Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Families Came with Home Brew Recipe

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Families Came with Home Brew Recipe

Article excerpt

In the years following the Civil War, families drifted down from

the mountains and rural areas of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee

to make new homes in Clay County. They came as prepared as they

were able. Most arrived by wagons and carts piled high with

household furnishings, trailing precious livestock and with

generations of experience and the family "recipe" for home brew.

Homemade liquor was simply a part of life, like planting or

churning or slaughtering hogs. It was a natural way of using all

resources carefully because survival often hung by a thread. The

skimmings from processing sugarcane or making jelly or jam were

processed into whiskey. Some claimed to use it only as a home

remedy because the dangers of abuse were clearly known.

Public consumption was tolerated only for men, but any

quick-witted youth knew that the worst trouble he could find

would result from messing in his grandmother's wine.

The rural lifestyle never produced cash money to speak of. They

ate what they grew or hunted. Any small cash produced from

selling crops went back into seed for the next year or to pay

for more land or to settle up charges for staples from the year

before. Taxes had to be paid with legal tender, not barter or


So, selling a little 'shine on the side was seen as a smart

move -- another way to survive.

Many families kept a little still going close enough to the

house to be tended and prided themselves on the quality of their

product. Good 'shine, it is claimed, is 100 to 105 proof and

doesn't result in hangovers or cause knee-walking in the wet

grass like the official bonded whiskey.

The bubbles tell the story, so they say. When you gently shake

moonshine in a clear Mason jar, if it's 100 proof or better

small uniform bubbles will form in clusters, move to the center,

connect and hold their shape a moment.

The best 'shine was aged in oak barrels (probably hauled from

the mountains on those wagons), brought more money and was the

drink of choice among professional men. It was especially sought

by the Northern powers of industry who vacationed in the area. …

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