Sunday, February 18, 2018

Rice Wine for "Out There" Cruisers

This is for our friends cruising in the Bahamas, central South Pacific, Indonesia, and any other cruising grounds in remote places without reasonably priced stocks of wine.

Another cruising boat we met last year, Gaia, from Holland, gave us this recipe, which they passed on from another cruising boat. I include below the original recipe, and then what we did that worked for us.

I had previously looked into "making wine" a bunch of times over the past 10 years of cruising. But the instructions always seemed so complicated. For example...there was a huge debate on the forums about which esoteric wine yeast to use. It always put me off. And who had wine yeast aboard when you got desperate for some wine? And, didn't it take 2-3 years before the wine was drinkable?

This recipe is diffent--so simple--and 2-3 weeks to yield drinkable wine. For a bottom-shelf wine drinker, with no other recourse to wine, it's a pretty good solution--extremely affordable, and the ingredients are probably already on your boat.

Why would we make our own wine? When we were in Tonga, a TERRIBLE bottle of white wine was $25 USD! (if you could find one). In Indonesia, at least in the outer islands, you can't find wine, at all. In the Bahamas, liquor is not bad, price wise, but beer and wine is outrageously priced. So here goes.. original "sailor's wine" recipe, and exactly how we brewed on Soggy Paws last year in Indonesia.

Sailors rice wine recipe (original recipe)


Rice wine recipe makes 10 litres
1 kg white rice, washed and skim off the bugs
2.6 kg sugar
12 litres water
2 teaspoons yeast

Add options:
2 handfuls of raisins
2 lemons thinly sliced

Other add options:
Cranberries instead of raisins
Cherries instead of raisins
Oranges instead of lemons
Pomelo (sweet grapefruit)

You have to find out the quantities and flavours you like best.

Stir daily.
Cover with cloth or wrapping plastic with an elastic. So air can go out if necessary, but not in. Fermentation takes +/- 2 weeks.
Siphon into sterilized bottles. Let sediment settle for several days till the liquid is clear. Siphon into serving bottles.

To sterilize the bottles:
Just 1 or 2 drops of Betadine(Iodine)in a cup of water. Just let it in the bottles and container till you start using them. Use more water and Betadine for your container.
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Here is what we did on Soggy Paws last year in Indonesia.

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For a gallon jug (US Measures)
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1.5 cup rice
4 1/3 cup sugar
water to fill gallon jug
2 tsp plain old bread yeast
1 slice lemon or lime (or ~ tsp or 2 of some bottled lime or lemon juice)
7 cranberries or raisins mixed

Don't cook the rice, just rinse it enough to get the bugs out (if necessary), and throw all the ingredients together in your brewing container.

I brew in a 1 gallon apple juice container, with the cap on very loose, and sitting in the sink in the head. WARNING: Big problems if you tighten the cap too much--it definitely needs to be able to off-gas! I did have a one gallon jug that we tightened up the cap, and it got a little too excited and sort of exploded and made a mess in the head. The jug and fermentation is much more volatile early on, and then tapers off. So if you are sitting for a week, good time to start a new jug.

I brewed in my jug for 2 weeks exactly (I tape a piece of blue tape with the due date). I tighten the cap, shake the jug well, and then loosend the cap again, at least once or twice a day.

My Rice Wine Brewing Kit


When it came to "siphoning off" to bottles, I did that one time with a proper siphon hose and decided that was too much trouble. I ended up just pouring my 2-week-old fermented rice wine from the gallon jug into the "clarifying" bottles, gently, using a funnel, and leaving the sludge in the bottom of the jug. I did filter what I poured off through a fine-mesh plastic filter (a plastic filter, a little cotton cloth, or a paper coffee filter might work also). What I used is the red "filter" in the foreground in the picture. I labeled my clarifying bottles 1, 2, 3 because the first one was easier to keep the sludge out than the last one. The #1 clarifying bottle generally had a little less "sediment" in it, and took less time to clear up. (In the end, for a thirsty person, it didn't matter).

Once the very fine sediment falls to the bottom of the clarifying bottle, the wine looks clear, and looks very much like white wine. Then siphon or pour gently off to your serving bottles. It takes at least 3-4 days for the stuff to settle to the bottom of the clarifying bottles, and the milky wine to turn clear. But if desperate, you don't have to wait that long! Chill well, and it's a decent substitute for that evening glass of white wine.

I have found that I have quite a bit of left over rice in the gallon jug, which I rinse and re-used for the next batch, adding a bit more rice to make up the difference. I keep meaning to email Gaia to see if they do too, and whether that means I didn't do the ratios right, wrong rice, or whatever (but what I did worked, so...).

Also, my wine ended up a little sweet, almost like a dessert wine. But it is OK if you don't have anything else!! But while I had any other wine left, I mixed the rice wine with my remaining wine. Sometimes a brew was sweet enough that I added a little water. It always helps to chill it really well. But in my opinion, it was totally drinkable, and certainly better than paying $25/bottle for terrible wine.

My wine would probably be less sweet if I let it age a little, but it never made it that long...

Once I ran out of the wine I brought with me, I started making a 1 gallon jug every week or two. By the time I decanted it the gallon jug into "clarifying bottles", this turned into three 1 liter Paul Masson clarifying bottles. Once decanted to 750 ml "serving bottles" (leaving sludge in the bottom), it would make about 4 standard 750 ml wine bottles. With 2 1-gallon Jugs, and 3-4 Paul Masson bottles, I always had enough to share with my (also desperate) friends.

I never bothered testing the alcohol level--it was a good enough facsimile to wine that I wasn't worried about perfection.

I did use the Betadine method to sterilize the jugs and bottles.

Try it, and see how it works for you!

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