One should probably take Campbells and like it
Wherein I become so weaboo that I make farm sake. Sorry; I have had too much IRL stuff going on to sit down and thrash out a juicy theory-ish essay about:
♦ The need for fujoshi spaces and their one-dimensional representation in CJVC.
♦ Hato is now a Fu-Danshi, officially even. Madarame gave him permission.
♦I am bored with time-travelling guys and even with guy-written time/probability travelling girl heroes.
I hope to get to those once things calm down with work, summer and my happy fun riajuu life.
In the meantime…
Secrets of Farm Sake brewing below the cut!
Two things you never see in a manga (or anime): folks pirating manga +/or anime and folks making farm sake aka doburoku. Come to think of it, I cannot ever recall seeing a reference to anyone ever drinking or eating sake-kasu, even if used as an indicator of “old folks” or old-school tastes, much as natto or brown cane sugar candy has occasionally been used.
Of course, home-brewing your own sake (or beer or wine) has been illegal in Japan since before WWI, part of a modernization and public health drive that incidentally made the official product a lot more lucrative to the great families that controlled the breweries and also helped to normalise tax revenues. The cultural traces of widespread home-brewing however survive in the Japanese kitchen; the omnipresence of koji -fermented foods; miso, pickled vegetables, soy sauce variants and sweet rice.
You can buy dried koji bricks for your own pickling beds or fermented beans and/or amazake rice at any Japanese supermarket for equiv of $2-$4. Koji comes on rice that has been infested with domesticated koji mold spores and symbiotic yeast strains.
Yeast likes sugar, but can’t eat rice starch. Koji mold produces powerful enzymes which turn rice starch into sugar. By domesticating these two micro-organisms, the people of Japan have done wonders to expand the range of tasty foods available to a country that is very into rice and soy beans. I wonder if they do anything with koji and buckwheat?
And then there are the “lees”, the glop that remains in the bottom of the bucket after the fermentation and mold-ification has finished, the sake-kasu or leavings. Commercial sake brewers uses gigaton hydraulic presses to squeeze every last drop of yummy sake out of their lees. The kasu is then vacuum sealed and sold off in bricks at food stores and booze stores. Mix a bit into hot water, add lemon and honey and you have Japanese ovaltine; amazake. Less pressed versions are also available and either is sometimes mixed up as a breakfast porridge. A lot of extra nutrition has been added during the fermentation process and the residual champagne-tasting sweetness is a treat. Any residual bio-activity is great for digestion.
Farm sake has only been fermented once. Most commercial sakes use a three-step fermentation process that eventually can boost the alcohol content up to %18. Farm sake is milky white, comes with suspended rice goop solids, tastes like champagne, is best when it is lightly carbonated and runs between %3 and %5 alcohol content. Nothing to get hammered on, but a nice cool drink for a hot humid summer evening.
I had a fine $16 bottle of commercial speciality live farm sake/ doburoku on my last trip to Japan. The bottle was reminiscent of an absolut vodka bottle, but the screw cap had a rubber membrane to release excess C02. Sold refrigerated, keep chilled at home.
So you can make this stuff with those Y279 koji bricks they sell at the OK grocery?
I know what I am bringing back home with me.
What follows will seriously shock and annoy sake purists and homebrewing fans. It feels like a sin against the goddess of sake. Fortunately the sakegami are lighthearted, forgiving deities.
I detail my experiences to honor them and their koji and yeast helpers. All praise and thanks to Inari as well, even though I used low, common, outlander rice: the results were pleasant and fun. And nearly foolproof. I am partial to devotional exercises that work and do not screw up if you make a small slip-up.
Koji. Bring some bricks back with you. Ebay, Amazon etc are full of folks selling Y279 koji bricks for $20+ including shipping. Shipping is costly and so is their time. Until demand grows, we are not going to see $5 koji at the local International Market, or Bull-Dog Tonkatsu Sauce either.
Rice. You are supposed to use sweet rice. Or at least glutinous rice or “Jasmine” rice. Hah! What fun is that? Lets use the big honking 10kg bag of cheapo long-grain stuff.
