Food Preparation: How To Make Moonshine

Moonshine is highly alcoholic beverage that has a long and troubled history in the US. Making shine requires an incredible amount of patience and time.

The production of moonshine has been a part of American culture since the 19th century, and it continues to intrigue us to this day. Making moonshine is not easy - it requires time and patience. Historically, it also required a secluded stream where bootleggers could secretly produce mass quantities of the potent and illicit alcoholic beverage. The reason for the secretive production was to evade the high taxes on whiskey. Moonshine was bootlegged, and with such high taxes to pay for "legal" liquor, the demand for moonshine was very high. Making and selling bootlegged moonshine was quite profitable, especially during the prohibition movement. On the flip side, though, the penalties were stiff, and law enforcers were eager to shut these operations down. The abundance of moonshine production in the 19th and 20th century has taken place in the South, especially Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Moonshine is still popular to this day, although it is illegal because it is not taxed and its production is thought to be somewhat unsanitary in most instances.

There have certainly been reports of health risks associated with drinking Moonshine. Some of the most serious reactions include blindness, ulcers, nerve damage, and paralysis. However, that could be due to the fact that some moonshine makers add dangerous ingredients to their brew, such as paint thinner, bleach, and embalming fluid. Also, since so many moonshine stills are outdoors, insects and even rodents could get into the mixture, causing contamination. If you want to try this Southern spirit for yourself, please be very careful and cautious. Even at its "best," moonshine is incredibly strong and has a very high concentration of alcohol. With that in mind, here's how you make moonshine (keep in mind that you will wind up with about 18 gallons of the stuff if you follow this exact recipe"¦ adjust your measurements accordingly):

Before you start, you have to learn the moonshine lingo. A "still" is a metal container used for fermenting and heating the "mash." The "mash" is the mashed cornmeal that is used to make the moonshine. The "thump" is a water-filled barrel that captures the steam from the mash. The "worm" is a long copper coil that the steam from the thump can run through to cool down and condense. The worm is submerged in the "flakestand," which is another barrel that is constantly cooled with water. Condensed mixture drips from the flakestand into the "catch," which could just be a can or jar used to collect the liquor.

Ingredients: 25 lbs. corn meal, 100 lbs. sugar, 100 gallons water, 6 oz. yeast

Directions: Boil the water. Add cornmeal, and return to a boil. Add yeast and sugar to boiling cornmeal in order to ferment the mash. When the mash stops bubbling, cook it in the still, and capture the steam in the thump. (This is a lot trickier than lemonade, huh?) Let the steam cool and condense through the worm and flakestand. The cooled liquor will drip from the bottom of the flakestand, so make sure you have your catch ready.

As you can see, moonshine is not something you will be able to whip up on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It is a painstaking process that should probably be left to the enthusiasts. Plus, with a proof somewhere between 100 and 200, you wouldn't remember how to make it a second time anyway.

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