Photo: PBS America’s Heartland
Usually associated with Japanese cuisine, the rice wine beverage known as sake has gained popularity around the country as Japanese and Asian fusion eateries have become more prevalent.Sake is fermented, mixed with a sugar-like starch and water, to create a hard-hitting beverage that is normally between 15 and 20 per cent alcohol by volume.
Many American rice fields a part of their crops to sake, like one in California that was profiled by the PBS program “America’s Heartland.” The show took its viewers through the process of producing sake, which we broke down for you here.
Rice is grown on over 500,000 acres of California farmland each year for numerous uses. This farm is located near Sacramento.
The variety of rice grown here is called Calrose rice. When the rice starts to hang limp like this, you know they're ready to be harvested.
The rice is then placed in this sophisticated milling machine, where only the good parts of the rice will remain.
Then this fancy contraption distributes the rice into individual packages and sends it around the world for commercial use.
Some of these enormous rice bags will be used for sushi rice, but 12 per cent of California's rice is used for beer and sake.
Takara uses fresh water from a nearby source to mix with its rice and other ingredients to make the perfect sake.
The rice goes through one more large processor before being mixed with that fresh water that turns it into liquid form.
The rice now has a paste-like texture as it goes into this huge tank, where it will go through the final mixing process.
The water and other ingredients are added in, the tank is closed up and the fermentation process begins.
This may look like a bubble bath, but it's actually the sake mixture. It's left overnight to sit so that the flavours naturally merge together. Depending on the producer, some sake ferments for much longer.
After the overnight process, the sake is bottled and is ready for consumption in your favourite store, bar or restaurant.
Cheers! Bottoms up! Salud! L'Chaim! Whatever you'd like to call it, this was how sake was made to be enjoyed around the world.
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