Saturday, May 21, 2011

Homemade fermented rice

The first time that I heard about Chinese fermented rice, it was from a fellow American student in Taipei. She told me with singular excitement that she had just seen people there eating rice wine soup for breakfast. And that she had tried a bowl. And that it was really, really good.

Intrigued at the thought of enjoying a hot toddy some time between getting up and yet another day of slogging through my impenetrable Chinese textbooks, I sped down to the alley she had described and ordered a big bowl of jiuniang dan, or fermented rice with a a poached egg. Sweet, perfumed, and definitely alcoholic, this was sheer heaven. I broke out in a big sweat and turned up for class with a shiny red face, happier than usual to be where I was, and very sure of where I was going to dine the next morning.

Then I discovered that this could be served with little rice balls - sort of like bits of mochi - at the Beijing-style shop, or with sliced rice cakes (niangao) at the stand run by a guy from Ningbo, or with larger rice balls stuffed with ground black sesame at the Shanghainese place, or in a bunch of other ways. Once I had gotten over the sheer novelty of this spectacular winter breakfast, I looked up and noticed that the locals usually clutched something crunchy in their one hand while spooning up the sweet soup with the other. Yet another instance of enlightenment descended upon me. Yes, of course, I thought... hard with soft, crunchy with chewy, plain with sweet, cool with hot -- all the Chinese principles of yin and yang right there before 8 a.m.
Rice wine yeast ball softening up

When we returned to the States, one of my first orders of business was to make big crocks of homemade fermented rice throughout the cold months. Toe warming and chock-full of what must be nothing short of massive amounts of alcohol-induced endorphins, we not only had bowls of this hot sweet soup for breakfast and as late night snacks, but also started to use it in such marvels as the Sichuan-style fish with spicy bean paste (la douban yu) that became nothing short of heavenly when fermented rice was used instead of rice wine.

And what is particularly endearing about homemade fermented rice is that it is incredibly easy and cheap. The only unusual ingredient is the yeast, which you can get from almost any Chinese grocery store, and which keeps practically forever as long as you close it up in a Ziploc bag and freeze it. (Do note that if it's kept outside, such as in a pantry or cupboard, it will often turn buggy; check the yeast carefully before you buy it, and only take it home if the yeast is a pure white with no suspicious dust clinging to the bottom of the bag.)

You can of course probably buy jiuniang already made in the refrigerated section of your favorite Chinese grocery store. But it's expensive that way and of course never as good as homemade. Besides, if you have a big batch of it sitting in your fridge, you will have many more opportunities to enjoy it.

I have made this for years and have finally perfected the technique. When I started out, every Chinese recipe I read informed me in no uncertain terms that the rice should be fermented v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y. So, I did what they said and watched as batch after batch lost out in the race between yeast and mold. My secret that I am about to share with you is this: get the yeast off to a roaring start, and there will be no contest at all. Once the yeast has taken over the jar -- preferably in less than 24 hours -- the rest of the fermentation process is pretty much clear sailing.

Fermented rice yeast
The other caveat that I can't stress enough is that everything that touches the fermented rice at every stage must be absolutely clean. If there is even a whisper of oil or contamination anywhere along the way, the whole batch could go south in an instant. So, wash every utensil and rinse them clean, including bamboo steamers, cheesecloth, and of course your hands. If some steamed rice hits the counter instead of the jar, just eat the wayward grains rather than risk throwing away the rest of the rice.

After the rice has started to exude liquid, it will smell faintly yeasty and fruity, but not yet alcoholic; that will take a couple more days of fermentation. 

As the yeast grows, it will release lots of carbon dioxide, which will create bubbles in the rice and cause the mass of steamed rice to eventually float, and the jar will need to have a safety valve to keep it from exploding. For this reason I put a couple layers of cheesecloth and a sheet of plastic wrap between the jar and the lid, and this also keeps any curious fruit flies from invading my precious horde.

The way I get the yeast to take off so quickly and subdue any errant mold spores that might try to make headway is threefold:

- First, I use a bit of cornstarch and sugar so that the yeast can have something to immediately feed on without waiting for the rice to break down into manageable bites. 

- Second, I use boiled, filtered water so that the rice mixture stays clean clean clean. 

- And finally, I put the inoculated rice into a very warm place for the first 24 hours, by which time fermentation will have begun. I've been refining this recipe for fermented rice for over three decades now, and it's the best you'll find anywhere.

