According to a Chinese legend, rice came to China tied to a dog’s tail, rescuing people from a famine that occurred after a severe flood. Rice grains are also rendered sacred in Indian culture. In Mahabharata, Krishna feels satiated by scraping a grain of rice from the cooking pot. This story is to reinforce the significance of each grain and why wasting it is a sin. Our grandmothers used to pour the buttermilk over leftover rice and keep it in an earthen pot. Prior to refrigerators, this was the way to preserve the grains and make curd rice. If allowed to ferment for a couple of days, this is called Torani or Pakhala and is served to Lord Jagannadha in Puri even today.
Simple Home made Sake
- fermentering tub
- 1.7 kg Polished rice
- 1 packet Koji 20gm of inoculated rice or 5gm of spores
- 3-4 liters Water soft water
- Step 1: Inoculate about ¼th of rice with koji. This helps to create enough enzymes and strong starter culture to breakdown the starch. Some stores also keep Sake rice and rice balls, which are pre-inoculated. If you cannot find them, then one has to create a bed of steamed rice, sprinkle the koji culture on it and keep it in a warm moist room for 24-40 hours.
- Step 2: Use steamed rice (not boiled rice). The goal is to gelatinize the rice but keep it firm enough for the enzymes to act on it. Boiling will make the rice too soft and the starch conversion will not be efficient.
- Step 3: Cool the remaining steamed rice to 25oC before mixing with koji rice. Often the core of the rice is hotter, hence a bit of patience is recommended. Add some RO water to submerge the grains. Chlorinated and hard waters should be avoided.
- Step 4: Stir the mash every 12 hours with a sanitized steel spoon. Also, check the temperature and do not allow it to shoot above 20oC.
- Step 5: After about a couple of days, we can drain off the broth, filter and drink it. Adding more steamed rice will allow us to propagate the culture further.
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Making sake could be as simple as that. The microbe culture is derived from the old terracotta pot and the substrate is the steamed rice, which are kept submerged in water/ buttermilk. After a few days, we end up with a nutritious gruel of fermented rice water, which is mildly intoxicating. In some cultures it is served like a porridge (grains and milky water), in some just the milky water and in others it is filtered (pale, clear, slightly tart beverage).
European beer making, involves a cumbersome malting and mashing of grains to produce sugars. In sake, a parallel fermentation takes place. Mold grows over rice and produces enzymes to break starch into sugars. These sugars are converted to ethanol to get the traditional flavors.