Introduction: Elixir Vulgaris and ....... BLOOD!
Fresh beetroot is cooked, juiced, fermented and then distilled to produce a very pleasant tasting alcohol spirit drink.
I'm always trying to think of useful things to do with the crops I grow and beetroot is extremely easy to grow and in extreme abundance! I have been dead set on using sugar beet but have found it really difficult to get hold of where I live as there are no sugar processing factories nearby. Nonetheless beetroot itself (Latin name: Beta Vulgaris) still has a very high sugar content when grown in good conditions and can even get eaten by sugar hungry wasps in some years. Using a special processing technique, I managed to get the specific gravity of the wine up to 1068, which give gave plenty of alcohol after distillation and a very useful medicinal super food bi-product with the colour and consistency of blood.
|Hazards:||..........||Explosive ethanol fumes. Methanol poisoning.|
I have looked at THIS INSTRUCTABLE which, by all accounts, was a resounding failure, but, taking it one step further, distillation removed the undesirable flavours and concentrated the more subtle beetroot taste.
This beverage makes an excellent item to take to a Halloween party together with it's bi-product from the still, the beetroot blood. I would not personally recommend drinking the blood as it has all the undesirable flavours of the fermented beetroot, but could quite happily be poured over objects or people/animals with no ill effect. It is however, thought to be highly medicinal:
Ever since the Roman times, beetroot has been considered to have medicinal benefits including use as an aphrodisiac, treatment for fever, constipation, digestive problems and blood problems. In modern times the distinctive pigments such as betaine and indicaxanthin are thought to have even more benefits such as an anti-depressant, protection against heart disease and stroke, protection against liver disease and reduction in blood pressure. The red pigment betaine can be used as a food colouring but also is widely thought to have good anti-oxiditive properties where ‘oxidative stress’ can encourage other major illnesses such as cancer, alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue etc. Recently beetroot has been described as a detoxifying superfood because of it's combination of nutritious and medicinal properties.
Step 1: Dracula and Other Blood Suckers
I'm not personally fond of vampires and did spend some time in Transylvania being eaten alive by the most ferocious mosquitos imaginable. They were definitely contenders for the 'Blood Sucker of the Planet' competition and would be up there on the podium with the sand flies of the western coast of New Zealand and the midges in Scotland who, by the way, will eat your eyeballs! Sadly, I have never met any actual human vampires - only the metaphorical kind who will try and suck your energy - check out 'Vampirism'.
I have however, like everybody else, been attacked by a huge and varied array of monsters in my dreams, particularly when I was younger. When I was about 9 years old I had a recurring dream almost every night for about 6 weeks of being in a labyrinth of dark tunnels and caves looking for a hidden garden. On the way to the garden lurked malicious monsters who would try and intimidate me, and towards the end of the 6 weeks try and attack me. The dreams got more and more vivid and scary as time went on and I began to have the feeling of being doomed to being eaten alive by monsters. Just when all seemed lost and a huge hoard of monsters were snapping at my heels as I ran petrified through the tunnels, the thought occurred to me that I had nothing to lose by turning around and fighting the monsters, even if I lost, as they were going to kill me anyway. This proved to be the correct thing to do and I never had the dream ever again. Maybe a dream like this was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'?
Step 2: Legal
Distilling is illegal in many countries/states. Check your local laws.
Step 3: Health and Safety
- Methanol poisoning ....... Methanol is a product of the fermentation process and is present in all beers and ciders but must be carefully removed during the distillation process. Methanol can cause blindness, damage to the central nervous system and death. The vapour is also explosive.
- Ethanol explosive vapour ....... Make sure that your still is well ventilated and never use an open flame for heating. Electric stills often have an electrical thermostat that produces a spark every time it switches on or off which will ignite ethanol vapour in the right combination with air. Water distillers will switch at >100 degrees C by which time the ethanol should be gone.
- Always fill a water distiller exactly to the line marked - no higher or lower. If filled too low it will boil too quickly. Drink sensibly!
- Sulphides ........ Make sure there is some copper in the still. Make sure to use the correct receiver and that it is empty before use or you may get overspill and release of ethanol vapour.