And, as I discuss in a later column, Fermented Rice Deja Vu, I've hit upon an easier way to steam the rice. Rather than use the bamboo steam baskets outlined below, this rice can be done in a rice cooker! This saves lots of trouble and time, and it works like a dream; see the Modern Method below for more about this.

Both Shanghai and Beijing lay claim to fermented rice, and it's used throughout most of China, so it is one of those things that are almost universally Chinese and seems to have worked its way into the good graces of just about every cuisine that allows alcohol. 

It can be enjoyed as a simple hot soup with nothing more than a quick boil with some water and sugar -- and this is also terrific chilled as a Chinese summer aperitif -- or with an egg cooked in it, or with those rice cakes or rice balls I mentioned above, but try it too in savory dishes, in almost any place that calls for rice wine, for the grains can be strained out if needed. You can also turn this into any number of magical dishes, from fish to pickled cucumbers.

Feel free to double or triple this recipe once you get the hang of it. The directions are very detailed, but you will find that it is not at all hard after the first time around. Versatile, cheap, easy... this is a great recipe to master, and you also get to look incredibly competent cooking away with your own homemade hooch.


Homemade fermented rice 
Zizhi jiuniang   自制酒釀    
All over China
Makes a large jarful

3 pounds round, polished, glutinous (or sweet) rice; don't use long grain, brown, or other rices 
2 cups cooled filtered, boiled water, divided (for fermenting)
1 Chinese wine yeast ball (jiuqu)
Lots of cooled filtered, boiled water (for rinsing and for cooking when using the modern method)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Traditional method:

1. You will need a very clean 2-quart glass jar with a lid, very clean cheesecloth, and very clean steamer baskets. Start by scrubbing the jar and baskets with soap and water, pouring boiling water over them, and allowing them to air dry. Launder the cheesecloth if it isn't brand new, rinse it out well, place it in a clean colander, and pour boiling water over it before letting it air dry, too.
Layer the rice on cheesecloth
2. Rinse the rice three times in running water, and then cover it with cool water by at least 2 inches; allow the rice to soak for 8 hours or overnight. If you are not going to steam it right away, place the soaked rice in a clean container and refrigerate.

3. The next step is the steaming. Prepare a pot or an old wok for under your baskets and fill them partway with water; have a pot of boiling filtered water ready, as well as a very clean slotted spoon. 

4. You will need four steamer baskets, or you can use only two baskets and steam the rice in two batches. Do not try to steam the rice in only two baskets all at once because the rice layers will be too thick, the rice will cook unevenly, and it will take forever. (I know this from personal experience since I'm always looking for shortcuts...) Line the baskets with at least two layers of the clean cheesecloth so that there is enough to go up the sides of the baskets all around and even drape over the edges; this will keep all of the rice in the baskets and not dribbling out of the sides. Drain the rice, if you haven't done so already.

Pour boiling water on rice
5. Use the slotted spoon to layer about a quarter of the rice into a basket, spreading out the rice so that it is an even layer of about half an inch thick. Fold the cheesecloth over the top of the rice and repeat with the rest of the rice if you have four steamer baskets, or half if you have only two. Cover the baskets with their lid and steam the rice for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and reverse the position of the baskets so that the top basket is on the bottom, and so forth. Pour a pot of boiling water over the top layer of rice; this will filter down through the rest of the rice and help the rice plump up, as well as fill up the bottom of your steamer. Cover and steam the rice for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked but not soggy. Remove the baskets from the pot and let them cool off for about 10 minutes.

6. Put the yeast ball in a small, clean bowl and pour in ¼ cup of the cooled, filtered boiled water for fermenting, and allow the yeast to soften while you rinse the cooked rice. Place a very clean sieve with medium holes in the sink. Dump one basket of cooked rice into the sieve and peel off the cheesecloth; if it sticks to the rice, run some water over the cloth and it will come free. Rinse the rice under cool tap water to break up any clumps; shake off the water and pour some cooled boiled, filtered water over the rice. Drain the rice again and put it into the clean jar. Repeat this step with the rest of the rice until all of it has been rinsed.

