Nov 30, 2010

Once in a blue moon

I just love the Marcels and their Blue Moon song. Although it has nothing to do with my story today. All the wine songs are not very interesting.

My post today is about wine. Making it. And the story I was told about making it. All the myths, superstitions and what-noughts. Ever since I found out how to make it, I told myself that I must teach others about it and tell them all the grandmother tales about it are half the truth.

Making Rice wine at home is like going for an adventure trip. You have packed, and read all the notes, literature about the upcoming trip. Planned everything ahead of time. At the starting point, everything seems to be working along fine. Halfway through your journey, things just go wrong. You try to fix it in your best ability. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. At the end of this adventure, you tell yourself this:

"Yay! I made it! Sure, I have 101 problems and I need to figure it out. But hey! Its a pretty good for a first timer!"

This is how I see making wine is. As John Scully used to say "The Journey is the REWARD!".

It took me 10 kg of rice, and several months of trial and error, I finally found the answer to all my questions about wine making at home. Along the way, I met old wine masters (people who made wine as a business for sale or just for home consumption) and learn a thing or two about the perfect wine fermentation process.

Before my grandmother story starts, let me show you what I have achieve in my journey of wine making :

My most precious home made Chinese Yellow wine (Huang Jiu). It takes a year to reach this colour

Cherry wine : Made with Dark Sweet Cherries, pitted. This is just for fun. Took a fraction of the time to make.

2 Glasses of Chinese Wine : Yellow is Huang Jiu, Gold coloured wine is actually Dried Raisins Wine. You really need to have alot of patience to make dried friuits wine.

Black Glutinous Rice Wine..made with Black Glutinous Rice and Black Dates. Not for everyone/anyone. I made this for my friend, Miss Irene Yip of Chef Secrets Cooking Studio when she underwent a series of surgeries and was very weak and anemic. Very potent stuff and she drinks this as a health tonic.

My most prized home made wine (*by my mom, my dear sweet Mother in law, my aunts). Its used for cooking and can be drunk straight. Good home made Bai Mi Jiu is slightly cloudy and not really see through like water. Almost translucent.

Here's the basic recipe to make a bottle of good wine.

Bai Mi Jiu
Recipe by all the Wine Masters, perfected by Gina Choong
For the purpose of detailed documentation, you have to attend my wine making class to learn the full effects.

Yields 750ml wine
1kg white glutinous rice
1 pc of wine yeast
3 tbsp fine sugar

enough water to cook the rice in a rice cooker

Tools you will need:
2 large glass jar with a cover.(1 for wine fermentation, 1 for storing the rice wine residue)
2 clean glass bottles and 2 pcs of cork that can fit the bottles.
1 clean kitchen towel

1. Wash the rice under tap water. Make sure that there are no bugs, dirt in it.
2. Drain and cook it in a rice cooker, add water based on rice cooker measurements.
3. When its cooked, remove to air it. Make sure its completely COOLED.
4. Pound the wine yeast into powder and mix with the sugar.
5. Make sure the glass jar is cleaned and VERY DRY.
6. Mix the rice with the yeast/sugar mix, stuff into the jar and press it down.
7. The rice should only be 60 to 70% of the jar.
8. Cover with a kitchen towel cloth, then followed by the cover of the jar.
9. Leave it aside, untouched, undisturbed for 21 days.

Harvesting the wine
1. Scoop out the wine and leave it on a sieve which sits on top of a pot.
2. Leaving it alone to drain as much liquid it can. Pour the rice residue into another clean jar.
3. Repeat this process till all the wine are harvested.
4. Pour the wine into cleaned bottles fitted with a cork.
5. Leave it aside to settle and separated. This may take 2 to 5 days.
6. This is considered the FIRST yield and it looks cloudy and murky.
7. When it settles after a few days, this is what you will get..see pic below. The clear wine will float to the top of the bottle..the white residue will settle at the bottom of the bottle.
8. Slowly tip the bottle to pour out the clear wine and bottled it again. This is ready for cooking, or drinking.
9. The leftover residue can be poured back into the rice wine residue to continue with the fermentation.

What can you use to the Rice Wine Residue for?
The most common way is to use it for cooking.
Just 2 to 3 tbsps of this wine rice residue on top of Fresh prawns and off to the steamer for 5 mins. You get Wine Prawns.
Or marinate 3 tbsp with chicken and leave it overnight in the fridge, and fry it with ginger the next day. You get a good Wine Chicken with Ginger.

But my all time favourite way was to use it to make the traditional Huat Kueh
The recipe is long winded.

1. Never put the jar next to the window where the sun shines into.
2. Never put the jar next to the stove..the heat from the stove will kill the fermentation
3. Never shake the jar too often.
4. During the crucial first 7 days, DO NOT open the jar even just to take a sniff at it. This will allow new air to enter the jar and slows down the fermentation process.

Why add sugar?
Sugar is used to help to kick start the wine fermentation. Its not to make it sweeter. If you know how to make wild yeast, sugar was use to mix with water, flour and left out to ferment. It turns sour and thus Wild yeast is 'born'.

Through my experiments at home, I found that without sugar, the wine still tastes the same. Only visual difference is the amount of yield per 1kg of rice. With Sugar, you get 750ml of wine. Without sugar, you get about 500ml +/-. The rice residue is more grainy without sugar, and more 'mashy soft' with sugar.

If you do this properly, by the 3rd day, you will see water emitting from the bottom of the jar. This is the early stages of wine fermentation. This is not really water.

Now the story behind the myths:

Myth no 1
You can only make wine at night.
The truth is…
Too much light will kill the wine yeast and prevent a proper fermentation. That is why winemaking should take place under low light – as in evening or at night.

Myth no 2
You have to do it alone. No one can help you.
The truth is…
In the old days when measurements were vague, wine-makers did not measure ingredients precisely, preferring to go by their instincts, according to quality of ingredients. As the saying goes: “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, and in this case, a single cook is better than two.

Myth no 3

You must be the only person to harvest the wine or it will go bad.
The truth is…
The person who started the wine is the best person to judge its fermentation progress. The wine jar can only be opened after the first seven days, when the wine will have matured. If the jar is opened up too often before that, fermentation may stop.

Myth no 4
You must hide the wine under the bed.
The truth is…
During fermentation, wine cannot be exposed to direct heat or sunlight. You can put the jar anywhere dark and cool, as long as it is not near direct sunlight or heat.

Myth no 5
You must be in a good mood when you are making wine.
The truth is…
This is more like truth than myth. If you are in a bad mood, you may hurry through the process or forget a crucial step. Wine making takes time and attention. And, the best ingredients in any recipe are always the love and passion the cook puts in!


LT said...

Hi Gina,

Thanks for sharing this. One question I have is how do you stop the fermentation after you've harvested the wine? My previous experience is that the harvested wine continues to ferment in the bottle (turning sour eventually) even though I've stored them in the refrigerator.

Appreciate your comments on this.


Gina Choong said...

Hi LT, to stop the fermentation, make sure you drain as much wine residue as you can from the bottle. the leftover residue I pour it back into the rice fermentation pot. Yes, it continues to ferment. But mine never turn sour. However, it gets richer in taste and flavour. and the rice grains turn mashy over time.

happyhomemaker88 said...

Hi, Gina :D

A very well written post on how to make rice wine at home. I have only ventured in to making raisin wine so far and I am considering if I dare to make rice wine as well. Your detailed description has certainly got me encouraged to make some soon.

Best wishes,

choesf :D

Anonymous said...

Hi, Gina, if the wine turn sour, can we drink it ? Please reply because mine one turn sour. Thank you.