Moonshine Story

The long and storied history of distilled spirits.

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carol333
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Moonshine Story

Post by carol333 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:45 pm

Hi -

I'm a writer, not a distiller, and I'm writing a story set in 1915 in which the characters have a still. I've been reading about old-time stills in Appalachia, and hope to learn a lot more here.

Here's my opening question: My characters are making corn liquor, and one of them ruins it. I've heard of ruining a batch by burning. Is this heating the mash at too high a temperature?

Any other suggestions of how someone can ruin a batch will be appreciated!

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by blind drunk » Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:24 pm

What are you writing? Fiction? Not fiction?

Welcome to HD.

Probably ruined the batch of corn likker by scorching the solids in the mash. In 1915, they were more than likely distilling on the grain and with a wood fire as opposed to straining out the solid bits and using propane or electric as most do these days
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Washashore » Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:49 pm

Lol-- Ive ruined almost every all-grain mash I've done!
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Bayou-Ruler » Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:50 pm

welcome
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by boda getta » Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:19 pm

+1 Blind Drunk

I would have the character being impatient, getting in too big of a hurry, and heating the mash too fast and hot and sticking the mash (scorching, actually burning) the mash to the pot. From everything I've read, the scorched taste is readily recognizable and impossible to get out of the whiskey. It would be a great way to introduce tension between the two characters ie the "good" character explaining and cautioning the "bad" character of the importance of being careful and taking his time, then the "bad" character ruining the run anyway. In addition to ruining the entire run, the still pot would have to completely scrubbed clean before another run could be ran and this was a whole lot of work and time consuming. A scorched run was about the worst thing that could happen to a moonshiner (next to getting caught, of course).
Good luck with your book.
It would be a neat thing if you could post the moonshine chapters of your book, we would love to re it.

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by blind drunk » Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:47 pm

Nice one, boda getta. I can feel another three word story coming on :lol:
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by boda getta » Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:36 pm

Please God, No, Not another three word story!

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by carol333 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:03 am

Thanks for the great details. I'm going to read as much of your forum posts as I can, and I'll definitely post chapters here so you can help me with the accuracy. I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get into the topic.

I'm not familiar yet with the site. Where should I post a chapter?

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by LWTCS » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:51 am

This is your thread Carol. Post it here.
Mods can move it if needed,,,,,,but this here is your spot....

BTW,, can't tell ya how much these fellers around here likely appreciate an accurate account of the "makin" part of your story. They some folks round here got a story or two burried in here some where.

Good luck
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Prairiepiss » Sat Apr 28, 2012 5:06 am

Welcome aboard.

+1 LWTCS looks like a good place to me.

Good luck. And who knows? Your reading around here mite spark an interest in the arts. :thumbup:
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by carol333 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:22 pm

Turnip still -- looks like an upside down pot with a long handle.
Turnip still -- looks like an upside down pot with a long handle.
turnip.still.jpg (11.36 KiB) Viewed 7280 times
I appreciate your help and your interest. These chapters may not be ready for a month or so, and when I post them please feel free to laugh at my feeble understanding, and suggest corrections and changes!

For now, here are a couple of questions.

1. Do you have any idea how a cap was sealed on an old-time still? (I've seen pictures of turnip (pot) stills, but nothing to show how they're sealed.) Maybe "cap" isn't even the right word. I'm thinking "lid."

2. When they used wood fires, did they need to maintain them as coals rather than flames?

3. Here's a photo of a turnip still. Can you estimate anything about it, like how many quarts or gallons of decent moonshine might they get from one run, and where the cap is?

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by edge » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:17 pm

My folks moved to XXX County in Virginia in 1980.

That county used more sugar than any other county in the US, and not a week went by that a still was not busted in those Blue Ridge Mountain hollers.
No doubt they are cookin right now :)

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by LWTCS » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:20 pm

"Cap" is on the spot Carol.......You been readin!
A good tight fit and the cap itself fitting as a female into the boiler....some flour paste a helpful tool but not the only way to solve that problem. Some might even place a rock on the cap.