Write date on jar
7. When all of the rice has been rinsed and placed in the jar, sprinkle the sugar and cornstarch on top. Mash the softened yeast ball with a clean spoon and add it to the jar; use the rest of the cooled, filtered boiled water (1¾ cups) to rinse out the bowl and into the rice so that you get every last bit of the yeast. Wash your hands thoroughly and use one hand to gently toss the rice with these ingredients. Pat the rice into a smooth-ish layer, and then form a well in the center of the rice, which gives the wine a place to gather the first day. (See the picture at the top.) 

8. Clean off the top and insides of the jar with a clean paper towel, cover the jar with a piece of clean cheesecloth and plastic wrap, and then put the lid on so that it is loose enough to allow air to escape, but secure enough so that the cheesecloth and plastic wrap will keep any insects out. Use a felt pen to write the date on the jar so that later on you know when you made it.

9. Wrap the jar with a kitchen towel and place it in a very warm place, like a gas oven with only the pilot light on or an electric oven with only the oven light on. Let the jar sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Check it after that time -- there should be liquid in that well you made in the rice, and the top of the rice should not have any mold on it. (If mold forms on the rice, it either was contaminated somewhere along the line or the rice wasn't fermented in a warm enough place. When you have mold on top, it's best to toss everything out and start over, but it's up to you.)

10. Remove the jar from the oven and place in a relatively warm place, like on the kitchen counter, so that you can watch the wine formation take place. After two or three days, the mass of rice will float on top of the wine, and you can start mixing the rice and wine together and further deterring any mold by gently swishing the jar around. It will be ready in around a week, but it only improves as the wine ages. Take whiffs of it now and then -- and even a taste (with a really clean spoon) -- to make certain that the flavor is sweet and alcoholic. At the point where you're pleased with it, you should store the fermented rice in the refrigerator to keep it from fermenting any more and turning sour. It will keep for many months, but I doubt that it will be hanging around that long once you try it.



Modern method:

1.  You will need a very clean 2-quart glass jar with a lid and an electric rice cooker. Start by scrubbing the jar and the insert for the rice cooker with soap and water, pouring boiling water over them, and allowing them to air dry.


2. Rinse the rice three times in running water, drain the rice in a sieve (note that because of the size of most rice cookers, you'll probably have to wash and cook the rice in two batches), and put half of the rice (24 ounces or 3 cups) in your rice cooker. Add 2¼ cups filtered water, cover, and turn on the cooker. When the rice is fully cooked, repeat with the other half of the rice.

Wine & CO2 in the rice
3. Put the yeast ball in a small, clean bowl and pour in ¼ cup of the cooled, filtered boiled water for fermenting, and allow the yeast to soften while you rinse the cooked rice. Place a very clean sieve with medium holes in the sink. Dump one portion of cooked rice into the sieve and rinse the rice under cool tap water to break up any clumps; shake off the water and pour some cooled boiled, filtered water over the rice. Drain the rice again and put it into the clean jar. Repeat this step with the rest of the rice until all of it has been rinsed.

4.  When all of the rice has been rinsed and placed in the jar, sprinkle the sugar and cornstarch on top. Mash the softened yeast ball with a clean spoon and add it to the jar; use the rest of the cooled, filtered boiled water (1¾ cups) to rinse out the bowl and into the rice so that you get every last bit of the yeast. Wash your hands thoroughly and use one hand to gently toss the rice with these ingredients. Pat the rice into a more or less smooth layer, and then form a well in the center of the rice, which gives the wine a place to gather the first day. (See the picture at the top.)

5. Clean off the top and insides of the jar with a clean paper towel, cover the jar with a piece of clean cheesecloth and plastic wrap, and then put the lid on so that it is loose enough to allow air to escape, but secure enough so that the cheesecloth and plastic wrap will keep any insects out. Use a felt pen to write the date on the jar so that later on you know when you made it.

6.  Wrap the jar with a kitchen towel and place it in a very warm place, like a gas oven with only the pilot light on or an electric oven with only the oven light on. Let the jar sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Check it after that time -- there should be liquid in that well you made in the rice, and the top of the rice should not have any mold on it. (If mold forms on the rice, it either was contaminated somewhere along the line or the rice wasn't fermented in a warm enough place. When you have mold on top, it's best to toss everything out and start over, but as always it's up to you.)

