[An updated recipe is located here – it is much simpler!]
I’ve been playing with my rice beer* recipe & think I’ve gotten it to down to the basics. I started with this recipe, and it was great except that it was a lot of work, a lot of hours & took a long time to ferment. There isn’t enough time from when I get home from work until I go to bed to work the recipe. If you use glutinous (sweet) rice & steam it for a couple of hours, it is so incredibly sticky that it’s hard to separate & mix with the yeast ball. It takes 14 days to ferment, and a double batch only makes about 4 pints, so even if you stagger 2 double batches, say 1 each week, you still only have 4 pints a week for a ton of work. Not acceptable!
So, I went back & searched other recipes. Most of them said to cook the rice normally (on the stove or in a rice cooker), but I didn’t really see glutinous rice cooking “normally” because it kind of instantly explodes into this large sticky ball of rice in the pan instead of nice plump separate grains of rice like you would see with Walmart rice. Plus, Ben’s recipe says the rice needs to be a little bit underdone with a nutty center.
I mixed 6 cups of glutinous rice with 4 cups of jasmine rice (the glutinous rice made a too-sweet end-product), rinsed until clear, & soaked for an hour in spring water. After draining, I took what most of the recipes said & cooked 1 part rice in 1.5 parts spring water until it turns into a huge, thick, sticky ball of the driest rice you can get (still not dry though) before the whole mess burns. It takes about 3.5 seconds after dumping the rice into the boiling water (okay, maybe a couple of minutes). This takes a large stock pot.
While you let the half-cooked rice cool, take your fermenting container (I use this one), fill it with water & add a cap or two of bleach. You should be able to just barely smell the bleach. Toss a tea towel & a spatula of some sort in the jar, invert the lid of the jar & fill that with bleach water too. Let those soak for 30 minutes or so to sterilize. Dump the water, wring out the tea towel & dry the jar.
Take 2 cookie sheets & put them on a large clean surface that moist heat won’t hurt (not grandmother’s heirloom dining table). Cover both cookie sheets with one new, clean trash bag. When the rice is cool enough to handle, spread the rice in the farthest cookie sheet to let it cool further. After a couple of minutes, grab the trash bag & flip the rice into the near cookie sheet & fill the farthest one again with hotter rice to cool.
Crush two yeast balls in a mortar & pestle. Take small bits of the nearest, coolest rice & when it feels warm but not hot to your (clean!) fingers & drop it into the sterilized jar bit by bit. It should be about 110F to not kill the yeast. Keep one hand clean & let the other one get covered with rice.
Sprinkle a spoonful of yeast on the first layer of rice & then repeat until all rice & yeast is layered in the jar. Cover with the damp, sterilized tea towel & place lid on top. Put in a large soft-sided cooler (or wrap in towels, etc) & let sit overnight. In the morning it should be pretty juicy. Stir with clean spatula. Each morning & evening give it a good stir; it should be bubbling merrily.
The yeast balls contain a medicinal mold, Aspergillus Oryza, that breaks the starch down to sugar & then the yeast ferments the resulting sugar. There is a third process that the rice mixture goes through to make the whole mess sweet, but that process escapes me at the moment. I found it somewhere in my research, but don’t have time to look for it – I’ll try to add it back in later if I stumble across it.
I keep the fermenting rice in my kitchen, which stays about 80F – the fermenting rice is exothermic, so I keep it insulated to speed up the process. After about 4 or 5 days the rice should be pretty liquid & it should smell sweet like really ripe alcoholic fruit. In bleach water, sterilize some cheesecloth or a floursack cloth, some bottles in which to bottle your beer (I use Grolsch bottles) a 1 cup measuring scoop & a large funnel.
Put the funnel in your first bottle, drape the cloth over it & scoop a cup or so of the rice mixture in the cloth. Squeeze the heck out of the rice until you get all the liquid out. You can use the rice in recipes, but I just squeeze it until it forms a hard rice turd & I throw it away. Sorry, waste-not-want-not people! Fill your bottles (it usually fills 7 bottles), put in a teaspoon of sugar, cap the bottles & put in a warm dark place to ferment for a couple of days.
Chill the bottles in your fridge. Watch out because they might be pretty explosive when you open them. The resulting rice beer is very fizzy, pretty yummy & chock full of not only beneficial bacteria, but also a medicinal mold. Mmmmm, bacteria & mold – just what the doctor ordered, lol.
*Also called rice wine, makgeolli, etc.
[Update: This stuff is kind of dangerously strong – as much as 22% alcohol (more when you bottle it with a half teaspoon sugar?), which is 44 proof, so if you drink a pint of it, it could be the equivalent of drinking almost 8 shots of 90 proof alcohol – So BE CAREFUL, lol!]
[Note: I have found small spots of mold when I’ve not stirred for a couple of days, but I just scrape those off & ignore. I figure that mold is a part of the process, so it might be the yeast ball mold. Heck, I don’t know! It hasn’t killed me yet!]