Thursday, July 13, 2006
Our Slightly Buzzed Century Plant
The century plant (maguey) is an interesting plant. It grows like a weed on the Island, which is why we have a huge one in front of our house. Also called a century plant, one day it will make a shoot, flower, and die. Indeed, it is considered a sacred plant in Meso-America. Its traditional uses were so making fiber and Pulque, a fermented drink.
I was going to entitle this post “How to make homebrew tequila.” Actually, tequila can only be made from the blue agave, ‘Agave Tequilana.’ Well, they don’t grow here, so let’s get over it. However, we can experiment with making fake Mezcal, which could be just as fun.
DISCLAIMER: folks in Texas are allowed to make something like 40 gallons of beer a year for personal consumption (hah, most of us make hundreds!) but distilled spirits are a definite no-no. So I’ll get you as far as a Pulque-like beer and leave it to your imagination as to the distilling part.
Using the Internet I found no single recipe, since some called for draining the flower shoot (Pulque) or using the plant stripped of its leaves (Mezcal). Heck man, we’ll try both. How on Earth you drain the flower stalk could be quite an experiment, but the idea would be to put a hole in the stalk and collect the juice in a glass jug or something. One has to be careful though, since plants are large and the leaves are armed with spikes – the Jaws of Death if you will. I’d probably save this juice in a sterile container in the refrigerator … until after he next step.
Working on the plant pulp itself sounds like quite an ordeal. First you have to cut off all the leaves with a very sharp, large knife. Then you cut the plant off at ground level, leaving a large pineapple thingy, fittingly called a pińa. This must be baked or roasted several days to draw out the sugars, rested for a week, and then crushed into a mash. I’m thinking of a beach fire and maybe using a big hole in the ground for the baking job.
So now we have some flower juice and mash, which we can add together because we really don’t know what we’re doing here! Anyway, I would put on my beer-making hat and get out the ole 5-gallon stainless pot and add the mash, some nice malt barley, and some hops just because I’m weird. Boil for and hour, cool down fast, and add some really kick-ass yeast, maybe a Belgian Abbey, maybe something champagne (you want +11% alcohol, right?). The “natural” way is to let the local wild yeast do the job but nobody really believes that hooey anymore.
To save on having a whole book here, you ferment, watching for small uncontrolled explosions, and then decant into a glass carboy (water bottle) for at least a week, and then bottle or keg for several more weeks. No telling what we’ll have here, buddy! Sam’s ‘SPI Daze” Beer?
I let you know how it goes …