Likely two part operation on the fire Carol. With the boiler blocked up there would be hot cole at the ready to push under the boiler or perhaps rake away from the boiler,,,,do the same type of fire management when smokin/slow cookin meat. Ya git the coles cherry before placing.

Cap is the round nob at the top,,,decent likker???? Dunder or goose is your go to source for that answer I bet...
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by boda getta » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:24 pm

Hard to tell about the still, it appears to be a large mash barrel blocking the view of the pot of the still. Where are you located? If the still will play a fairly large part of your story, the south east has a fair number of "Moonshine Museums". Just Google it and if you can find one close by I would visit. They usually have a old timely still set up. The problem with this Forum is that most of us use much more modern systems than the guys in 1915; the basic principles are the same.... but.

It just occurred to me that an excellent (maybe the best) resource on the old way of moonshineing is the FoxFire book. There are a lot of FoxFire books but the one you need is ISBN - 0-385-07353-4. It has lots of pictures, diagrams of the different parts
of a old type still and a detailed description of the old way of making moonshine using only corn and water. No sugar and no yeast. I have a copy and have read it many times. This book was responsible for me learning this craft. Amazon has it used for 3 bucks.

good luck.

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by blind drunk » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:22 pm

Is there a slobber box anywhere in that picture? Doesn't look like it but it could be a nice idea for the story's still.
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by rgarry » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:34 pm

If you dedicate your book to the legalization of our hobby......we might even write the book for you :D However, most of us can't spell.

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Buckshot » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:50 pm

Watch Popcorns video, he did it the old timey way in The last one.

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by UnseatedPanic » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:56 pm

The popcorn thing is on youtube... its called "The last damn run of likker i am ever going to do" I have watched it and its pretty good.. if you search "popcorn sutton" it should show up...
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by carol333 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:04 am

Wow, I've come to the right place. I watched several Popcorn videos--love him and other youtubes, too.

FireFox! Thanks for this. Will do, asap.

Slobber box? What's that? I'm still getting onto the lingo.

I'll definitely give your group an acknowledgement in the credits of this book--unless that's not safe for you. When the time comes, I'll ask.

NEW QUESTION: On Popcorn's video, it looked like he had a barrel between the boiler and the barrel with the coil. I was wondering if this is the thumper or doubler (and if those terms mean the same thing, AND what are they?).

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by carol333 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:08 am

edge wrote:My folks moved to XXX County in Virginia in 1980.

That county used more sugar than any other county in the US, and not a week went by that a still was not busted in those Blue Ridge Mountain hollers.
No doubt they are cookin right now :)

edge.
I'm glad you mentioned the sugar-- I've got sugar in the story!

I see that sometimes sugar is not used in recipes. Is it more necessary in cold weather?

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Ayay » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:14 am

'Cap' can be the crust on the top of a fruity wash.

Waiting for the story because ALL moonshine stories are good.
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Sungy » Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:29 am

carol333 wrote:
edge wrote:My folks moved to XXX County in Virginia in 1980.

That county used more sugar than any other county in the US, and not a week went by that a still was not busted in those Blue Ridge Mountain hollers.
No doubt they are cookin right now :)

edge.
I'm glad you mentioned the sugar-- I've got sugar in the story!

I see that sometimes sugar is not used in recipes. Is it more necessary in cold weather?

The sugar is used by the yeast for food. In consuming the sugar it is converted into ethanol and carbon dioxide. We around here kinda like the ethanol part.
The grains have starch in them. The mash needs to be treated differently if not using sugar. You have a process to follow to convert the starch in the grain into sugar. Then fermentation can occur and the sugar can make some yeasties happy. Happy yeasties make a happy distiller.

