The term "moonshine" originated in Europe and was used in England in the 1700s to indicate "work by the light of the moon". What kind of work could it be and why did it have to be done at night? Certainly, it must have referred to something illegal, namely making whisky unlawfully. As the process of distillation requires boiling the liquor and, thus, the heat is necessary, a lot of smoke and steam is produced. They could be seen for a great distance if moonshining proceeded during the day, which was dangerous for the risk of being caught by the revenuers. That is the reason why the night was the best time for this activity.
Nowadays, moonshining is still popular in those countries, where alcohol taxation is too high (for instance, in Norway). It is a considerable financial help for some poor families in the countryside, since through bootlegging - illegal selling of the product - it supports them. Nevertheless, there may be other reasons for which people make moonshine: some prefer the home-made product to the one they can buy, even though they will have to spend time on making it; for the others it is a kind of hobby - if they really succeed in moonshining, they can treat their friends to the liquor and boast of it.
There are many recipes of how to make moonshine. In Sweden, they produce it from potatoes, in Thailand - from rice and in Ukraine - from beetroot, apples or plums. In addition, some people have their own small secrets, concerning the proportions of the products and additional ingredients. Here is a recipe of how you can make moonshine out of corn:
1. First, you need to convert the cornstarch into sugar by 'sprouting' the corn. Place the corn in a container, cover it with warm water and drape a cloth over the container to prevent contamination and conserve the heat. The container must have a slowly draining hole at the bottom. Add warm water from time to time as the liquid level falls. Keep it in a warm place for about three days until the corn has sprouts about two inches long.
2. Allow the sprouted corn to dry. Then, grind it into meal.
3. Make mush (or mash) with boiling water. It is made by adding boiling water to the corn meal.
Yeast is added, if available (half pound yeast per fifty gallons of mash, for instance), and sugar.
With yeast, fermentation takes about four days. Without yeast, fermentation could require more than ten days. The mash is ready to 'run' once it stops bubbling. It means that the mash has been converted into carbonic acid and alcohol. It is called 'wash' or 'beer' or 'sour mash'.
4. The wash is placed into a cooker, consisting of two parts - the top, which is pasted on, and the bottom. At the top of the cooker, there is a copper pipe, or an 'arm' that projects to one side and tapers down from a four to five inch diameter to the same diameter as the 'worm' (1 to 1-1/4 inch). The 'worm' could be made by taking a twenty ft length of copper tubing, filling it with sand and stopping the ends, and then wrapping it around a fence post.
5. The sand prevents the tubing from kinking while being wrapped. The worm is placed in a barrel and sealed to the end of the arm. The barrel is kept full of cold running water, to condense the alcohol. The water runs in the top of the barrel and out an opening at the bottom for it to circulate better. A fire is maintained under the cooker to vaporize the alcohol in the wash.
6. The spirit will rise to the arm and then to the worm, where it will be cooled to the condensation point. The resulting liquid is collected at the end in a container.
7. The "singlings" - the first run off - should be redistilled for they contain water and rank oils. Consequently, it should be heated and run through again.
8. The initial collections can approach pure alcohol (two hundred proof), with the end collections at about ten proof. To make a good moonshine, the collection is mixed to try for a one hundred proof spirit.
9. To test the proof you should use a small glass vial. If the small bubbles that rise when the vial is tilted are positioned so half are above the top level of the liquid and half are below, the proof is right. This liquor is filtered through charcoal (activated carbon) and is ready for consumption as moonshine.
You should remember that no matter how tasty your moonshine may be, it can cause some serious health hazards if anything is done wrong. In many countries it is still illegal to make moonshine. Therefore, if you dare, be careful!