Well in North Carolina, way back in the hills
Me and my old pappy had a hand in a still
We brewed white lightnin’ ’til the sun went down
Then he’d fill him a jug and he’d pass it around
Mighty, mighty pleasin, pappy’s corn squeezin’
Whshhhoooh . . . white lightnin’
–from the George Jones song
How to Make Moonshine
Backyard stills. Corn liquor. Bootlegging. Moonshine evokes many different images. Country people used to make shine (some still do) for their own consumption. After all, getting to the liquor store in winter isn’t always easy. During prohibition, moonshine was big business. Bootleggers ran cases of moonshine along dark roads into the city for distribution to backroom bars and speakeasies.
In fact, that’s where moonshine gets its name: doing business by the light of the moon.
In most of the United States, moonshine is still illegal, but most sheriffs turn a blind eye if it’s for personal consumption. (But if you’re selling shine, look out.)
Making moonshine is a delicate, dangerous proposition. If made by a shady distiller who adds extra methanol to make the drink stronger, moonshine can cause blindness.
Moonshine Ingredients & Equipment
Moonshine has only five basic ingredients:
Making moonshine also requires the following equipment:
- A still
- A mash tub
- A condenser
These items can be ordered over the Internet. If you want to use regular hardware store items, you can use a brand new metal garbage can, a pressure cooker and the kitchen sink.
For simplicity’s sake, order a still from the Internet. A good copper still will make for a cleaner, tastier batch of moonshine than a garbage can.
A Recipe for Moonshine
You will need:
- 5lb bag of cornmeal
- 5lb back of white, granulated sugar
- 10 gallons of hot water – at 120 degrees F.
- 1 cake of yeast
- 1 pint of malt extract
- Iodine (for testing)
- Fill a 20 gallon container with 10 gallons of water.
- Heat to 120°F.
- Add the cornmeal slowly to the water, a little at a time.
- Do the same with the sugar.
- Stir well.
- Put the 20 gallon drum over a slow burning fire for about 30 minutes.
- Keep the tempurature of the mash under 145°F or it will scorch.
- When the mash becomes the consistency of runny porridge, remove from heat and place the drum into cool water (a lake or pond is ideal – the kitchen sink will work in a pinch).
- When your mash becomes cool to the touch, do an iodine test. Take half a cup of mash and put a drop of iodine on top of it. If it’s dark purple, there’s still unconverted starch that needs to be turned into sugar. If so, place back over heat for another 30 minutes. If the iodine is very light purple, the starches have been sufficiently converted.
- Add the pint of malt. Crumble the yeast cake, dissolve it in a cup of lukewarm water, and add to the mash. If mash is too thick, add a little warm – not hot – water, a cup at a time.
Your mash is now ready to sit for a few days. The temperature should be about 65°F, and the drum should be uncovered if there’s no fear of vermin. If you are worried, cover with cheesecloth.
The mash will rise and foam. When it stops rising, the mash is ready. Perform a test on litmus paper to determine the acidity of the mash. If the paper turns blue with no more than a slight pinkish hue, it’s good. If the paper turns bright pink, you have vinegar – start over.
Put the sour mash into the pressure cooker and slowly bring it up 173°F.
Use a coiled copper pipe (never plastic), passed through cold water, to trap vaporized alcohol in a separate copper pot. The vapors will cool inside the tubing and become liquid. That liquid is your moonshine.
Use a charcoal filter as the final step. Pass the moonshine through to clean out any impurities and make the beverage fit for drinking. Enjoy.
A Final Warning About Making Moonshine
Remember that in most states, making moonshine is illegal. And selling moonshine is illegal in ALL states.
And the way it’s made can prove dangerous. Children and animals should not be present, and it’s best to prepare the moonshine in an outbuilding as opposed to in the main kitchen of your home. The condensed alcohol over the heating source can cause a fire if not properly tended.