7.  Remove the jar from the oven and place in a relatively warm place, like on the kitchen counter, so that you can watch the wine formation take place. After two or three days, the mass of rice will float on top of the wine, and you can start mixing the rice and wine together and further deterring any mold by gently swishing the jar around. It will be ready in around a week, but it only improves as the wine ages. Take whiffs of it now and then - and even a taste (with a really clean spoon) - to make certain that the flavor is sweet and alcoholic. At this point where you are pleased with the flavor, you should store the fermented rice in the refrigerator to keep it from fermenting anymore and turning sour.

41 comments:

  1. I tried to make this myself once and it didn't really work, now I will try again with your recipe! Wine rice with boiled egg for breakfast - that sounds brilliant for cold mornings!

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  2. Thanks! Please let me know how this works out for you; I love feedback!

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  3. It has been 6 days and it is working beautifully, as you said! Now to I break up the cake of rice, or leave it floating on top as it is? *happy*

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  4. Congratulations! You can leave the "raft" as it is (I usually do) and break up the mass whenever you spoon some out.

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  5. Is there a way to get more liquid, Carlolyn? It seems there is a lot of rice, or do we just wolf everything down (at breakfast? ;-)
    Or is there a lot of liquid hiding underneath the "raft"?

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  6. Sorry, just noticed that this hadn't been answered yet. The rice will exude a lot more liquid after a couple of weeks as the yeast eats up the rice. How did your fermented rice turn out? Did you notice more wine appearing as the rice turned into a "raft" and floated on top?

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  7. Thanks so much for the recipe. My batch has been sitting for about 6 days now. But I think the smell is off, although I'm not positive. It has a slightly chemically spell to it... just a hint of acetone-y smell (that's the only way I can describe it). Can you tell me if this means I've done something wrong??? I have a feeling this is not the way it's supposed to turn out!

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  8. Hi Bee. Hard to say what that is (everyone's nose is so different!), but it might just be carbon dioxide exhaled by all of that yeast. If the wine does not smell sour and if it does not have a black fuzz on top, it very well might be fine. The best thing to do at this point is take a small taste with a clean spoon. If it tastes like wine, great. If it tastes bad, toss it out. Let me know what happens and we'll go to the next step. (Hurray for cheap ingredients!)

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  9. Hey Carolyn,
    I left the rice to ferment for about 4 days. I have plenty of wine now, however, there seems to be a white fuzz that grew on the top of my rice. There are a few black pencil dots scattered in the corner. Is this white fuzz a sign of contamination? Thank you.

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    1. Hi Shawn. This probably is not a problem. The first thing you need to do is take a whiff of the jar; if it smells like alcohol, you're in good shape, but if it smells bad, then it's best to toss it. The good news here is that I've been making this stuff forever, and if I ever had a bad batch, I don't remember it!

      What might have happened is that the rice didn't ferment fast enough, as I used to have a similar problem when I let the rice slowly inoculate on the kitchen counter. That gave other yeast and bacteria time to settle in and make themselves at home. What you want is to give the wine yeast a jump start so that it colonizes the rice really, really fast.

      This is what I do whenever the rice has some fuzz or even dark spots on top: if the wine smells good, I swish the jar around so that the wine sloshes on top of the rice. Do this a couple of times to really soak the fuzz, as the alcohol will kill it. Keep an eye on the jar and repeat this as needed, but it most likely will look great in a day or two.

      Let me know if there's any more questions, and good luck with the wine! (BTW, have a terrific Sichuan fish dish -- douban yu -- coming up very soon that has this rice wine and lees in the sauce, just the way that old Sichuanese soldiers used to make it in Taipei...

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    2. That recipe for douban yu is up and running today: http://bit.ly/164Yjnq.

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    3. Thank you so much for the post! I had just made my first batch with a slightly different method my friend told me, and I noticed the layer of white fuzz... I almost throw out the batch - until I stumbled upon this blog! The batch smells wonderful - sweet and alcoholic, so I decided to try swishing the container around to cover the fuzz (I didnt use a jar - will do next time). I am keeping my fingers crossed that this batch comes out ok! Thanks.

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    4. Sounds like it should be perfect. Enjoy, and thanks for the nice words. Manyong!

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  10. Thank you for such a detailed recipe for this dish. I would love to make it. Can you use koji instead of the Chinese yeast ball? Japanese Koji is often used to make sake. I have a lot of koji but I live in small town where I will not be able to find Chinese yeast balls. Or, is there somewhere online to get them. I have to order all Asian foods from online. I am currently making water kefir with the kefir grains and apple juice which also forms some alcohol and is delicious. The amount is low but I definitely notice it.

