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  1. #1
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    Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    The following is a transcript of a sheet of paper dated 1818 in the Catherine Carpenter Family Papers at the Kentucky Historical Society. The first side has -
    "Receipt for Distilling Corn Meal Sweet Mash, 1818
    To a hundred gallon tub put in a Bushel and a half of hot water then a half bushel of meal Stir it well then one bushel of water & then a half Bushel of meal & so on untill(sic) you have mashed one bushel and a half of corn meal - Stir it all effectively then sprinkle a double handful of meal over the mash let it stand two hours then pour over the mash 2 gallons of warm water put in a half a gallon of malt stir that well into the mash then stir in a half Bushel of Rye or wheat meal. Stir it well for 15 minutes put in another half gallon of malt. Stir it well and very frequently untill (sic) you can bear your hand in the mash up to your wrist then put in three Bushels of cold slop or one gallon of good yeast then fill up with cold water. If you use yeast put in the cold water first and then the yeast. If you have neither yeast nor Slop put in three peck of Beer from the Bottom of a tub."

    On back of paper -
    "Receipt for Distilling by a Sour Mash
    Put into the mash tub Six busheles (sic) of very hot slop then put in one Bushel of corn meal ground pretty course (sic) Stir well then sprinkle a little meal over the mash let it stand 5 days that is 3 full days betwist the Day you mash and the Day you cool off - on the fifth day put in 3 gallons of warm water then put in one gallon of Rye Meal and one gallon of malt work it well into the malt and Stir for 3 quarters of an hour then fill the tub half full of Luke warm water. Stir it well and with a fine sieve or otherwise Break all the lumps fine then let it stand three hours then fill up the tub with luke warm water.
    For warm weather - five Bushels of Slop Instead of Six let it stand an hour and a half Instead of three hours and cold water Instead of warm.

    A Receipt for Destilling (sic)
    By Sweet and Sour Mash May 18, 1818"

    Both of these recipes sound more like a modern definition of "sour mash".
    Mike Veach

  2. #2
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    Mike, many thanks for posting this historically significant, and revealing, information.

    I can't pretend as yet to understand fully what is being said, but am struck by the implicit suggestion that slops have the power to ferment. How can they be an alternative to yeast, as is suggested here? Or can slops (stillage, spent wash) in fact contain living yeast? Maybe they promote fermentation without added yeast; maybe that was its original purpose. Byrn (1875) states that mashes can be fermented without adding yeast, it just takes longer, and results are not as assured. Some of what this lady is saying seems to rely on fermentation proceeding naturally (from yeasts on the cereals or in the atmosphere).

    Her reference to the bottom of a tub of beer makes sense; that would be the bottom yeast layer, after the yeast has sunk by gravity to the lower reaches of the vessel. Beer to this day is secondarily fermented (to add sparkle) by adding yeasty new fermenting beer (krausening). Anyway, much to ponder here..

    Gary

  3. #3
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    Gary,
    I don't know for sure, but I suspect that the more primative pot stills they were using at the time did not get hot enough to kill all the yeast in the first distillation. This is why they had to double or even triple distill to get the final barrel proof of about 100 proof.
    Mike Veach

  4. #4
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    Slop is probably in reference to backset as opposed to spent mash in this paper. Backset has the ability to ferment.

  5. #5
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    I disagree. At one point she refers to the fact that if you do not have slop then you can use beer from the bottom of the fermenter. I believe that Slop is the distilled mash in this document.
    Mike Veach

  6. #6
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    Hmmm. . .I don't see how spent beer could ferment anything. . .

  7. #7
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    In the modern era i would agree with you. Spent beer is fermented to a point that most yeast die and then distilling kills the rest. Two Hundred years ago though, the methods were probably not as efficient and yeast could have survived the distilling process. At least that is my guess as to what she is decscribing. I could be wrong and maybe she just had enough wild yeast spores in the air to start fermentation.
    Mike Veach

  8. #8
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    I read her reference to beer as meaning real (beverage) beer (ale at the time), and she took yeast from the bottom of the vessel where it had sunk down from gravity - even top yeasts will fall down given enough time. An aging vat of beer can contain living yeast for a very long time, sometimes it will interact with wild yeasts and sour the drink (whence the need to filter beer well for bottling and originally to heat pasteurise it). On the other hand, where it is at the bottom out of harm's way, it is less likely so to interact - and here we have the kernel of the story of German (cold) bottom fermentation, but that is indeed another story.. I thought she was saying, just add some yeasty beverage beer from the lees to your mash to ferment it. That is a method still used in some breweries for the secondary fermentation, the krausening, it is called in Bavarian practice originally.

  9. #9
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    Gary,
    I read her reference as (Distillers) Beer. I know that it was is the term being used now and I have a recipe from the Taylor Diary from the same era that refers to distillers beer.
    Mike Veach

  10. #10
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    Re: Recipes for sweet mash and sour mash

    Here's another possibility. The primary benefit of sour mash is to condition the medium so that it is hospitable to the yeast organisms you want and hostile to the yeasts and other microorganisms you don't want. It could be that backset (with no living microorganisms present) was introduced to condition the medium, and nature (i.e., wild yeast) was allowed to do the rest.

 

 

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