Step 4: Equipment and Ingredients
Step 5: Processing the Ingredients
Clean and chop up the beetroot - no need to peel.Add this to the steamer and use about 100 ml water in the bottom. This way the sugars will be super concentrated. Now steam the roots for 1/2 an hour and transfer straight to the juicer whilst still warm. Discard the pulp and add the juice to the back to the pan together with the 100ml water remaining in the bottom. Raise the temperature to 75 degrees C to pasteurise the juice.
Allow to cool to 25 degrees C, measure the specific gravity with the hydrometer, add to the sterilised demi-john, pitch in the yeast and leave in a warm place for 10 days to ferment, with the airlock in place. Now rack off the bottom gunge and pour into the distiller up to the level mark.
Step 6: Distillation
Cut up the 15mm copper pipe into sections about 10mm long and add about 200g of pipe sections to the still. This will remove the poisonous sulphides from the brew during the boiling/heating process
Allow the brew to clear or settle as much as possible, maybe use pectin to help, and pour some of it into the water distiller up to the line marked on the inside, but no higher or no lower. The distiller should come with a plastic reciever and a small plastic drum in which you can add activated carbon for purifying the alcohol if you want to. I'm afraid I lost mine somewhere! Turn on the distiller and wait for the first drops of alcohol to emerge - this may take about 1 hour as water distillers are fairly low power.
IMPORTANT: Collect the first 10ml or 1% and discard it as it will be high in methanol content and other undesirable chemicals.
IMPORTANT: Never under-fill a water distiller as it will boil too quickly.
Carry on distilling and periodically measure the alcohol concentration of the collected liquid. It will start off at about 60% and slowly become more and more dilute as the temperature in the distiller rises and more water vapour comes over. As soon as the concentration reaches 35%, turn off the electrics and collect the last few drops. If you don't have and hydrometers, you can do it by taste, which works fine as long as you are not too intoxicated.
This is the method that I developed for getting maximum flavour in the final product. I would not use any still other than a 'pot' still as some of the more 'elaborate' systems will just produce pure alcohol with little taste or flavour.
Step 7: Colourising, Bottling and Labelling the Spirit
Now add a very small amount of the residue from the distillation, or the blood, back to the spirit until you have a nice deep red colour and an acceptable beetroot flavour. Other variations on this recipe would be to cook the beetroot with ginger, which I did actually try. The result was actually very pleasant and you get the pure ginger flavour without the associated 'heat'. Sugar beet is the next thing to try and I'm hunting the whole of the UK trying to find some! Check back in about a month's time for an update.
Lastly, it's really great to bottle the finished product in a plain clear bottle with an appropriate label like the one above. Be happy with your vulgarity!
PS. Don't forget to cast your votes for this 'ible if you've found it informative or interesting.
Step 8: Tasting Video
I wonder if Dracula would approve of this drink? Or if he drank the 'blood' bi-product he would stop drinking so much human blood?
Step 9: Further Work - Using Sugar Beet
This section is moving forward into using sugar beet instead of beetroot. Finally, after much communication over the airwaves, I managed to find the father of a friend of a friend who lives 300 miles away next to a sugar beet field. I sent packaging materials down by post and then arranged for a courier to collect them - probably the most expensive sugar beet ever, considering they sell for about £20 a tonne wholesale!
Not the most attractive root, even when they're scrubbed clean in the second photo. Anyway, they were good enough to use, in spite of their long journey. I chopped them up and steamed them just the same as the beetroot but used a much bigger pan. I did however have to put some old jam jar lids in the bottom to prevent the sugar beet from getting burnt on the base of the pan.
One thing that I've noticed is that they seem to take a lot longer to cook, although that might be because of the much larger pan size. I juiced a small amount of half cooked roots to get an initial idea of the sugar concentration. A quick taste suggested great sweetness and I measured the specific gravity using the hydrometer and was impressed by the results: 1090, which should give about 12% alcohol - a significant improvement on beetroot which had an OG of 1068. Now I must wait for the roots to steam through as they are pretty tough on the juicer and will just wear it out. Patience!