Temperature affects the amount of time fermenting will take.

example: at 20'C it will take aprox. 2 weeks to ferment out. At 35'C it will only take aprox. 5 days

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Braz » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:04 am

I'm glad you mentioned the sugar-- I've got sugar in the story!
I see that sometimes sugar is not used in recipes. Is it more necessary in cold weather?
A typical old timey corn mash, where only corn is used will ferment out to a mash of around 6% alcohol. Sugar is (was) often added in order to bring the alcohol content of the mash up to 10-12%. The more alcohol you put into the still, the more you get out. Sugar moonshine is often referred to as a "sugar head." The only way I could see that cold weather would have an influence would be if it were too cold to get the corn to sprout, in which case a hungry shiner might revert to an all-sugar mash. (We would call that a wash rather than a mash but that fine distinction was probably not drawn by the backwoods moonshiner of yore.)
Slobber box? What's that? I'm still getting onto the lingo.
Slobber box, thumper and doubler all refer to the same thing, the smaller "can" between the still and the worm (condenser coil). Its purpose is to provide a second distillation step (i.e. doubler). It is partially filled with mash and/or distilled liquid and the vapor enters the bottom of the doubler and exits up through the liquid and out to the worm. When it does it makes a thumping sound as the vapor bubbles through the liquid (hence, "thumper"). If any of the corn mash makes it out of the still from running too hot, for example (puking), it will be trapped in the doubler and not get into the finished shine (hence "slobber box").
Last edited by Braz on Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Braz » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:15 am

Let me add that "sugar head" was considered to be at the bottom of the moonshine status ladder. But it was cheap and easy to make and there was always a market for it. Then, as now, quality cost more.
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Tater » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:58 am

Slobber box? What's that? I'm still getting onto the lingo.
braz wrote: Slobber box, thumper and doubler all refer to the same thing, the smaller "can" between the still and the worm (condenser coil). Its purpose is to provide a second distillation step (i.e. doubler). It is partially filled with mash and/or distilled liquid and the vapor enters the bottom of the doubler and exits up through the liquid and out to the worm. When it does it makes a thumping sound as the vapor bubbles through the liquid (hence, "thumper"). If any of the corn mash makes it out of the still from running too hot, for example (puking), it will be trapped in the doubler and not get into the finished shine (hence "slobber box").
No there is a difference between a thumper and a slobber box. The thumper will provide second distillation but a slobber box wont All it will do is catch any puking from still or thumper witch ever it put after. Last barrel in pic is puke barrel/slobber box.Unlike in thumper pipe doesn't go to bottom from still side and it isn't charged with liquid http://homedistiller.org/equip/designs/thumper" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
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I use a pot still.Sometimes with a thumper

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Kidnapper2 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:40 am

If I could offer a good suggested reading, Eliot Wigginton - The Foxfire Book - Volume 01. There is an extensive section on moonshiners in this book. The book series was taken from magazine articles from Firefox magazine, then compiled. Recipes, still design, revenuer stories, do's and don'ts etc.

Fun reading, the entire series is based on mountain folk and their simplistic lifestyle:

The
Foxfire
Book
hog dressing; log cabin building; mountain
crafts and foods; planting by the signs;
snake lore, hunting tales, faith healing;
moonshining; and other affairs of
plain living
edited with an Introduction by
ELIOT WIGGINTON
Anchor Books
1968
*It should be observed, that neither age or double distillation, will render good, whiskey originally bad; or that has recieved an improper flavour during the fermentation. From The Distiller, by Harrison Hall 1818.

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Braz » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:18 am

Thanks for clarifying that, Tater.
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Tater » Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:38 pm

.In a hobby where what means what depends on where ya from its easy to confuse the two. :)
I use a pot still.Sometimes with a thumper

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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by Prairiepiss » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:03 pm

Thoughts about sugar. In 1915 sugar would have been a little harder to come by and cost a pretty penny. Compared to grains or fruits. All depending on where they was at. So they mite not have used it much. I'm not saying they didn't. I'm saying unless they was sellin a bunch and had a good supplier they mite not have used sugar. Or they may have used it sparingly. Just something to think about. I could be way off base? :crazy: I wasn't around back then. :mrgreen:
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Re: Moonshine Story

Post by blind drunk » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:56 pm

Sugar and salt were never cheap way back then. Plus, with the war raging in Europe I bet sugar was pretty pricey even in the USA in 1915.
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