Making Moonshine

In making "Mountain Dew" or "White Lightnin'" the first step is to convert the starch of the grain into sugar. (Commercial distillers use malt.) This is done by "sprouting" the corn. Shelled, whole corn is covered with warm water in a container with a hole in the bottom. Place a hot cloth over it. Add warm water from time to time as it drains. Keep in a warm place for about 3 days or until corn has 2 inch sprouts. Dry it and grind it into meal. Make mush (or mash) with boiling water. Add rye mash that has been made the same way, if you have it. Yeast (1/2 pound per 50 gallons of mash) may be added to speed up the fermentation if you have it. Without it, 10 or more days will be required instead of about 4. In either case, it must be kept warm. When the mash gets through "working" or bubbling up and settles down, it is then ready to run. At this stage, the mash has been converted into carbonic acid and alcohol. It is called "wash" or beer and it is sour.. The "cooker" consists of two main parts, mainly the top and the bottom. After the mash is put inside, the top is pasted on with "red dog chop" or some other paste. This is so that if the fire is too hot and pressure builds up, the top will blow off preventing an explosion which might wreck the still. In the top of the cooker a copper pipe, or "arm" projects over to one side and tapers down from a 4 or 5 inch diameter to the same diameter as the "worm" (one or one and a quarter inch). To make the "worm," a 20 foot copper pipe is filled with sand, the ends are stopped up, and it is wrapped around a fence post. The sand prevents "kinking" of the pipe. The spiral or coil, called the worm, is then cleaned and attached firmly to the end of the arm in such a way that it is down inside a barrel. The barrel will be kept full of cold, running water. Of the water runs in the top and out an opening at the bottom, it can circulate better. A fire under the cooker causes the spirit to rise in vapor along with the steam. it goes into the arm and then the worm where the cold water causes condensation. This is collected at the end in a container. The first run off, or "singlings", is weak and impure and must be redistilled to rid it of water and rank oils. for the second run off, or the "doublings," the cooker is cleaned out and the singlings, along with some water, is heated and run through again. The first quart will be far too strong (about 200 proof) and toward the last it will be weak (about 10 proof). The skill is in the mixing to make it 100 proof. If a tablespoon of the liquid does not"flash" or burn when thrown on the fire, there is not enough alcohol left to bother running any more. To test for the right proof, a small glass vial is used. When the small bubbles rise properly after the vial is tilted and when they set half above and half below the top of the liquid, then it is the right proof. The liquor is then filtered through charcoal and is ready for consumption. There are many ways of making moonshine. This is just one way. For other ways, check with your nearest revenuer.

Many thanks to Diana Rattray of Southern Foods for the use of this recipe.