ASM September 2020 Issue
Welcome to the September 2020 issue of ASM Newsletter. In this issue, learn about how our rice field is doing, summer sake production challenges, and Tsukimi festival traditions.
*First 4 pictures are from July-August and last 2 are from September.
Well, it is the month rice plants are starting to look a bit tired, like me, yet looks resilient and determined enough to make sure to put fruits on their plant stocks; the clusters of pods (or kernels) filling with rice seeds. The heading – also called panicle initiation - was observed in late July and flowering started early August. From there on, soft milky liquid of protein and starch mix starts to firm up, and eventually hardens enough to become “rice grain”. Today, it is about 60-70% filled and will continue to mature well into September and possibly early October. The temperature – “heat” from the sun that is – matters very much especially in this stage for the healthy rice plant development because if temperature drops below 14 degrees Celsius, not only filling rate suffers but also hardening process delays especially if the temperature drastically drops due to rain which could resulting in catching a handful of diseases.
Let us keep the warm weather through to the end of the month and look forward to a good harvest in October!
We generally do not start a new batch in July and August as the ambient temperature sores to high 20’s or even mid-30’s like it did briefly this year. The reason for this is that it becomes more challenging to control the speed of fermentation during these months. Of course we are equipped with a temperature control mechanism to cool down or raise temperature of moromi (fermenting rice mash), but maintaining (or sometimes altering) the balance of saccharification (enzyme developing sugar) and fermentation could become off-balance and therefore could end up with lower than expected alcohol level and/or comes out too dry or too sweet. Below is extracts from google search for “Saccharification and Fermentation” and “Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation”. In Sake making, these two separate processes take place simultaneously and in the same fermentation vessel. It is called “Multiple-Parallel Fermentation” and this is the reason why Sake making is considered more challenging than other liquor productions.
1. Saccharification: Extracting fermentable sugars from grains are critical to the success of yeast fermentation, and production of alcohol could not occur without the work of amylase enzymes to break down starch into simple sugars that are usable by yeast.
2. Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation: is a process that combines enzymatic hydrolysis with fermentation to obtain value-added products in a single step.
We pressed batch #117 on August 25th, and it came out pretty good! The pressed ‘Genshu’ - sake originaire - will go through settling and maturing process for the period of three to four weeks, and then bottled. The bottling is scheduled in mid-September.
*Images from Google
Tsukimi: Moon Festival in Japan
As summer weather starts to end and leaves turn brown, it is time for Tsukimi season-or Harvest Moon festival. Learn more about this traditional custom of Japanese moon-viewing festival.
Tsukimi or Otsukimi (honorific) directly translates to Moon viewing and is held on Jyuugoya, fifteenth night of the eight month of the lunar calendar. This festival is also referred as Mid-Autumn festival. This year, the date falls on October 1st, 2020 and it is said to be the best night in the year for full moon viewing. It is a festival to give thanks and celebrate the seasonal beauty as well as wishing for anther prosperous year.
The tradition originated from china during 618-907 and spread to Japan through aristocrats. Throughout Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1185) periods, moon festival was celebrated with music and poetry among aristocrats. It had become a popular festive among commoners by Edo period (1603-1868). By then, farmers took it as harvest festival and showing appreciation to the nature by displaying seasonal harvest to the moon as an offering. In present day, tsukimi is celebrated in a rather solemn ways. It is the time to reflect, appreciate, and pray for continuous health and safety. Instead of the “man in the moon” known in the west, rabbits pounding mochi is more common in Japan. This may come from the Buddhist tale or play on words-Mochizuki, which means “full moon”, but also sounds like the word for mochi pounding! Next time you see a full moon, seek for the shape of rabbit pounding mochi (rice cakes) with a wooden mallet and mortar!
Tsukimi Dangos (plain rice dumplings) are stacked and displayed in altar as an offering to the moon. Often people would stack 15 dumplings to represent the fifteenth night of the month or 12 to represent the months in a year. The prefect round shape that mimics full moon is considered auspicious and it is believed to bring good health and happiness when one consumes it at the end of the celebration.
Seasonal harvest such as chestnut, taro, soy, kabocha pumpkins, persimmons, and pears are also associated with tsukimi and are displayed as an offering to the moon and for enjoyment afterwards.
In addition, 5-10 plumes of susuki (pampas grass) are displayed in one’s home or near where the moon viewing takes place-often in verandas. Pampas grass represents the bountiful harvest of rice plants-they look similar don’t they??
Furthermore some restaurants in Japan would serve up dishes with a raw egg or over-easy egg on top. Perfectly round egg yolk resembles the full moon. Commonly, it is seen in tsukimi udon, tsukimi soba, and tsukimi burgers. Often times, big chain companies like McDonalds would have tsukimi burger lineup of multiple burgers for you to choose from!