything synthetic like silicone or plastic. Do not use glass in anything but the bottle you’re going to store the hooch in. There should be no chance that the incredibly flammable vapour could leak, and the room should be well ventilated. Never use an open flame.
We’re so fucking dumb. We glued a glass lid on a stockpot with silicone, stuck a plastic hose in it, and burnt it over an open gas flame. We opened the window, but there wasn’t much in the way of ventilation. There was a fuckload of pressure in that pot. Scary pressure. At one stage the lid lifted around two inches above the rim of the pot, held only by the silicone. I am amazed that it did. We hadn’t even waited for it to dry. The hose kept getting soft from the heat and falling out of the hole in the lid. Firebomb fumes were everywhere.
Jo read every article about moonshine related death that she could find out loud. We evacuated the kitchen twice.
In order to cool the alcohol vapour we ran the tubing into an empty Milo tin full of cold water. We coiled it around the edges to ensure as much surface area as possible was exposed to the water. It was impossible to get the coils to fall evenly, and we ended up having to extract a lot of the piping to help with downward flow. We still had to coax the moonshine out and into the collection vessel by prodding it with chopsticks. The Milo tin leaked water everywhere.
We felt like Popcorn Sutton* when the first droplets of drinkable ‘shine dripped into the jar. For some reason it was the colour of watered down milk. In the interests of maintaining our eyesight we tipped out the first shot-glass worth of product. This should eliminate any methanol as it evaporates first. It smelt like tequila does after a huge night. And cancer. It was really bad. We got a bit high from all those fumes. It was this weird, manic-depressive, headache high. It wasn’t good.
We stopped after the second evacuation. We only managed to fill a small jar. It was enough. The smell of the stuff doesn’t scream “drink me”. Neither does the colour. We pricked holes in a few blueberries and threw them in with a teaspoon of sugar. It couldn’t hurt. But it hasn’t seemed to help much either.
Maybe one of the Irish girls will drink it.
* If you are unfamiliar with Popcorn Sutton, look him up. He was a bearded moonshine guru. He got his name smashing up a popcorn machine. Popcorn killed himself rather than be imprisoned by the cheap-booze hating retards that run America.