Nowadays, many people want to move away from anything mass produced and opt instead for something they have made themselves. After all, if you know exactly how much effort went into the production process, you’ll appreciate the end result much more. Beer, cheese, bread and preserves are just some of the things that you can make at home but if you like a challenge and doing something unusual, you may want to invest in a pot distiller and a good moonshine recipe.
Moonshine is normally associated with Appalachian farmers who would clandestinely turn at least part of their harvest into a much more valuable product. The liquor that they distilled could fetch a higher price than the produce from the land and they could also transport much more of it at a time, earning them a handsome bit of extra income. You will find different versions of strong, home-distilled liquors all over the world.
The first step in the production process is to create a mash. This is often a mixture of corn, water, sugar and yeast. The mash has to ferment, with the corn mainly included for flavor while the sugar creates the alcohol.
The mash has to ferment for a few days. When it is ready, you can strain the liquid, which by this time is similar to beer, and drink it. However, to create something much more fiery, the mash has to be distilled first, by heating it in a special distilling pot. The pot has a condenser at the top and as the vapors from the fermented mash rise to the top, they enter this condenser. Here they cool and condense into the clear liquid known as moonshine.
Not every version of moonshine uses corn mash. In Scotland, for example, wheat or barley is used, while in Ireland, Finland and Iceland, potatoes are the ingredient of choice. Russians may opt for beets and in many Asian countries rice is used. Sometimes distillers in the Democratic Republic of Congo use cassava or even plantains.
Often distillers will use fruits instead of grains or starches. Sugar cane is a common ingredient in the countries of the Caribbean and Central America. In Eastern Europe, a drink made from plums is popular but you can also find versions using apricots, cherries, peaches or even walnuts, each with its own distinct flavor.
Many versions of moonshine are made with grapes. You’ll find these especially in areas where wine production is common too and grapes are plentiful. In South Africa, a high-quality grape-based firewater with a name that translates as ‘white lightning’ can even be bought legally in liquor stores and at farmer’s markets.
By nature, moonshine is actually an illegally distilled drink. In most countries distilling your own liquor can land you a stiff fine or some prison time. However, in many areas you may distill your own liquor for personal use if you have a special license to do so. Therefore, check the local legislation before you invest in an expensive distilling pot.
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