Cooking 101 – Brewing Fuzhou Hong Zhao 福州红酒

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One of my self-appointed projects during the few years of being an empty nester was to learn how to make Fuzhou Hong Zhao 福州红酒. This brew is fundamental to a dish called Hong Zhao Ji  红糟鸡 .

Hong Zhao Ji 红糟鸡… what was served to me certainly more than tickled my taste buds! Friends had commented that it was not easy to brew Hong Zhao. A good challenge for me especially since I do have a passion to keep some Chinese traditions alive.

I found a recipe on the internet almost 3 years ago and my first attempt was successful. The red wine and wine lees were used during my daughter’s first confinement and I kept a bottle of that red wine refrigerated for 2 years till her recent confinement. The recipe which I am sharing below has been slightly adapted from another blog recipe. Thrice the amount of red rice yeast is used and I prefer the taste of this recipe.

Nothing like success to spur me to continue this indulgence of home boot legging!

Some Comments about Ingredients and Utensils

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  • Jiu Piah, 酒曲/酒饼. These are special yeast discs for making wine. Brewer’s yeast is not a suitable substitute. These discs are a blend of the fungus (Aspergillus Oryzae) and yeast. The fungus produces an important enzyme for a healthy gut and good digestion.
  • Red Rice Yeast 红麯米 (Monascus Pupureus;  also known locally as Ang kak). Traditionally used for medicinal purposes in China and has been touted to have chemical compositions that lower cholesterol.

They can be purchased from Chinese groceries in the West and local Chinese medical shops.

  • Glass Jar and utensils. To ensure success, all these must be very clean and dry. For this recipe, a large glass jar is needed. Use 2 jars if you can find one large enough. I like to darken my jar with a cover from a new garbage bag so that it can sit anywhere cool in my sunny tropical home.

Preparation

Glass Bottle, and all utensils. 

Wash thoroughly to sanitize the glass bottle and all utensils. Dry with a fresh, clean towel. Cleanliness cannot be over-emphasized. The fermentation process of this rice yeast in warmth and humidity must be as sterile as possible. Contamination easily arises. In addition I use a plastic clean garbage bag (for its dark colour) to cover the bottle. Mark the date when you started fermentation on the bottle.

Glutinous Rice. .

1.Wash rice twice or thrice. Place in bowl and cover with water by at least 3 cm. Soak overnight (or for at least 6 hours in warm climate) to make sure it is fully soaked. Test by pressing one grain of rice between your fingers. It is easily broken, the rice is ready for steaming.

2. Using your 2 layer steamer (whichever type you possess or a wok and large metal plate), pour 2 cups of water into the lower layer of steamer. Line the 2nd layer with a large piece of cloth/tea towel. Cover steamer and bring water to rolling boil.

3. Drain soaked rice by tipping away all the water. No need to use a colander. It is fine if there is some water left behind. Scoop the soaked rice onto the cloth in the steamer. Cover and steam for 20 mins. Check by taking a few rice grains and pressing them to make sure they are soft (not mushy). If rice grains are still firm and looks dry, sprinkle another 1/2 cup or so of tap water all over the hot rice and steam for another 10 mins or so. Cooked rice should not be mushy.

4. COOL this rice completely before proceeding to brewing the wine. To help shorten the time, spread rice out and place it under the fan.

HINT: If you prefer to use your rice cooker to cook this rice, please follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully. I don’t possess a large capacity rice cooker.

Water.

Boil and cool the required amount of water or use distilled water.

SUBSEQUENTLY ( about a month later) Muslin cloth and a colander, other glass receptacles for storing wine and the wine lees.

All these items must be thoroughly cleaned and dry. After a month of fermentation, the wine will be ready for distilling into the red rice wine and wine lees.

Brewing the Hong Zhao

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STEP 1. Using a blender or mortar and pestle (cleanliness is emphasized again), grind the jiu piah and the red rice yeast and combine them in a bowl. Mix well to make a red powder.

