Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Surfeit of Beetroot.

Yesterday’s story on using beetroot to make bread naturally sent me off on a search for other interesting things to do with the vegetable. It struck me that we hadn’t finished considering all of the fermentation possibilities. 

Should you have a surfeit of beetroot, you can make beetroot beer, or wine, or vinegar. Sadly, I have been unable to find a useable recipe for beer, but I can offer you the following:
From The wine & spirit merchant's own book, 1855:

Beetroot Wine.
It is well known, that of all European vegetables, beetroot is the one which contains the greatest quantity of sugared matter, and, consequently, the most productive of alcohol. However, beetroot, when left by itself, does not undergo the vinous fermentation. If you put in a pan filled up with water, apples, pears, grapes &c, in a short time the liquid will begin to ferment, and liquor will be formed more or less rich in alcohol, according as the fruit contained less or more sugared matter. Not so with beetroot cut in thin slices and steeped in water: in a few days the water, which before was limpid and pure, will become turbid, limy, and acidulated, but without trace of alcohol. This double experiment clearly shows that wine-making with beetroot requires a peculiar process, and cannot be done without the addition of a ferment sufficiently powerful to transform the sugar of the pulp into alcohol and carbonic acid. There are two methods for making beetroot wine both of which can be depended upon as conducive to highly satisfactory results.

1st Receipt.—Take fresh-pulled red beetroots, with all their juice; scrape the skin; cut them in thin slices; put them in a wooden, glass, or earthen jar, which you fill up to the top ; pour over common water acidulated as follows:—to every quart of water add tartaric acid 2 ounces; sulphuric acid 1 pennyweight ; the beetroots must be altogether steeped in the liquid. Keep the jars at a temperature of 60° Fahrenheit, and in thirty-six hours you will obtain a beautiful red liquor, perfectly limpid; drain it out, and pour over the beetroot the same quantity of acidulated water; let it stand forty-eight hours, and it will yield again the same quantity of liquor, which you mix with what you have previously obtained.
To this extract from beetroot mix 12 grains of a solution of sulphur and alcohol; 1 ounce of moist sugar, and about J of an ounce of barley or Indian corn, broken in small lumps. Keep the must at a temperature of from 60° to 70° Fahrenheit and it begins fermenting. Let it stand twelve or fourteen days till the sugar has almost completely disappeared. Rack it off then, and bottle it if you want to have a wine as sparkling as Champagne; otherwise, keep it in the cellar in casks or stone jars.
The tartaric acid or soluble cream of tartar, gives the beetroot wine that slightly tart flavour which is requisite in all the fermented beverages; the sulphuric acid plays the same part as tannic acid in red wine, it makes the beetroot wine a tonic and slightly astringent liquor; the solution of sulphur and alcohol gives the wine a pleasing aroma, a vinous and alcoholic flavour, which perfects its preparation. Let us observe that the wine must be aromatized only when it has been racked off.
2nd Receipt.—The beetroot wine can be also manufactured by a more direct process. Put in a cask 90 gallons of riverwater; 70 pounds of beetroot cut in thin slices; ½ ounce of sulphuric acid in a pure state; 2 ½ or 3 ounces of tartaric acid; two-thirds of an ounce of a solution of sulphur and alcohol; 12 pounds 14 ounces of moist sugar; 8 pounds of barley or Indian wheat, either in corns, broken in lumps, or powdered into a fine flour. Some people prefer, instead of barley and Indian wheat, the use of apples, pears, grapes, &c. Then put the same weight of fruit and beetroots, and only two-thirds of the moist sugar.
The beetroot wine, through its primitive ingredients, is perfectly pure and limpid; it is an excellent substitute for grape wine, and perfectly wholesome. It has no peculiar flavour, and that makes it a truly precious substitute for the grape must (calabre) in the manufacturing of all artificial wines, as by mixing it with various aromas it can be made to imitate all wines. It will prove an invaluable ingredient in the making of British wines.

And from The Farm Journal and Progressive Farmer (Pennsylvania, 1855):

Beet Root Vinegar.
In these times of a scarcity of apples and cider, the following statement made by N. P. Fairbanks in the "Boston Cultivator" is worth considering. He says :—The juice of one bushel of sugar beets, worth twenty-five cents, and which any farmer can raise with little cost, will make from five to six gallons of vinegar, equal to the best made of cider or wine. First, wash and grate the beets, and express the juice in a cheese-press or in any other way which a little ingenuity can suggest, and put the liquor into a barrel; cover the bung with gauze and sot it in the sun, and in fifteen or twenty days it will be fit for use. By this method the very best of vinegar can be obtained without any great trouble, and I hope all who like good vinegar will try it.
As this may readily be tried by almost any one, we hope to hear from some of our friends on the subject next winter.

Quotation of the Day.
Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.
Benjamin Franklin


Auntie Kate said...

You can also boil it down for sugar/syrup. I read the instructions once, but I don't recall exactly how to do it.

Personally, I love beets, but mine aren't doing well this year.

ACravan said...

This is really fascinating. I'm quite unsure about the quality of beetroot wine, but I have enjoyed a Czech vodka distilled from beets called Kord (at the old Russian Tea Room in New York City many years ago). It was excellent and had a uniquely pleasing, sort of "round" quality compared to other Russian and Polish vodkas. I'm skeptical about beer also, but we really, really love beets around here and believe that "waste not, want not" is the best policy. Curtis

The Old Foodie said...

Interesting. I had not thought a out vodka from beets, but it makes sense. One more thing to add to my list of things to do with beets!
I am still looking for beer from beets.

ACravan said...

Kord is distilled from white beets. Here, for your enjoyment, is a link to a 1956 ad for Kord, which appeared in Playboy magazine. It's nostalgic for me because I note that the US distributor's address precedes the time our current "zip" postal codes were instituted, which I recall being in the early 1960s:

Unfortunately, I haven't seen or tasted Kord in years. Curtis