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Survey of Vinegar Recipes

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Scroll 8 in Qimin Yaoshu has twenty-three vinegar recipes in it.  I've now translated them all, and rather than posting them fully, I thought I'd offer a summary, and a few of them in particular.

I haven't (successfully, ahem) made any of these yet, and when I do I'll post separately about them, with the full recipe included.

Science and Civilisation in China notes that vinegar was a relatively late addition to Chinese cooking, replacing the use of Prunus mume (a kind of apricot) as a souring agent in the Spring and Autumn period (771-476 BCE).
Ingredients Most of these are millet vinegars, produced like a millet wine.  But they also don't all use yeast cakes.  Most are using what I'm translating as "wheat grains" (麥䴷), which are also called "yellow steam" (黃蒸).  To make this: 作黃蒸法:To Make Yellow Steam〈六、七月中,取生小麥,細磨之。 In the middle of the sixth or seventh months, take fresh wheat, and finely grind it. 以水溲而蒸之,氣餾好熟,便下之,攤令冷。 Soak it in water, and th…

Evidence in Funny Places

I'm working on the vinegar recipes in Qimin Yaoshu, and one of the recipes contains a line that offers some useful insight into the wine making business:


至十月中,如壓酒法,毛袋壓出,則貯之。 When it has become the tenth month, press it with a wool bag as if you were pressing wine, and then store it.
Seems like I've been on the right track using cheesecloth and nylon bags, although I would like to get a bag made from mohair or something like that eventually.

Wine that tastes good!

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Having just made new yeast cakes, I put them to good use in a batch of millet wine and rice wine following the recipe I call YE1W1 and YE2W2, as they're the first and second wines (W1, W2) listed under the first exceptional yeast cakes (YE1).  They came out really good!

The recipe:
Millet or Rice Wine à la Yuán PúshèThis volume will fit in a 1 gallon wide-mouthed fermenter, barely. Ingredients and Tools¼ cup powdered exceptional yeast cakes, about one cake.  But do measure. 5.25 cups dry millet or 4.5 cups dry white sticky rice Water 1 gallon, wide-mouthed fermenter - cooked grain can’t go through a narrow mouth Cheesecloth Optionally, liner silk or some other filter fabric finer than your cheesecloth Mortar and pestle Directions
Dry the yeast cakes completely and scrub them clean several times. Grate, and then grind the yeast cakes in a mortar.  Soak them in 1.25 cups water for three days until they start to bubble.  Add to your fermenter. Thoroughly rinse and then soak ¾ cups of dry grain i…

New Yeast Cakes

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My first batch of yeast cakes is running out, and I think they had some process issues, so I wanted to make a new batch.

I decided to try the second yeast cake recipe:
YE2 又造神麴法:Another method for making exceptional yeast cakes
其麥蒸、炒、生三種齊等,與前同;但無復阡陌、酒脯、湯餅、祭麴王及童子手團之事矣。 Take equal quantities of steamed, stir-fried and fresh wheat, and join them as in the previous recipe, but without the north-south cross, the offering of alcohol and dried fruit/meat, the cooked noodles, offering to the “yeast cake king” or having children shape the cakes. 預前事麥三種,合和細磨之。七月上寅日作麴。溲欲剛,擣欲精細,作熟。餅用圓鐵範,令徑五寸,厚一寸五分,於平板上,令壯士熟踏之。以杙刺作孔。 Prepare the three kinds of wheat as before, join them and finely grind them.  On the third day of the seventh month, make the yeast cakes.  Wet them so they are “firm [more water than “just add a little”].”  Pound the mixture until it is evenly mixed and fine.  Make it into cakes using a round iron mold, 5 thumb-joints across, and one and half thumb-joints thick.  On top of a level board,…

Starting A New Blog for Non-Brewing Topics

http://sundries.alecstory.org

I intend to keep this one focused on brewing, but some of this audience might find non-brewing medieval topics interesting.

Polished Millet

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As I wrote a while back, if you buy hulled millet in the grocery store or online, and you steam it, you don't get great results.  A lot of the grains don't cook completely, which leads to problems fermenting.

The problem is really that the grains are unpolished and still have a layer of bran on them - they're the brown rice equivalent of millet.  I can buy white rice, but not "white" millet.

The solution is to use more power.

My food processor has two blades which looked reasonable to use.  One is the regular cutting blade (note that Cuisinart recently had a blade recall, which affected mine), and the other is the shorter-armed, plastic dough blade.

I tried both, for sixty seconds continuously:

Unprocessed
Dough Blade
Knife Blade
The dough blade didn't really change the grains, but the knife blade did - the grains had a lot more powder, and when washed were much whiter:
Part of the problem with the dough blade is that it doesn't actually reach all of the …