"Boiled" Millet Wine

I brought one new wine to King and Queens Arts and Sciences: a "boiled" millet wine.  This is the first wine for the second "exceptional" yeast cake recipe in Qimin Yaoshu - the yeast cakes I'm actually using at the moment.  It's got something weird going on.  Let's dive in.

YE2W1 造神麴黍米酒方:To make proso millet wine using exceptional yeast cakes

Finely file the yeast cakes, and air them in the sun to dry.  For one dou of yeast cakes, use nine dou of water, and three dan [30 dou] of grain.  If you need to make more, keep the ingredients in this proportion.  Use an appropriately sized weng.
When the mulberry trees lose their leaves [Chinese months 9 or 10, mid October - mid December].  First, add one dan of grain, then add five dou, then four dou, and then three dou, adding each after the grain has dispersed [note that this only adds up to 2.2 dan, not 3], making sure to add it at the right time.
Once the flavor is complete, boil it until it is completely cooked.  Although the flavor may be right, don’t stop boiling, or else you will not stop the fermenting power of the yeast, and you should once again add grain.  If you do not add more grain, then the wine will taste bitter, and be thin.  If you hit the spot, the wine will be light and fragrant, and better than most.
If when you first make this wine, and is clearly too thin, then what?  Think about it similarly to how you think about using common yeast cakes: you probably used too little grain, so that the fermentative power of the yeast wasn’t exhausted, and that’s why it was thin.
Don’t let chickens or dogs see [you making this wine].  If you focus on something while making this when the mulberry leaves fall, focus on making sure the millet is extremely cool.

Redacted a bit:
Clean, dry and powder 1 part yeast cakes and soak them in nine parts water until they bubble.  Add cooked millet according to the following schedule, waiting until the grain has dispersed before adding more: 10 parts, 5 parts, 4 parts, 3 parts.  Once it's done fermenting, "boil" it, and then add 8 parts cooked millet.  Let sit for a few days, press, filter and let clarify before serving.

Millet at left, before boiling.
Weird.  Why are we boiling our wine?  The first time I did this, I left it in the pot for a bit figuring it was sterile.

It wasn't!

It rotted and smelled something awful.

This time around, I tried something different: what if "boil" means more like "heat until lots of bubbles come out?"  Here's my theory:

If we're boiling it in a pottery vessel over a stove as the technology of the time likely was, and that vessel is anything like full, you've got a pretty deep bed of liquid going on.  Because it's a thick porridge, it won't convect much, plus you have a TON of nucleation points.  So the bottom will boil long before the top gets hot enough to.

I tried this in a modern kettle and while I wasn't the most rigorous with it, I got something like a temperature of 165 °F when it was "boiling all over."  Now, the recipe exhorts us to keep boiling, but what if we stopped once it was good and bubbly?  165 °F is plenty hot to sterilize it and kill the yeast... but readers familiar with beer brewing will notice that it's exactly the temperature at which barley amylase works ideally, and not nearly hot enough to denature it significantly.

I added the last, large batch of millet.

I waited a few days, and then performed a starch test with iodine.  If my theory is right ,we should see no starch, with all of it converted to sugar over those few days.

I cleaned my kitchen after I realized how dirty it looks in this photo
The iodine stayed brown, which means that there's no starch.  This is from a liquid I dumped half a liter of millet into three days before.

I think what's intended here is that this will produce a sweeter wine.  By killing the yeast off, we stop further fermentation, and we could add sugar, but we've already got a ton of amylase, and grain is cheap.  I didn't really get that effect, but the starch is gone.  There was an almost imperceptible sweetness, but I think I still have other millet cooking issues to tackle.

I'll have to revisit this theory in the future.  Maybe brew a batch using rice to test the amylase theory better.

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  1. Your first attempt reminds me of the time i tried to make mead from maple syrup.


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