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    1. From what I understand, Chinese rice wine yeast balls and Japanese koji are basically the same thing: the yeast Aspergillus oryzae grown on powdered glutinous rice. So, I think you can substitute koji safely here for the yeast balls. As to how much, I'm not sure, but over the years I've tried adding more or using less yeast for this recipe, and the results have been pretty much identical, with less yeast of course requiring a bit more time to take over the jar and eat up all the sugars.

      Sorry it took a couple of days to get back to you. Blogger decided to crash, and so you see a new template here as a result.

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  11. I'm excited to try this, but in reading through the modern version of the recipe, I notice you call for 1⅜ cups of water to cook 6⅜ cups of rice... that's far less than the usual amount of water to cook rice, is that a mistake?

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    1. You are right, the proportions would be wrong for cooking rice, but this water is added to the already steamed rice so that the grains can fully ferment and turn into wine. (Again, this is rice cooked in basket steamers, not in an electric rice steamer; for that, see the link for Fermented Rice Deja Vu link up there in the headnotes.) It's just enough to give you a really fragrant brew...

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    2. I'm confused also about step #2 in the modern version. It does seem to direct one to cook about 6.5 cups of rice in 1.5 cups of water. Could you check this step and correct/rephrase it to make clearer the intent?

      Thank you for your time and expertise in sharing this wonderful cuisine.

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    3. I see now what the problem is. Sorry about that. Let me make the rice again and repost...

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    4. The changes have been made above in the text; sorry about that.

      In the Modern Method, it should be 3 cups rice to 2.25 cups water in a rice cooker. Of course, if your rice cooker has measurements on the inset that tell you how much rice to water you should use, feel free to use that instead. (I think I mixed up the little cup that comes with the cooker with my regular measuring cup. Or something. Anyway, now it should work.)

      Thanks again to all who wrote in, and happy new year!

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  12. Hi Carolyn, in what time should the rice start to show some reaction. I use airlocks since I brew several other beverages like wine and beer. I mixed about 6 tablespoons of powdered ragi (indonesian version of the chinese yeast balls) with about 1.5 L of spring water in a food grade bucket, placed 2 kg cooked and cooled surinam rice and mixed in 500 grams of honey i with the rice and water.Next I put the lid on with the airlock.
    After 2 days no noticable reaction in the rice/water mix. I desided to put a 7 gram packet of backers yeast in to get things started, now it seems to have started but I uspect the backers yeast is at work...

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    1. I really don't know since you are using completely different ingredients and equipment, but I must admit that it sounds delicious!

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  13. Hello. I tried making the rice wine with jasmine rice. I left it sit for 3 weeks in a closet. It now has a very very strong alcohol taste to it! Much like Saki. My only problem is I have a slight yeast aftertaste. Do you know why? Thanks.

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    1. There is a bit of a yeasty flavor in the fermented rice, and that is normal. Are you trying to make rice wine rather than fermented rice?

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  14. Your recipe requires a ball of yeast. The yeast ball I bought is about half the size of a golf ball. I think they are very small so I used 2 balls. What happens if I us too much of the yeast? My batch is only about 30 hours old but there is already significant amount of liquid in it and a sweet winy smell is evident. I tasted a teaspoonful and it seems fine to me. Thanks

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    1. Yes, that's the right size for a yeast ball. More yeast will not harm your wine. I don't think it makes much of a difference in the end product, as I've done the same thing and it turned out great.

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  15. I've used a similar recipe when I lived in Lubbock and only once did it turn out well. Every other time the rice wine turned sour almost immediately (before 3 days of fermenting). I believe it has to do with the quality of water used and the temperature of the rice, the water in Lubbock is super calcified which I think causes the yeast to have problems (could be wrong). I will try using just Kome Koji Taylor method now that I live in Houston and see what happens.
    .

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  16. It could also be that the yeast balls weren't proper, there at liter a lot hundreds of ways to make this stuff wrong but I'm still amazed at how little materials ultimately go into making rice wine compared to normal wine.

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  17. Your name is the reason I end up posting this here cause Huang is my family name. Rice wine has always been my favorite dessert since ever (there was no law against kids under certain age drinking alcohol beverage in China, and I doubt there's any now). Here are some tips from my grandma's recipe that differ from yours.

