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04 May 2008

Brewing Chicha - El Día Noveno

Today's bustle of chicha related activity adequately made up for yesterday's lack. This morning I went to the house of Natalya Lowther, the owner of Pinwheel Farm out in north Lawrence, to grind my corn. First I had to work on the mill a bit to get it taken apart and cleaned, but it wasn't too much trouble. After that I ground the corn, starting with a coarse setting which Natalya sifted and then I ran the coarse flour through again on a finer setting. It went well, and we had a nice conversation while we worked. At the end of the milling we tasted a little of the resulting flour and were quite pleasantly surprised at how sweet it was! When civilization comes to an end and there is no more cheap sugar coming in this process will definitely be useful for supplying our desire for sweet stuff.
I helped clean up and then brought the corn flour back home for the rest of the process. I started the mash by pouring the flour into my big pot, and covering it with warm water. I then heated it up until it reached around 160 degrees Fahrenheit, took it off the stove and wrapped it in a towel to hold in the heat. I let it set for two hours while I worked on my ethnobotany paper and then strained it. I started out trying to strain it through the cloth, but that wasn't working so well because there was just too much stuff and it was going too slow. So instead I strained it through a regular strainer, dumped the remains (hanchi) back in the pot and mashed it again. When this was done I strained it again mixing the two batches together, and then I strained the liquid through the cloth.
When this was done it was ready for boiling. Here I added a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon for flavor and a glob of organic dark brown sugar (which smelled like rich molasses). With everything mixed in I began to boil - I let it boil for about 3 hours, replacing the water as it boiled down. Now it's sitting in the kitchen cooling off.
Tomorrow, after classes, I'm going to go searching for something to ferment the chicha in. When I get back I'll pour it in to whatever I find and let the yeast at it. The liquid I have right now is very sweet, so it should be a great substrate for the yeast. In a few days the whole process will be finished, and I'll have some homemade chicha to share with my friends.

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