Mom used to love watching her aunt make 막걸리, but she never formally learned the technique. In particular, she's unsure of how she made the 누룩. Only sweet rice was used; no wheat or beans.
You can buy 누룩 at Korean supermarkets. That's lame. I guarantee you my great-aunt did not buy 누룩 at the supermarket. So the question is, how can we make it from scratch?
누룩 seems to be a combination of yeast and amylase enzymes. The enzymes convert the starch in the rice into sugars. The yeast then eat the sugars, causing fermentation.
How the heck do you make amylase enzymes? More importantly, how the heck did my great-aunt make it? She most likely used barley malt, which is a source of those enzymes. (See "Mashing and Fermentation" for some general information, which led me to this conclusion. Also see "Make your own diastatic malt.")
August 2019, Take 2
August 24, 2019 — ~2pm, mixed enzymes with rice, added water. This time, covering with pot cover and keeping out of sun.
Trying it again. August 12, 2019, soaked and cooked brown sweet rice. Left overnight to cool.
August 13, 2019 — Morning, mixed enzymes with rice, added water. Left in sun. Evening, stirred.
August 14, 2019 — Morning, stirred, tasted. Definitely fermenting faster than the January batch. Again left in sun. Evening, patches of mold formed. Lots more water than the January batch, so mold felt less incorporated. Removed them, stirred, crossing fingers.
Wondering if the difficulty is caused by filtered, but not boiled (and hence potentially contaminated with chloramine) water.
August 15, 2019 — Morning, stirred. Mold free! Evening, stirred, tasted. Mold-free, but sour.
August 16, 2019 — Morning, stirred, tasted. Mold-free, but sour. Bubbling away like crazy. Reminds me of the first time tried making it with Mom with an electric blanket. Think I overdid it with heat, sun. This thread implies that heat leads to sourness. That doesn't mean I can't drink it, though. I'm going to let it ferment for a few more days, then see if it's palatable, especially when mixed with other things. But already thinking about the next batch.
August 18, 2019 — Evening. Still sour, smells a little boozier. Think I'm just going to end it, and try again. (But still drink it!)
August 22, 2019 — Evening. Noticed some carbonation happening.
Started January 12, 2019:
- 1.75 cups rice
- 0.5 cups 누룩
- 4 cups water
- Homegrown rosemary
Made rice. Let cool to room temperature. Mixed with 누룩, rosemary. Put in pot, added half water, mix, then added rest of water. Covered pot with cloth.
Stirred twice a day for the first three days. On fourth day (January 16), stirred and tasted. Slightly sour, not very boozy, but pleasant overall. It’s been cold — in the 50s — and while our heat has been on and have kept the pot near the stove, it’s still probably not ideal fermenting temperature. On the fifth day, was completely overrun with mold. Think it didn't ferment fast enough, which (maybe) would have killed off the bad bacteria faster.
- Sonja Swanson. "The secret history of makgeolli, the Korean alcohol with a yogurt-tart taste." Los Angeles Times (May 1, 2019)
- "South Korea takes a big sip of rice wine." Los Angeles Times (December 2, 2009)
- Fermented cereals. A global perspective. Chapter 3. Lots of great information, including a recipe for 누룩.
- Does anyone have a makkoli recipe?
- How to make beer/wine from rice at home
- How to Make Makgeolli: 막걸리
- Korean Rice Wine
- A Primer on Brewing Makgeolli
- "Carol Pak | Bringing History & Tradition to Millennials Through Makgeolli." November 4, 2019.