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STEP 2.  Wear a plastic glove on your hand and form each tablespoon of cooled steamed rice into a loose lump. Continue making loose lumps till all the cooled rice has been used up.

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STEP 3. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the red powder into the base of the prepared glass jar to form a base layer. Then roll each loosely formed lump of rice in the red powder. Coat as thickly as possible. Build layers of these coated rice lumps in the glass bottle. Once coated rice balls are in the glass jar, sprinkle the remaining red powder over the top.

HINT. After 2 to 3 layers, roughly eye ball how much red powder is left to coat the rest of the rice lumps. If there is plenty, sprinkle some in between the layers. This is to ensure even distribution in the jar.

4. Pour cooled, boiled water ( or distilled water) into the filled glass jar. Cover jar the inner plastic cap that comes with the jar but leave the small flip top cap open. Place the outer cover ajar over the plastic cap. The fermentation process has begun. Move glass jar to a cool dry place.

5. Within 24 to 48 hours into the fermentation process, the red rice slowly floats upwards whilst a red liquid starts to collect below. This process occurs over a few days. At this stage, it is important to stir the mixture daily avoid overflowing.  Once the mixture stabilizes, the red rice will slowly sink back to the bottom of jar. You will detect the sweet wine fragrance.

6. The entire fermentation process will take approximately 20 to 30 days. Environmental temperature plays a big part in this.

7. Filtering the wine 红酒 from the wine lees 红糟. Ensure that your bottles have been sanitized and are ready. Use a strong clean white cloth in a colander to do so. Patience is needed. You might want to use a spatula to press out the wine. Fill your bottles.

RECIPE

Adapted from a blog recipe.

Ingredients
1.5 kg glutinous rice
2  wine biscuits
1 litre cooled boiled water
300 gm red rice bran

Brewing

1. Using a blender or mortar and pestle (cleanliness is emphasized again), grind the jiu piah and the red rice yeast and combine them in a bowl. Mix well to evenly combine both.

2. Wear a plastic glove on your hand and form each tablespoon of cooled steamed rice into a loose lump. Continue making loose lumps till all the cooled rice has been used up.

3. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the red powder into the base of the prepared glass jar to form a base layer. Then, roll each loosely formed lump of rice in the red powder. Coat as thickly as possible. Build layers of these coated rice lumps in the glass bottle. Once coated rice balls are in the glass jar, sprinkle all the red powder over the top.

HINT. After 2 to 3 layers, roughly eye ball how much red powder is left to coat the rest of the rice lumps. If there is plenty, sprinkle some in between the layers. This is to ensure even distribution in the jar.

4. Pour cooled, boiled water (or distilled water)  into the filled glass jar. Cover jar the inner plastic cap that comes with the jar but leave the small flip top cap open. Place the outer cover ajar over the plastic cap. The fermentation process has begun. Move glass jar to a cool dry place.

5. Within 24 to 48 hours into the fermentation process, the red rice slowly floats upwards whilst a red liquid starts to collect below. This process occurs over a few days. At this stage, it is important to stir the mixture daily avoid overflowing.  Once the mixture stabilizes, the red rice will slowly sink back to the bottom of jar. You will detect the sweet wine fragrance.

HINT. You will notice some water vapour fro the fermentation process. The author of the blog also advised that it is normal to see some mould on the top of the rice during the early 2 day stage and his solution was “Stir the mixture if you see this as alcohol will kill the mouldy substance off and hence making it negligible”. I did see some mould but I dug the affected parts out plus some.

However, his note of caution was ” if mouldy substance is seen floating on the Ang Chew, it is a goner”

6. The entire fermentation process will take approximately 20 to 30 days. Environmental temperature plays a big part in this.

7. Filtering the wine 红酒 from the wine lees 红糟. Ensure that your bottles have been sanitized and are ready. Use a strong clean white cloth in a colander to do so. Patience is needed. You might want to use a spatula to press out the wine. Fill your bottles.

My next post will be a recipe that uses The wine lees and the red wine.

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