The uniqueness of sugarcane is that it is widely available in India and so easy to get fresh juice. However the biggest problem is that it is almost ever-ready for fermentation. Within fifteen minutes of crushing sugarcane, you will see the color and flavor of the juice to change visibly.
Traditionally fresh sugarcane juice is stored in earthen pots for 24 hours and drunk fresh as a mildly intoxicating fizzy drink. It has 6-8% alcohol and a refreshing sweet sour taste. The earthen vessel serves three purposes.
Firstly its porous surface is home to the yeast needed to bring out the unique taste. Hence an old vessel will make better toddy than a fresh one.
Secondly it allows evaporation and natural cooling of the juice under fermentation. This temperature regulator helps reduce fusel alcohol production especially during Indian summers.
Thirdly the evaporation allows for sugar concentration to build up. this allows to make stronger beverage with higher alcohol content.
However this wild fermentation has its downside. Firstly, it is nearly impossible to store or age toddy. It will soon become sour and vinegary. Secondly since it is supposed to be drunk semi-fermented, bottling it leads to complete fermentation and explosive build up of gasses.
If you still want to recreate this magical traditional beverage for your next ethnic party. This is what you need to do.
Preparation time: 20 minutes (excluding time taken to make a trip to the sugarcane crushing corner store)
Brewing time 24-36 hours
1. Sugarcane juice 5 liter (freshly crushed)
2. Turbo yeast 5gm (you can do wild fermentation as well in earthen pots but turbo yeast will produce less sour more alcoholic drink)
3. wine stabilizer (potassium sorbate) 4gm
4. Earthen pot (Not needed but good as a serving vessel)
5. Fresh ginger, roasted cumin, and other spices as per taste.
1. take freshly crushed sugarcane juice
2. Add yeast to it and cover it. (if you have airlock it is good but not necessary)
3. After 24 hours taste it with a straw (don't stir. Let the natural c02 blanket prevent your juice from turning into vinegar)
4. If the taste is right (alcohol, tartness and sweetness) then add some wine stabilizer, and put it in the refrigerator.
5. serve chilled, garnish the glass with some mint, lime or fruit slice. Terracotta pots and glasses pairs very well with this drink.