Yeast. Duh, how about Fleischmanns? Ok, ok… I visit the wine making shop and plunk down 99cents for some white wine/ champagne high alcohol tolerant yeast for the second batch.
Bucket. A 5 gallon food grade plastic pail. Scrub it with hot water and dish soap. Rinse well, then rinse once more.
At this point please note that one could be much more strict and careful and anal retentive with disinfecting, selecting rice, yeast, etc, etc. But what would that prove? That sake is hard to make and the process is expensive, time consuming and finicky? What good is that? Jet engine building! Pass.
If this is to be worth the effort, it should be easy and fairly fault-tolerant. Almost idiot- proof. Or at least cooking curse resistant. Did I mention my cooking curse? Dishes that turn to class M life forms and wage war on my innards. Horrendous wastes of time and money, disappointment, hunger, yourself and invited dinner folks doubled over blowing at both ends, fighting for the bathroom. Entire refrigerators that have to be dragged out to the patio and napalmed in order to stop the advance of the carnivorous nightwalking fish chowder that lurked within…
But I digress.
Soak 16 cups of plain long-grain cheap white rice in cold water overnight. Wash (rinse) the rice in cold water. Hot water bad, use cold water. Drain off the milky cold wash water, repeat until water is somewhat clear. Load up she-who-up-with-me-puts‘ rice cooker. Get the measurement thing right this time so it doesnt rice-glop-boil-over and slime the kitchen counter.
Repeat a few times, drop steamed rice into the bucket. Cover.
Give up and boil the rest of the rice. Simmer for 50 minutes. Worry about the scorched mess on the bottom of the big pot later.
Pour it all into the bucket, add tap water to fill to 1″ from the rim. Still it up well. Hope the temperature is somewhere between 110 and 120 degrees fahrenheit. Use the cooking thermometer or your wrist for bathwater temperature.
Toss in 1/2 a brick of crushed dissolved koji and one pack or tablespoon of dissolved yeast.
Cover with saran wrap and secure the plastic wrap covering with big thicky rubber bands.
Store in a cool place. 70-74F is great. Warmer might make for a sour brew. A pinch of epsom salts and a pinch of potassium salt substitute is highly recommended, but I didnt bother.
Total cost of material so far; under $10
Something should start to bubble within 12 hours. The next day, pop open a corner of the wrap, which is nicely inflated by the fermentation and stir with a long, clean wooden spoon. Stir once a day. After 7 or 8 days, the whole thing will have almost stopped fermenting.
Time to bottle it.
Rinse screw-top plastic pop bottles with hot water and get a funnel ready.
You will also need a few wire strainers and large pots that these can rest securely on. To these you will add layers of cheesecloth to strain the brew. A big ladle is a must.
An alternate and in my opinion the ABSOLUTE best way to tackle the gloppy fermentation bucket is with a $4 nylon mesh “paint straining” bag, available at a hardware or paint store. Get the big one for the 5 gallon bucket. Far superior to cheesecloth. Don’t waste your time on cheesecloth. Some bailing wire and a pair of lock-grip (vise grip) pliers and/ or a few adjustable dryer hose clamps strung together to match the circumference of the 5 gallon bucket are also really handy.
A second food-grade 5 gallon bucket will also be needed if you go the paint strainer bag route.
Secure the paint straining bag to the second bucket using baling wire or clamps. You will be pouring 5 lbs of glop into it and it needs to stay in place. Rubber bands and bungee cords won’t be able to hold the weight.
Ladle the brew into the strainer. When you have 2/3rd of it done, you can just pour and scoop the rest of the glop into the strainer bag. Take your time. Let the thin stuff drip through before you overwhelm the bag with thick heavy glop.
Sake glop is a universal high pressure leak sealant. It will clog anything, including cheesecloth and a paint strainer bag. The latter is far stronger than cheesecloth and you can do a lot more wringing out with it than you can with cheesecloth.
Did I mention the superiority of the nylon paint strainer bag?
Go rinse out the first bucket, pour the remnant bits down the toilet and flush twice. Clean out the bucket with hot soapy water, rinse a lot.
Wait a bit.
