In the southern United States, moonshine is more than a homemade alcoholic drink—for the distillers and crafters that produce the sweet substance, it’s a way of life.
Moonshine became popular in the mid-South and Appalachian regions thanks to the convergence of several factors, including the passage of Prohibition in the 1930s, omnipresent regional poverty and agreements between law enforcement officials and distillers.
Many producers are moonshine purists who believe that only corn mash and other grain spirits are worth their time, but for home brewers who have slightly more ambitious tastes, moonshines flavored with peach, apple, and raspberry are having a moment.
If you want to learn how to make a wide range of flavored moonshine, check out this great article.
But if you want to learn how to make peach moonshine at home, there are a million different theories.
Let's explore a few methods rapidly gaining popularity in the community.
Using rectified spirits in your moonshine
The recipe that you use to make moonshine depends on whether you are a novice or an advanced distiller.
Novice producers often begin by using a type of alcohol called Everclear rather than distilling their own alcohol. Everclear is known as a rectified spirit because it is a highly concentrated ethanol spirit that has been purified through a repeated distillation technique called rectification.
Rectified spirits are usually 190 proof, or 95% alcohol by volume, so be very careful when mixing drinks with them!
Peach moonshine for beginners
An extremely common recipe for peach moonshine or peach pie moonshine involves the following equipment and ingredients:
- A large stockpot or heatable container
- 2 cans of sliced peaches in heavy syrup
- 2 64-ounce bottles of white grape peach juice
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon for flavor
- A normal 750-milliliter bottle of Everclear
Simply mix all of the ingredients except for the Everclear into the stockpot, bring the solution to a boil and stir vigorously for 5-7 minutes.
Remove the piping hot solution from the heat source and cover it; wait until the solution is completely cool and then drain the Everclear bottle into the stockpot while stirring.
When the mixture has been amply stirred, pour the contents of the stockpot into mason jars and store the jars in a cool, dark place (like a basement) to allow the moonshine to develop flavor.
This storage step is the most important part of the process. Some "shiners" allow two weeks for flavor development, but some allow the mixture to sit for up to a year.
Variations to the beginner recipe
Obviously, there is no nationwide agreement on how to make peach moonshine. Ingredient substitutions are quite common, and a large part of becoming a moonshiner is experimenting with different combinations and seeing which works for you (and your taste buds!)
In the above recipe, you can try removing one of the bottles of white grape peach juice and replacing it with a cup of peach schnapps (homemade peach schnapps, if you dare!). In this case, it might also help to add a quarter cup of brown sugar and about a cup of white granulated sugar in order to duplicate the sugar content of the missing bottle of juice.
Other recipes also suggest letting the boiled mixture simmer for an hour or two to allow the ingredients to properly combine.
The beauty of learning how to make peach moonshine at home is that there are no firm rules. Every step of the process is subject to variation and adjustment as you gain more experience.
More advanced recipes involving personal distillation
Recipes that involve personal distillation are often prefaced by disclaimers, for one simple reason: it is illegal to distill your own alcohol unless you have a fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit from the government.
Despite this, thousands if not tens of thousands of home brewers circumvent the law every day to brew delicious homemade moonshine made with similarly homemade spirits. Distilling your own alcohol takes more time, more effort, and more expensive supplies, including a fermenter, usually either conical or plastic, and a liquid thermometer.
The easiest method used to make homemade, unflavored moonshine mash is the combination of water and granulated white sugar, typically in a ratio of about 5 gallons of water to 8 gallons of sugar.
In a large 5-10 gallon tank, heat 2 gallons of water without boiling it.
Pour in the sugar a few gallons at a time, stirring vigorously until it is completely dissolved before pouring the next few gallons.
After all of the sugar has been dissolved, pour the mixture into a fermenter and add the reserved 3 gallons of water.
Cool the mixture down to about room temperature, then add in yeast.
Aerate the mixture by pouring it between two buckets a few times, and then leave it to ferment for about a week.
The ideal fermentation temperature is actually room temperature, or about 73 degrees, so make sure your storage room isn't too cold!
After the mixture is ready, the easiest way to add peach flavoring is to simply cut up fresh peaches and insert them into the finished moonshine.
Let the concoction sit for a few weeks and it will be properly flavored for consumption.
The original American moonshiners mashed and fermented corn into alcohol, so corn mash recipes have an important place in "shiner" lore. Unfortunately, these recipes are also the most complicated and difficult recipes to properly execute and they often do not take well to external flavoring.
Producers of peach moonshine may want to shy away from attempting traditional corn mash techniques, but curious distillers should head over to the Clawhammer Supply distillation equipment page for a detailed discussion of various corn mash recipes.
Moonshine as liquid improvisation
Although there are a series of important steps in moonshine manufacture, once you're able to get the basics down, you have a lot of wiggle room in these recipes.
Learning how to make peach moonshine at home is a lifelong pursuit: from beginner recipes involving Everclear to personal distillation with sugar or even corn mash, the methods for making peach moonshine are as varied as the fantastic flavors that you'll taste when the batch is done.
Featured image: Chris Herbert