Roughly weekly to roughly biweekly
I have been posting regularly (roughly weekly) for well over a year now. Part of my goal for this last year has been to put together the material needed for a amateurs to start brewing sake on their own. Much of this has now been pulled together and is available in the articles I have posted here. At this stage I am finding that I need more time to devote to pulling it all together into book form. This is time that I do not have. Given this I have decided to move to a slower posting pace; more like biweekly.
I hope you will continue to find these articles interesting and useful.
Digging into US rice – where did it come from?
Discussions with a friend challenged my understanding of some aspects of US rice production. I had focused on California rice for most of my earlier research and really, if the truth is to be known, discounted most of the rest of the country. My understandings were not all wrong but some generalizations where flat out incorrect and this led to other beliefs being wrong as well.
Most of the rice grown in California is medium grain while most of the rest of the country grows predominantly long grain rice. This fact led to my incorrect conclusion that most of the country grows Indica rice; NOT TRUE. As it turns out very little of the rice grown in the US is actually Indica rice. So, what is all this long grain rice that is being grown? It is tropical Japonica; sometimes known as Javanica. I prefer to use Javanica but this term is becoming less and less common. Anyway, tropical Japonica comes in both long and medium grain forms.
So, while being wrong about most states growing Indica, it is true that there is a distinct difference between the rice grown in most rice producing states and California. Most rice grown in California is Japonica while most rice grown in the other major rice producing states is tropical Japonica; a distinctly different rice. Even the medium grain rice grown in these states tends to be tropical Japonica.
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Rice Malt, Not for Sake but still interesting
While researching rice and enzymes I came across an article on how steep time and temperature influence rice malt enzyme production. Malting is a major part of most beer brewing but while sake is, by some definitions, a beer, it does not use malt; not rice malt, not any kind of malt. Instead the rice used for sake is milled to remove the outer layers of the grain, which destroys all possibility of malting.
Malting is the process of transforming a grain from a seed to a malt that contains not only the starches and proteins that where present in the seed but also enzymes that can be used to convert the starches and proteins in the malt to sugars and amino acids.
To malt seed, the seed is steeped in water and allowed to dry a little in order to awaken the seed to begin to grow. The steeping and drying may be carried out several times to fully engage the embryo’s growth but ensure the seed does not drown. Once the embryo has begun to sprout roots and a shoot, a maltster will halt the embryo’s transformation by heating or kilning the grain. This prevents the enzymes from fully distributing throughout the endosperm and converting it before it is ready to be used.
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Honjozo – multiple beginnings
While most of us who have paid attention to honjozo have heard about how the rice shortage around World War II sparked the need to stretch rice farther. For sake, this need was addressed with the addition of alcohol to produce more sake for the given amount of rice used. The most common sake in Japan, Sanzoshu (三増酒) and to a lesser extent Futsushu (普通酒), retain their use of high addition levels of alcohol. San (三) means three so Sanzoshu is triple sake. It has this name because enough alcohol is added when making Sanzoshu to triple the resultant quantity of sake. When tripling the output in this way other factors are thrown out of balance. To correct this, acids (酸類) and sweeteners (糖類) are added to sanzoshu to make it taste more like sake that has not been diluted so much.
Futsu (普通), means ordinary or standard. Despite this name, futsushu actually has a lower yearly production level than sanzoshu. And, while futsushu is not allowed to add sweeteners nor as much alcohol as is allowed for sanzoshu it is not as restrictive as special designation sakes like honjozo (本醸造). In addition to higher levels of alcohol, futsushu, as with sanzoshu, is allowed to add acids to the sake that are not allowed in the special designated class.
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