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Showing posts from 2015

Making Exceptional Yeast Cakes, Week 3

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Last time, on yeast cake adventures, we flipped the yeast cakes.

Today, we're going to gather them.  Excitement!
至二七日,麴,還令塗戶,莫使風入。 After another seven days, gather the cakes, again mud the door, allowing no wind to enter.
I double checked to see if there was more meaning to that word (bolded in the original and in the translation), and there really isn't:
聚 jù Middle Chinese dzjuX
collect(ion), assemble, gather together, group(ing); (a)mass, accumulate.assembly of 3 or more celestial bodies in the same lunar lodging.community, populace; settlement. So I guess I'll make a pile of them.

This time, the cakes smelled much more interesting.  I got strong caramel notes - I'm reminded of some kind of cookie my grandmother used to make but I can't put my finger on it.  I also get some floral notes.  It's interesting how much the aroma changed from last week.  I wonder if the caramel notes are due to saccharification byproducts.


It's unclear to me what purpose the gat…

Making Exceptional Yeast Cakes, Week 2

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Last week, I started making yeast cakes, which I will hopefully use as a starter culture for future wines.

The recipe takes a month, and here we are on day 7, where Jia Sixie tells us,
至七日開,當處翻之,還令泥戶。At dawn on the seventh day, at the appropriate time flip them over, and once again seal the door. I didn't remember to flip the cakes at sunrise, but I did flip them this evening.

These are how I've been storing the cakes, in my closet at about room temperature.  It's no thatched-roof hut, but it will have to do.
The cakes are surprisingly damp.  Like, dripping with water damp.  There's condensation on every surface.  I think I might have actually trapped too much of the water inside, although it's hard to say at this point.  There's a little fungal growth visible as small white spots (this appeared a few days in), but not much.
They smell sweetly of alcohol, nail polish and flowers, so I think there's fungal shenanigans going on.  The odor has some of the same …

Making Exceptional Yeast Cakes

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I said I'd make these after Christmas, but schedules be damned, I'm going to do it early.

Earlier I posted the close translation of the first of the exceptional yeast cake recipes.  I'll redact it below, but since this is before making it I might need to come back with some changes and some refinements.

Before we start, though, I want to post a warning:

Most alcohol production is pretty safe.  There are very few microbes that can grow in the acidic, alcoholic, nutrient-poor environment that is fermented wine, beer or what have you, and also cause you ill.  Yeast does a really good job at turning unfermented liquid into fermented liquid, so the window for spoilage that could cause illness is very small.  Pretty much nobody worries about food safety when it comes to fermenting wine or beer at home. (1)

However.  This recipe is a deliberate infection of grain with molds without the presence of alcohol.  It is entirely possible that molds which produce toxins may grow on the gr…

New Recipes: Exceptional Yeast Cakes

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I enjoy going back to my old alma mater for a number of reasons.  I went up in October to interview some undergrads for work, and also to celebrate homecoming, but I had enough time to sneak into the library and snag some books.

I was hoping to find some of the source texts that I couldn't find online, and I did, but what I found just looking around the library at random near the books I had identified turned out to be extremely valuable as well:


That book is "The Annotated Qimin Yaoshu," and I bought a copy from amazon.cn to have for myself.  Sort of like how you might have read annotated editions of Shakespeare in high school, it has a ton of footnotes explaining character issues, typos, and more importantly, interpreting and explaining hard to understand passages: 手熟揉為佳 does not mean, "roll the cooked grain using your feet and hands until done," it means "roll more grain into the cakes using your hands until they are done."

While this book is in mode…

Recipe: White Cloudy Wine

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A while ago I translated this recipe, and now that I've made it a few times, it's time to give you a readable recipe.

Ingredients:

Two parts dry glutinous (sticky) rice, divided into two equal parts.0.1 parts yeast cakes (ideally white cloudy wine yeast cakes, as of yet untranslated) Steps: Thoroughly rinse half the rice, strain it, and put it, uncooked, in your fermenter.Bring 1-2 parts water to a boil, and pour it over the rice until the rice is covered.Cover the fermenter with a clean cloth.The next day, strain out the rice, retaining the liquid.Steam the rice, and spread it to cool.While you steam the rice, take 0.2 parts of the liquid retained from the rice, and boil it down to 0.05 parts.  Cool it, beat it with a whisk until frothy, and put it in your fermenter.Put the cooled rice, and 0.06 parts water in the fermenter.Powder the yeast cakes and put them in the fermenter, and mix.Cover the fermenter with a clean cloth.The next day, strain out the liquid from the mash.  Dis…

But I Haven't Got a Weng!

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All of these recipes I've been writing about are supposed to be fermented in a weng (甕, wèng, Middle Chinese 'uwngH), which is a large ceramic container with a mouth.

My current understanding is something like this:

Or the leftmost vessel in this picture (this is a historical, large weng, found with mash inside it): Picture from Science and Civilisation in China, volume 6 Biology and Biological Technology part V Fermentations and Food Science, page 152.
Historical weng were definitely unglazed, since the Qimin Yaoshu has instructions for how to season them.  They also came in a variety of sizes, and still do.

None of that really matters, since I haven't got one, and you probably don't either.  So what can we do?
My initial fermentations were in a gallon glass jug, like you'd use for a small amount of mead or cider.  You can stick an airlock on the top of it and keep the contents safe from infection, just like you would with western alcohol production.
The problem w…