Some winemakers complain that rhubarb moonshine has a grassy aroma and slightly bitter taste. The thing is, some parts of rhubarbs contain a lot of tannins and acids and that is why these plants require thorough treatment. However, thanks to the high content of malic acid this rhubarb moonshine is reminiscent of its apple counterpart but has its own unparalleled flavor if prepared right.
Theory. You can use all edible varieties of rhubarb, just make sure that plants are fresh, ripe, and sappy. Usually, rhubarb is harvested until mid-June while its stalk hasn’t coarsened, losing their sappiness and taste.
You can only eat peeled rhubarb stalks. Roots, leaves and other parts are not fit for cooking, as they contain poisonous substances (for example, oxalic acid).
The sugar content of rhubarb stalks is only about 2%, which will require at least 20 kilos of rhubarbs to make 500 ml of pure 80 proof moonshine. That is why to maintain proper fermentation and obtain a reasonable amount of final product, you’ll need to add beet sugar. The optimal ratio is 1 kilo of sugar per 1 kilo of rhubarb stalks.
Wine yeast or a homemade fermentation starter are preferred if you want to keep the light “apple” fragrance. Although, using them will cause fermentation to last 30-45 days. Dry and pressed baker’s yeast give out a characteristic ethanol flavor and thus are undesirable, but at the same time they cut the fermentation time to 3-8 days.
- Rhubarb stalks – 1 kilo
- Sugar – 1 kilo
- Water – 5 liters
- Yeast (wine, ethanol, baker’s, fermentation starter) – per 7-8 liters of the must
Rhubarb Home Brew Recipe
Wash the stalks, remove the white part, cut into pieces, and put them in a stock pot. Add sugar and 3 liters of water (60% of the total amount for other ratios) and stir. The water should cover the rhubarb stalks by at least 2-3 cm. Add more water if needed, it won’t hurt.
Bring the mixture to a boil stirring periodically. Then turn the heat down and simmer until the rhubarb stalks become soft. Take the pot off the stove, cover it, and cool to room temperature.
The heat treatment will destroy harmful substances and remove the harsh grassy taste. Decant the pot contents along with the rhubarb stalks into the fermentation vessel. Add 2 liters of water and activated yeast. Stir the mixture. Fill the vessel up to 75-80% to leave enough space for foam and carbon dioxide.
Attach an airlock or a medical glove with a pierced finger. Keep rhubarb home brew at 20-28°C till the end of the fermentation (usually it lasts for 3-50 days). Once you notice that the home brew is no longer emitting carbon dioxide (the glove is deflated), there’s no sediment at the bottom, and the home brew itself is no longer sweet but slightly bitter, the home brew is ready.
An airlock attached to a home brew
How to Make Rhubarb Moonshine
Strain the fermented home brew through 2-3 layers of cheesecloth and decant it into a distillation still. Distill for the first time at max speed without fractionating. Stop collecting the main product when ABV drops below 18-20%. The moonshine can be a bit cloudy—that’s normal.
Determine the potency of the obtained distillate and calculate the volume of pure alcohol (multiply the volume in liters by ABV percentage and divide by 100). Water down the moonshine till it has 18-20% ABV. Run the second distillation and gather the first 10-12% of the pure alcohol separately. This harmful fraction is called “heads” and can only be used for technical purposes.
Stop drawing the main product when ABV drops below 45%. The next fraction is called “tails,” which should be collected in a separate vessel.
Water down the rhubarb moonshine (“the hearts”) to the desired proof (usually 80-90 proof). Bottle and cork the drink. Keep it in a cellar or fridge for 2-3 days to let the taste stabilize.