Thursday, September 29, 2011

Boozy Potatoes.

A reader recently asked for a beer recipe, and I have found one which answers one of my own purposes – an addition to the Fun with Potatoes archive.

It is not surprising that alcohol can be made from potatoes of course - any sugary or starchy plant material can be fermented. The first thing that comes to most of our minds on the alcohol from potatoes topic is probably vodka, or perhaps the sort of nasty illegal hooch originating from prison or Prohibition stills. In the nineteenth century however there was a great deal of interest in the production of beer from potatoes, and it is probably also not surprising that the heart of the potato-booze industry was northern and central Europe, in the nineteenth century. 

What may be a surprise is that the beer might have been better than expected. The Mirror Of Literature, Amusement And Instruction (1837) had this to say:

Potato Beer: M.Balling, professer of chemistry at Prague, has succeeded in making an excellent beer from potatoes; it is the colour of brown sherry, very strong and singularly agreeable. 
The Mirror Of Literature, Amusement And Instruction (1837)

It was a little difficult to find you a recipe for a quantity of beer appropriate for home, rather than commercial production, but this one might qualify:
Potato Beer.
The Plesser Kreisblatt, a Silesian journal, gives circumstantial information how to prepare a wholesome and palatable potato beer, by which every family can supply itself therewith at a very trifling expense. Twenty-five gallons of such beer are made from half a bushel of potatoes, ten pounds of malt, half a pound of hops, and two quarts of yeast. The cost of one tun of such beer does not exceed 22 silver groschen, 6 pfenninge, (two shillings and two pence,) consequently the cost of a quart does not amount to a farthing.
The Year-book of facts in science and art, (1845) by John Timbs

I was interested to find in my meanderings that ‘potato beer’ could also mean ‘potato yeast’, so for those of you who  make your own bread, I offer this:

Potato Beer Risings.
I have seen a great many pieces about making good bread, and I have tried a great many ways, and none I like so well as with potato beer.
Take a double handful of potatoes and boil them good and soft, and mash them; put them through a sieve, put a gallon of water through with them, then put it in a stone jar, and after it is cool enough so as not to scald the yeast, add to it a pint of good yeast.  Do this the evening before you want to bake. If it gets too cold through the night, set your jar in a kettle of hot water in the morning, and stir it till it is warm enough to set your rising. Have your flour warm and ready, then take your beer and set the rising, stir it as thick as you can well with an iron spoon or paddle. It will rise in half an hour, or the longest an hour. When you knead it, add to it a quart of warm milk or water, knead it well, and let it rise again, then take it out in loaves, have your oven ready, and bake as usual. B. A. B.
The Ohio cultivator, Volumes 15-16,  (1859) by M. B. Bateham.

Quotation for the Day.
Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food,
For wisdom and guidance, for all these are good,
but don't forget the potatoes.
            John Tyler Pettee, 'Prayer and Potatoes'

2 comments:

Le Loup said...

My Mother used to make a great potatoe wine.
Good post, thank you.
Keith. Armidale NSW.
http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com/

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Le Loup: do you have her recipe? Was it good? have you ever made it yourself?