Monday, September 18, 2017

Mango Moonshine [EN]

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How do you recognize a Romanian (and from Moldova, to boot) in a foreign country?

If you figure he'd speak loudly, act like a douchebag, believe himself to be a latin lover, keep his hands in another's pockets, smell like might be right or wrong, who am I to judge? :)
But I meant a Romanian would carry on the ancestral tradition of making  moonshine, to feel like home, not necessarily that he'd drink ot all, but you must offer some to your guests to burn their throat.

When I arrived here and saw all the streets teeming with mango fruit, which is extremely sweet, I figured I could make some strong stuff.

In my Romanian article I refer to moonshine by different words. Here is a video explaining different types of Romanian moonshine. It's in Romanian, though. 

The idea kept coming to me, but since I had no equipments I kept postponing. Until one day, when I was talking to one of my colleagues and told him that in my country we make alcohol from fermented fruit, and it would be interesting to try it with mango, but I would need about 40kg of fruit, evetually ones that are already fallen from the tree. This was just a discussion, like we do this, you do that, yadada. Guess a few hours he says: I've got 3 sacks of fallen mango, come store them. Mind. Blown.

Dilemma no. 1: I have 3 sacks (the 50kg paper kind, for cement dust) filled with mango in various stages of decomposition (sounds bad, but for moonshine it's good). Where do I put all of it? I carried them to my apartment and I was lucky I had some plastic basins used to wash clothes (yes, there is no washing machine, that's another story). I filled them up to the brim and went back to work. When I came back home in the evening, it was already happily fermenting.

Dilemma no.2: I now have fermenting mango on my balcony. In maximum 2 weeks I need to distill it. Get a still!

Here's where the engineer kicked in:
Solution no. 1: Buy a still. No can do, they don't produce alcohol here.
Solution no. 2: Find somebody to make one. No way, they have neither gypsies nor copper here.
Solution no. 3: Make it yourself. That's what I did.

A moonshine still looks like this:

In short, you put the marc (fermented fruit) in the left container, you seal it and place it over a fire. The alcohol inside will start evaporating first and exit through the pipe on top. The pipe goes through the container on the right which is full of cold water. The steam inside will condese and out comes fire water. Simple, right?

I split the problem in 4 parts:
1. Fermentation container
2. Boiling container
3. Pipe
4. Cooling container

1. Fermentation container
There's no way I could keep the marc in my clothes washing bins, so I went tt the market to find a bigger container. After a full day of searching for shops selling plastic wares, I bought a 100L green garbage bin. I probably paid twice its real cost, but I could not wait to find a colleague to come help me negotiate.
2. Boiling container
The best choice would have been a big copper pot, with a special lid. You can't really find this here, so I used the backup, a stainless steel pot.
The biggest pot I could find was 20L. Seems big, but for this purpose it is rather small - I need to boil multiple times. The pot I negociated with the help of a friend and got a reasonable price.
In order to ise it, I had to do 2 modifications:

  • add a small exit in the lid for the steam. Did it with the help of a small pipe, some gaskets, nuts, fittings and some white Teflon tape. Of course, you can find all these in a single place in the entire city.

  • a system to seal the lid, so the steam will exit only through the pipe. I fixed this with a mixture of flour and water on the side of the lid, which hardens when it gets hot. Also some paper clamps, in the colors of the Romanian flag. This worked great. I had steam escaping only once, when I was sloppy and did not use enough mixtuire.

3. The pipe
This was the biggest headache. In Romania, you go to any hardware store and can have your pick of different copper pipes. Here, they only use them for AC units, and the pipe is very thin. Additionally, I needed one to fit tightly in the contraption I had made in the lid.
Of course, I found that specific type of pipe only in a single shady store. And since I visited them several times asking for that pipe ( comparing prices), the guy kept the price high. I eventually bought 6m.

4. Cooling container
For me this was the easiest to obtain. We have lots of 120?L oil barrels around. I asked one of the mechanics to cut one and bore a hole in it. I sealed the exit of the pipe through the hole with tar (this turned out not to be such a great idea, but it worked on the short term). The result is below.


Put all of this together and we have an DIY still.

I turned on the fire, filled it with cold water and...great success hi5!

I distilled it twice, threw away the first and last parts (the former is poisonous, the latter is useless) and obtained 4-5L of clean, double-refined, yellowish mango moonshine.

What about the taste? Well...I screwed it up. Mango is a dense and stringy (around the pit) fruit. Since the bottom of the boiling pot was very thin, the marc got burned. So it tastes very smoky, not necessarily in a good way. If it wasn't smoky it taste be rather good (if I may say so myself), with a slightly tropical taste.

Total cost:

- 1 plastic bin 100L........................ 10.000 XOF
- 1 stainless steelpot  20L .............   4.000 XOF
- copper pipe 6m ........................... 20.000 XOF
- gaskets, nuts, fittings ...................  3.500 XOF
- detergent to wash oil barrel .........    500 XOF
- burn ointment (I was careless) ...  2.000 XOF
                                ( total ~300 RON/65 EUR)

- First african mango moonshine .......PRICELESS


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