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I love the smell of fermenting mash in the morning...

I was in the middle of pouring some sugar into my freshly cleaned carboy when Angus walked in.

“That’s disgusting!”

This from the kid who downs shots of sugar packets whenever we go out to eat.

Admittedly, it was 15 pounds of sugar.

Twent-four hours later and the brew in the carboy is a gorgeous murky bubbling, roiling mass of fermenting muddy goodness. Somthing called a sugar wash, as opposed to a potato mash--a choice I've made since it isn't potato season yet. I stick my nose next to the airlock--just to make sure… Ahhh, sweet fermenting nectar. The smell of the gods!

“Dad!” I jump back, nearly knocking over the giant glass jar and all its precious contents. “What are you doing?” Helen’s sneaked into the kitchen and is giving me that teenage glare of reproach.

“Will you pose with it?” I ask, choosing to misinterpret her obvious disapproval as intense but concerned interest. “You can even look at it skeptically--if you want to do a little pretending, that is.”

“I don’t think so.”

“It’s pretty cool, though, isn’t it?” I persist.

“Definitely,” she responds. Genuinely, I think. She is, after all, my Robin-Hood-in-Food. “How much will it make?”

“About two gallons if all goes right. Pretty fricking (note to self: really, really need to stop using that word so much) amazing, huh?”

“Yeah, Dad… But what’s it all for? What are you going to do with that much vodka, assuming it works, that is?”

I haven’t actually thought that part through but respond anyway: “”We need it to make that vodka-tomato sauce we like so much.”

She flashes a “and what else?” look.

“Well, it doesn’t go bad… It’s for the pantry, you know… Part of my Pantry Project?… Anyway, we can give it away as Christmas presents!”

As long as it isn’t poisonous.

The drawback to moonshine, besides the fact that it's illegal and why this is a fictional account, is that it does produce methanol in the initial stage of production (because methanol has a lower evaporation point than the booze). Methanol is the "wood alcohol" of distilling yore that most of us have heard about and it’s no laughing matter. If consumed, it attacks the optic nerves, causing irreparable blindness. Although a sugar-wash vodka supposedly does not produce significant amounts of methanol, the solution is simple and should be followed to get rid of impurities no matter what the mash: You just have to remember not to get greedy and drink the first cup. Instead, toss it out or, if you're really ambitious, you could try making anti-freeze and even fingernail polish remover with it since there's some acetone in there as well.

More on this, our bacon, how great our salt is, the chicken feet, etc. later...

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