Lightly stir the mess in the paint strainer bag. Be gentle. Do not rip the bag. Let it strain through on its own. When it is finally down to barely a drip and thicker than oatmeal, carefully remove the clamp/ bailing wire while grabbing the edges to close up the top of the bag. Spin it tighter slowly, slowly squeezing a bit more though the mesh. Dont overdo it and pop the bag!.
Secure the top of the bulgy bag of glop to the rim of bucket #1 with the locking pliers, cover with a clean cloth and leave it to drain further for 24 hours.
Meanwhile, you have bucket #2 full of a few gallons of milky white farm sake. Get out a clean funnel, your bottles and optionally a sugar jar and spoon. You can put 1/4 of a teaspoon of sugar per litre into the funnel of each bottle. Ladle in the sake almost to the top, screw tight the cap, set aside for rinsing.
Bottle it all up. rinse the outside of the bottles, store in a cool place for at least 24-48 hrs.
If you added too much sugar for carbonation (the yeast in the mix is still alive, it is just starving for sugar) you will get wayyyyyyyy too much fizz. When you go to open a bottle, some of the carbonation will latch onto clumps of kasu on the bottom of the bottle and bring them up to the top of the bottle. It looks evil but it is harmless. Chilling the bottle before opening really helps limit this.
Take the last half-filled bottle, shake up the sugar and sediment and leave it alone for 6-8 hours in a warm place, then cool in the fridge. Even “raw” I think you will find the brew sweet, a bit sour and mildly carbonated. After 24hrs in the fridge, the top half the bottle will be clear and settled of sediment.
The sediment is considered “good stuff” too, so I won’t go into settling, racking off, more filtering and strange powders designed to clump it out. It did not give me a case of “revenge“, your mileage may vary but remember; you only need to be “inoculated” once; after that you are immune.
Sakegami is gracious, generous and forgives clumsy worshippers. She will reward devoted followers with much higher alcohol levels, but noobs can be happy with an easy introduction to the ritual.
If the bucket sat around in an 80F kitchen, the brew might be a bit more sour. The sour is lactic acid. it is a natural protective measure by the good yeasties to keep bad stuff at bay. Once back in a cooler place it will go back to making alcohol.
Too sour? Add sugar before bottling or drinking.
Chill before serving.
The next day, you can reap the last quart of almost-clear farm sake from the other pail and scoop the thick kasu from the strainer bag.
Check out online recipes for Chinese rice-wine home brewing for interesting chicken soups one can make with the lees. Or spoon into yog-hurt tubs, refrigerate and eat like porridge for brekkie. Mix with hot water, lemon and honey as a soothing winter cold remedy. You can freeze it if you want to keep some for the ages. Otherwise the stuff should keep for at least 2 weeks in the fridge without turning into weapon- grade vomitoxin.
If you had any Japanese language ability and went to select Japanese web forums, you might find that plenty of folks in Japan are making their own healthful kasu drinks. Homebrew farm sake? No way, we throw that part out – it’s against the law to homebrew sake! And the nosy neighbor in the next apartment might smell it and call the neighborhood patrol officer from the koban over and we’ll get a long boring lecture.
You can also use the lees/kasu to make an authentic Japanese pickling bed, (add salt) if you care to adopt something that requires more attention than a puppy and that will die easier than a distracted kid’s pet goldfish. If however you kneed it every single day and it doesn’t become infested with bad mold, it will turn all manner of chopped crunchy veggies into tasty pickles overnight.
The final take-away on all this? If you plan on visiting Japan and staying for a few weeks, why not get the inevitable tummy fauna adjustment out of the way the first jet-lagged evening you arrive. On the way to wherever you are staying, pick up a bottle of live farm sake (doburoko – not the %14 unfiltered sake which is cheaper), some local pickled vegetables and two small packs of natto. Consume it all, ensure you know where the WC is and then nod off. I assure you that by the next afternoon you will be well-acclimated to the local digestive beasties and ready to sample the regional delicacies without fear, gas or strange noises bubbling away in your guts.
They NEVER mention any of this in Manga.
And now, I will have a chilled refreshing glass of doburoku.
Kampai! and Happy Summer!