    1. We mainly use long grain Glutinous rice, the outcome will have a much stronger aroma than using round grain Glutinous rice, but not as sweet (sweet enough for me though). Aroma or Sweetness, you decide.

    2. Other than let it sit for about a week, I make em in 48-36 hours, but you have to keep it at 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit at all time. What I do is using a pressure cook, good seal, great volume. For keeping the temperature, I put a rubber hot water bottle on top of the pressure cook, then wrap it all up, change water every 8-12 hours. Or if it's warm enough there you can put it up in the attic. If you keep the temp right, do not ferment it longer than 36 hours otherwise it will turn pink/red and sour!

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  18. Your name is the reason I end up posting this here if u see why. Rice wine has been my all time favorite even though I got drunk off it many times when I was very little (there was no law against kids drinking alcohol beverage in China, and I doubt there's any now).

    Here's some tip from my grandma's recipe that a lil' differ from yours.
    1. We mainly use long-grain Glutinous rice, the outcome would have a much stronger aroma than using round-grain Glutinous rice, but not as sweet though (but definitely sweet enough for me). Aroma vs Sweetness, you decide.

    2. Other than let it sit for about a week, I only let it ferment for about 48- 60 hours, the trick is to keep it at 80'-90' Fahrenheit ALL TIME!! I use a pressure cook to contain it for the fermentation, good seal, great volume. For keeping the temp, I'd put a rubber hot water bottle on top of the pressure cook and wrap it all up with a blanket or quilt, change hot water every 8-12 hours. Or if u have a very warm attic, u can put it up there and don't need no hot water bottle. If u can keep the temp right, then u have to end the fermentation after 60 hours, any longer than that, it would turn pink/reddish and sour

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    1. Sounds intriguing. I'll have to try that... thanks!

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    2. Sorry If I confused you by using the term "Rice wine", because in my hometown dialect (HuBei province), Rice wine equals Fermented rice literally. A mix with a pinch of dried Osmanthus fragrans flower would enhance the aroma & flavor alot, I never found any here in GA though. and I don't know if anybody out there tried this before cause I kind "invented" it-----make popsicle or smoothie with Rice wine/Fermented rice.

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  19. Hi Carolyn,
    Thank you for sharing your recipe with us. I would like to ask if second batch of rice wine can be made using the lees from the previous batch instead of using yeast again.

    regards,
    Bill

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    1. Hi Bill. I have not tried that, but it might work. What I would suggest you do is harvest a "starter" from the rice when it is nice and bubbly, but before the wine is really strong, as that way the yeast will be very active. Let me know if this works!

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    2. Hi Carolyn:
      Thanks for sharing.
      Before I read your post, I have try few times to make rice wine, without much success. I will try your method now.
      Can I ask few questions about the cooked rice.
      1: What is required for cooked rice ? eg soft or hard.
      2: Why do you need to rinse the cooked rice ?.
      3: Should I left some water in the jar after rinse ?
      Thanks

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    3. Hi there.
      1. The rice should not be too soft, but rather just cooked through. That way it will not turn to mush.
      2. Rinsing the cooked rice separates the grains. This encourages them to remain as single grains, rather than turn into a large, fluffy mat of rice.
      3. Sure. That 1¾ cups of water is approximate.

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  20. This was such an intriguing blogpost! I literally looked up "fermented rice" as I have some leftover rice in my fridge from a Chinese restaurant and figured - I bet this is a thing. And it is. How cool - maybe I'll try this sometime.

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  21. Can I substitue Ragi with instant Yeast?

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    1. If by "instant yeast" you mean "bread yeast," then no.

      Only wine yeast will produce wine. For this recipe, use only the things called jiuqu, koji, ragi, etc.--ingredients that are used just for fermenting rice.

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  22. Hi there - Thank you for the recipe. I just want to make sure that i'm using enough yeast - typically the yeast balls I've seen are about an inch in diameter and are more like a biscuit, e.g. flat bottomed, and not a 'ball' shape. Am I using the right stuff? Do I still need only one of these for the three pounds of rice? Thank you.

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    1. Hi Jesse. I am not sure what it is you are using, as the yeast balls I've seen have all been like ping-pong balls. Are you using something from Southeast Asia, like "ragi tapai"? Does it say on the package that it is rice wine yeast, either in Chinese or English?

      If it does, I would guess that it should be the same thing as I'm talking about here. Again, if you want to, you can always double the amount of wine yeast, and nothing bad will happen.

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