Thoughts.com - Melody's blog
My good friend Nonnie called me the other day to ask me what is wrong with her sweet rice wine fermentation process which unfortunately gone moldy. It all brought back with my childhood memory, in cold windy days, my mom always prepared hot rice wine with scramble egg for my breakfast. It is so nice to have it at the beginning of the day and it kept me warm for the rest of day.
It is so hard to find Chinese food 20 years ago in Portland Oregon. I came for school but terribly missed home and my mom’s meals especially during those long cold raining days. I called my Aunt who lived at Los Angeles at that time and asked her how to make a perfect batch of sweet rice wine. She laughed and told me to go to an Asian market to buy it, and forgot about making it myself. I truly wish I could buy it but Portland is not Los Angeles. Asian market carried the wine yeast but not the ready made wine. She gave in, and taught me the very traditional way where generations of Chang’s family women done with all the nooks and crannies along with why it may fail. Sweet rice wine can go rancid, moldy, or not enough wine in the fermentation process.
I never try to drift away from this simple traditional recipe and rewarded with guarantee success! There are lots of recipes in the Internet now a day but not much information to prevent it fail. I will share with this age old recipe with all the “attention to maker,” However if any of you are in adventurous mode, feel free to experiment!
What you need for making the wine:
(1) 3 cups short grain sweet rice. (long grain sweet rice will yield less sweet wine)
(2) 1 Package of wine yeast which contain 2 balls of yeast.
(3) 1 Tbsp flour (optional, if you add it will yield sweeter wine)
(4) 1 cup of water
(5) 1 big mixing bowl, 1 big plastic colander, 1 flour cloth, a steamer, a container about 3 quart with loosely covered lid.
(6) Wax paper, rolling pin
* Any equipment we are going to use from above wash them again and again including our hands has to be very clean and without any oil residue or wine can go rancid or moldy. *
Steps of making successful sweet rice wine:
(1) Wash rice in a very clean colander and put it in a clean mixing bowl. Add water and let it sit over night until the grain is swollen and brittle when you press it.
(2) Line a flour cloth over the tray of a steamer whichever you can use a bamboo or stainless steel steamer as long as it is very clean. Boil water.
(3) When the steamer is ready, carefully transfer the rice on the steamer tray, and steam for 20 to 30 minutes on high depends on how big is the steamer. You will know the rice is done when the rice turn translucent throughout not opaque anymore. If you taste the rice, it cooked through but still remain hard and chewy.
* Don’t fluff the rice or it may break! Also we don’t want soft or mushy rice! Mushy rice does not absorb water well. It is one of the reason I don’t use a rice cooker to cook sweet rice because if not control well, rice turn too soft or mushy*
(4) Take the steamer tray off the steamer and let it cool. I let it cool about 2 hours.
(5) After the rice is cool, carefully transfer it to a big colander. Put it under a faucet and let the cold water gently running and continually rinse the rice and carefully use both hands to toss the rice until all the grains is separate and cold completely.
* Make sure the rice is intact. Don’t break the rice or it can go moldy easier. Make sure to rinse rice until it totally cold or wine can go rancid. Sometime we use our hands to feel the rice is cold but in the center of the rice can still be warm. *
(6) While rice is draining, put those two wine yeast balls in between wax paper, and use a rolling pin gently break down the balls and roll it into fine powder. At this time, add 1tablespoon flour into the yeast and mix them will.
(7) Transfer drained rice in a clean mixing ball, and then add yeast mixture. Use your very clean hands to gently toss and mix yeast and rice well. At this time, you will have very sticky rice and hands.
* You don’t have to drain the rice very dry. It is fine to have some what wet rice, which can yield more wine. While you mixing the yeast and rice try to keep the rice intact! *
(8) Transfer the well-mixed rice from the mixing ball to the container you will use for fermentation. Your hands will still be sticky. Put the prepared 1 cup water into now the empty mixing bowl, and gently rinse the bowl and your hands. Keep the water.
* The ixing bowl will still contain residue yeast. By rinsing the bowl with water and hands we save some yeast to use for later. It may sounds strange, but I was taught by my aunt this way so I still keep doing the same*
(9) Use your clean hands to even the rice and press the rice down firmly. After the rice is totally pressed down tightly, dig a hole (Chinese called it a well) about 2.5” to 3” diameter right in the middle. Rinse your sticky hands in the water, and pat the rice down again, and also reinforce the wall of the well by pat rice down too. Rinse your hands and repeat until you have very tight rice and a strong well.
(10) Carefully pouring the yeast water from mixing ball on to the rice and try not to disturb the well. Loosely cover the container
* Rice will absorb all the water within hours. I use a corning ware with a glass lid. *
(11) Transfer the containers to a warm spot and wrap it with a blanket. I keep it about one foot away from a heat source such as a heat register or a space heater. Now it is the fermentation time!
What to expect and to do during the fermentation process:
(1) After the end of the first 24 hours, you can open the blanket and see water start to accumulate in the bottom of the well. If there is any water present in the well, use a very clean teaspoon to spoon the water and spread it onto the surface of the rice. From the 24 to 48 hours keep repeat it for 3 to 4 times to keep the surface of the rice wet enough.
* It is very important in the first 48 hours to keep container warm to initiate the fermentation process, and also keep the surface of the rice wet enough to prevent it getting moldy. *
(2) At the end of the second day, the well should be pretty full and the surface of the rice is wet too. It starts to be fragrant. At the end of the second day, you can unwrap the container now. I transfer the container from the heat source to microwave. From now on I just keep it there only to remove it when I need to use the microwave. From 48 to 72 hours, keep repeat the first step 3 times a day.
* At this time if you still keep the container too warm, rice wine will start getting moldy or too sour. As soon as it starts fermentation, I move it to microwave. *
(3) At the end of the third day, you don’t have to spoon the wine from the well anymore instead use the spoon to press the rice down to the wine for 3 times a day. At this time it is very fragrant and bubbling too.
(4) At the end of the forth day, there should be lots of wine and bubbling. The rice is pretty shrink down, and it is very fragrant. Repeat third step 2 times a day.
(5) It is done at the end of the fifth day. The bubbling is quiet down. Transfer the sweet rice wine into refrigerator. Cover but not tight because it is still fermenting.
How to enjoy your sweet rice wine:
You can eat it straight, diluted with hot water and add sugar, diluted with water and cook off the alcohol. Use it in cooking. Anyway you like. Normally I don’t even bother to refrigerate because it does not last!