This article has now been amended and all the proper steps for producing vodka from potatoes is now included.
We apologize to our readers for the inconvenience.
With each passing decade, it seems we move further away from the simple, self-sustained lives that our ancestors enjoyed. The Industrial Revolution is where it really all began, and since then many traditions have either died out or are practiced by only a dedicated few. Reduced cost of labor, cheaper supplies, and mass production heralded a new age—an age where the convenience store replaced the local market and we increasingly relied on others to cater to our every need. It is not very often that we see those old traditions making a comeback, but when they do, we should fully embrace them. Not only are they part of our history, there are practical and social lessons we can learn that are still very relevant today.
One such tradition that has managed to stand the test of time is the practice of distilling potato vodka. It is not entirely extinct thanks to small distilleries in Russia and Poland keeping the tradition alive over the years. However, recently potato vodka has found its way onto the shelves of major retailers. That aside, potato vodka offers a number of benefits that are not shared by vodkas made from wheat, corn, rice, or other methods. When matching strength for strength, potato vodka contains considerably fewer calories than vodka made from other grains. Since potatoes do not contain gluten, potato vodka is a viable and healthy alternative for those with gluten allergies.
Finally, potatoes are extremely easy to work with. The actual distilling process involves very few tools, tools that anyone who is living off grid should already own. That means making your own potato vodka is only a few short steps away.
Vodka has been shown to have numerous possible health benefits—when consumed in moderation. Although studies are ongoing, the results so far have been extremely promising. Vodka can be used to reduce fevers and flu, improve cardiovascular health, prevent diabetes, and lower high blood pressure. For those who are living off grid, the option of going to a local clinic or hospital for these medical needs just isn’t realistic.
Extra care must be taken to prevent long-term illnesses, rather than trying to treat them with limited resources once they have taken hold. If this sounds good to you, read on.
Do It Yourself – Pressure Cooker Style
To make one liter of potato vodka, you will need the following:
- A pressure cooker
- Distilling kit
- Mesh strainer – the finer, the better
- 2 to 2.5 pounds of potatoes
- Water – spring water or filtered works best
- 1 packet of yeast
First peel and then chop your potatoes into tiny cubes. The smaller you make them, the faster they will cook. Scoop your cubed potatoes into the pressure cooker. Pour the water over the potatoes so they are immersed completely. For best results, add about an inch or so above the entire heap of potatoes.
Cook until your potatoes have liquefied, which will take a little more than an hour. Allow the mixture to cool because you are going to be handling it with your hands in the next step. You don’t want to stop every few seconds to cool your fingers off.
The next step is to strain your potatoes. Ultimately what you are doing is separating solids from the liquids. And the good prepper that you are, you will take your solids and add them to your compost.
Allow your liquefied potatoes to cool to about 150°F, and then add your malt. The natural enzymes in your malt will begin to break down the starch in your potatoes, creating fermentable sugars. Be careful, however, to maintain the temperature, as anything above 150°F will destroy the enzymes. Cook the mix for an additional two hours, ensuring that you stir it often. After two hours is up, allow the liquefied mix to cool to around 80°F (ideally overnight).
Now we need to ferment the liquid. A large vat is ideal for the fermenting stage. Make sure that all equipment used is completely sanitary, as any outside contamination will taint, or even ruin your vodka.
Take a medium sized jug of the liquid mash and add your yeast to it. You want to encourage the initial growth of the yeast, so agitate the mixture vigorously. Now add the yeast culture to the rest of your liquid mash, allowing it to stand still without further agitation. The fermentation process should take around five days. During this time you will observe constant bubbling on top of the fermenting mix. Once the bubbles stop, your liquid mash is ready for distilling.
Make sure that your distilling kit is suitable for producing vodka and other spirits, otherwise follow the instructions in the next step for using a still. To distill your fermented liquid, you will first need to separate the “wash.” Basically, you want to siphon all the liquid off from the yeast sediment. Once done, follow the instructions on your distilling kit in order to produce your potato vodka.
If You Are Using a Still
If you do not have a suitable distilling kit, you can use simple pot stills instead. You can easily make these at home, and this great site has a number of instructions on how to do so. First you need to heat your wash in the still. The idea is that vapor will collect in the cooled part of your still, allowing you to collect the alcohol. Cooking the wash at 173°F is ideal. Take care at this stage—your first distillate will contain methanol—and we only want ethanol and water. Release the distillate and discard the first 50 mLs.
Continue to collect the distilled liquid at a rate of two to three minutes. Distilling your wash slowly will ensure much more pure vodka. The end of your distillate will contain tails or fusels, which also need to be discarded or redistilled with a future batch. You will notice that tails/fusels have a distinct smell that wasn’t present in your previous distillations.
Once you are done it is a good idea to have an alcoholmeter on hand. Distilling vodka can be a tricky process, so you need to make sure you know the vodka’s alcohol percentage before consumption. Between 40 and 50 percent is the acceptable standard. Anything above that should be diluted with water.
Potato vodka is a wonderfully versatile beverage. Having a supply of potato vodka on hand will not only warm your heart on long winter nights, it should keep you fit as well. Now all that is left to do is sit back, put your feet up, and pour yourself a glass.