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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

    But many references I have seen to backset use terms like thin stillage as synonyms and state this is the residual liquid in the distilling apparatus after the ethanol has been vaporised. Since that liquid would have to be heated at least to the temperature needed to vaporise alcohol (circa 170 F. I believe), I don't see how yeast culture could survive in such an environment. Flash pasteurisation of beer destroys almost all yeast organisms - again I am not a specialisr but am given to understand - and flash pasteurising does not (again if not mistaken) exceed the temperature needed to make ethanol volatile. But if backset means as you said the beer before it is heated that is different. I have never read that that is what backset means, though.. Your notes on yeast's effect on flavour were most interesting and I welcome further explanation which would show that in truth sour mash methods do in fact replicate the old idea of continuing a culture from the previous ferment!

    When you refer to beer yeast (cervesia) I assume you mean top-fermented yeast types, would that be right? Not the later lager-type bottom yeasts.

    Gary

  9. #9
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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.

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

    Gary,

    I just got off the phone with a faculty member of the department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis. He told me that yeast cells are very unlikely to survive temperatures greater than 60 degrees celsius (140 F.) Any still capable of causing a phase transition in ethanol is going to kill the yeast.

    "Bottom fermenting" or lager yeast is typically some variant of S. Uvarum.

    In brewing, the slurry of predominantly dead yeast cells at the bottom of the primary fermenter is call trub (pronounced "troob"), and contains sufficient numbers of live yeast cells to restart fermentation in a suitable growth environment.

    I cultivate my own yeast, but adding 250 ml of trub to a liter of sterile wort will produce an excellent home brew starter in a very short period of time ... say 3 to 24 hours depending on the ambient temperature.

    I made a posting some time ago along these same lines, here

 

 

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