Monday, July 13, 2015

Finished Lumpy Yeast Cake Wine

I've actually made some lumpy yeast cake wine!  It doesn't even taste bad:
In the jug.

The texture is pretty interesting, with a few distinct layers.

Spread on a cheesecloth - I had doubled it but had to take out the second layer because it wasn't draining.
Draining. 
After draining.

Bottled!

And poured.  It's quite opaque.

When I was straining it, it had a pretty strong rubbing alcohol aroma, but after straining it's mostly gone, and what's left is a mostly clean aroma with a hint of soy sauce.
It has a very full mouthfeel (maybe it's too thick and I should have added less grain), with both some residual sweetness and a sharp acidity.  After swallowing, it leaves some yeasty notes, and some estery aroma that I associate with alcohol that needs to be aged more.  It seems fairly alcoholic because it leaves a little bit of a burn in my throat, but I don't really care to dig out all the equipment I'd need to measure it.  Maybe for a later batch!  Commercial rice wine is often 18-25%

I didn't adjust any of the grain charges, and I didn't add any extra at the end because I had no idea what it's supposed to taste like, so I couldn't really judge whether it was "thin" or not.

All told I got about a quart and a half (maybe 1.25L) of alcohol out of 0.5L dried millet, and 0.2L water.

I'm going to leave the rest bottled and bring it to Pennsic to display at the A&S display, and enter in the inter-kingdom brewing competition.

I'm also going to try making more in a wider-mouthed container.  The gallon jug's neck is way too small to get the cooked millet into easily.

Here's a rewritten version of the recipe with some more practical information I learned during the process:

Lumpy Yeast Cake Wine

A dry, strong millet wine.
For vessels totalling 7000L.  Scale down (or up, for the adventurous) as appropriate.

Use fermenting vessels with wide enough mouths to fit your hand through.  It is difficult to get the steamed grain through a 1" diameter hole like that on a gallon jug or a carboy, and steamed millet will not easily pass through a funnel unless the funnel is very wide.

Ingredients:
  • 900L of Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), divided as follows into seven charges:
    1. 200L
    2. 170L
    3. 140L
    4. 110L
    5. 100L
    6. 90L
    7. 90L
  • Additional perhaps 100L millet on standby to adjust quantities during brewing.
  • 130L of lumpy yeast cakes (1/7 the amount of grain)
  • 400L water, plus additional water for steaming the millet.
Instructions:
  1. Soak the yeast cakes for seven to eight days, or until they start to bubble (if using commercial yeast balls, just soak them for a few hours). Then, break, smash or file them into fine pieces, using a mortar and pestle, or a spoon in a bowl.
  2. When the yeast cakes are ready, rinse the first charge of millet, and steam it for 45 minutes on a clean cheesecloth or dish towel.  Make sure the steamer has water just up to the maximum possible without the millet actually sitting in it.  You're going to be steaming it for a long time and you don't want it to dry out and burn the millet.
  3. Let the millet cool enough to remove it from the steamer, and spread the steamed millet out to cool on its steaming cloth.  Most of the millet will have absorbed a lot of water and expanded, but some on top will still be dry.  Once cool enough to touch, mix the millet gently and place it back in the steamer for another 45 minutes.
  4. Add more water to the steamer so that you do not run out and burn the millet.
  5. Let the millet cool briefly in the steamer, and when safe to handle, remove it, and spread it out on the cheesecloth to cool completely.  Break up any large chunks.  Divide it evenly among your fermentation vessels corresponding to their relative volumes.
  6. Once the millet is cool, add it to your cleaned, sanitized fermentation vessel(s) along with the water and the yeast.  Place the vessel in a cool dark place and cover the opening with a piece of fabric or use a bubbler and an airlock.
  7. Wait 12 hours, and agitate the mass of millet.  The wine should be think and turbid.
  8. After another approximately 12 hours, repeat stages 2-6 with the second charge, but not adding any more water or yeast to the vessel.  The water bound in the millet is plenty.
  9. Continue repeating stages 2-6 (still not adding more water) with each following charge, one a day.  Taste before adding each charge.  If the liquor tastes thin because the yeast is working very strongly to ferment it, you may add the previous charge's amount instead of the current charge's, but do not go above 60L more than the previous charge.
  10. After adding all seven charges, it should stop fermenting after three to five days.  If it tastes done, it is.  Otherwise, add another 30-40L of millet, and give it another several days.  If it still doesn't taste strong enough, add another 20-30L, and give it another several days.
  11. Strain the millet through a thin but finely woven cheese cloth or butter muslin placed over a colander over a large bowl.
  12. When it's drained all that it will, gather up the ends of the cloth, and twist it so that you tighten the pouch the mash is in.
  13. When that stops draining, loosen the pouch and move the grain inside it around.  Re-tighten.  Repeat until the mash is the consistency of cooked corn meal, or you get tired of draining.
  14. Bottle into sanitized bottles and enjoy.
The wine is traditionally made in early April and should last into the summer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Historical Unit Sizes

In the recipes so far, I've been working on the assumption that 10 sheng is one dou, and ten dou is one dan, based on the entries for those characters in A Student's Dictionary.

I'm writing up the lesson plan for the class I'm teaching at Pennsic (Zidian and Cidian: Chinese Dictionaries) and as I was paging through Wang Li's Classical Chinese Dictionary, I noticed that one of the appendixes has unit conversions.  What's more, it has dated unit conversions, with a list of textual and archaeological evidence to back them up.




This doesn't really change the recipes since they scale, but it's interesting.  What volumes are the recipes actually calling for?

According to Wikipedia, the Qiming Yaoshu was finished in year 544 CE and took perhaps ten years to write.  This places it during the Eastern Wei dynasty.  Unfortunately, there is no entry for the Wei dynasty at all, but it's one of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (南北朝), which we do have an entry for.

The leftmost column gives the dynasty, and the second from the left gives the unit conversions:

1 hu 斛 = 10 dou 斗
1 dou 斗 = 10 sheng 升
1 sheng 升 = 10 ge 合

The next column is textual supporting evidence:

From the Book of Sui, the Treatise on Rhythm and the Calendar: "In the Qi dynasty, they took the old sheng, five sheng to one dou."

I'm a little confused by this, but presumably the dictionary compiler had some context and a reason for giving a conversion of 1:10.

The next column I believe is something like the approximate volume of a hu in milliliters, so it's saying that in the Three Kingdoms period a hu was something like 20.45L.

The next column is archaeological evidence: "The Chinese National History Museum has a Jin dynasty copper cauldron, and following the chromium, 'accommodates a sheng.'"

The next column is the volume of that cauldron, which is 535 mL.  Hardly a cauldron.

The last column is a list of the volumes of the various units in mL, according to the compiler:
hu 30L
dou 3L
sheng 300mL
ge 30mL

If we take these units at face value, and still treat one dan as 10 dou, then the lumpy yeast cake wine recipe is nominally for ten seven-dan vessels, or ten 210L vessels, or 2,100L total.  210L is about 55 gallons, which very interestingly is almost exactly the size of a common metal or plastic drum!  That's a pretty big clay pot, but probably not one that's totally unmanageable, at least when empty.

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