Thursday, July 7

Apple Pie Moonshine

Recently I read a popular book called "The Wettest County in the World," a 2008 historical novel by Matt Bondurant, an American writer who features his grandfather and two great-uncles as the main characters. (The movie is titled “Lawless”). The book tells of the trio during the Depression and Prohibition in rural Virginia, who made a living bootlegging moonshine.
The book again renewed my interest in the “moonshine culture” and historical events and places surrounding moonshining and stills.

And a few months ago, on one of our adventures off-roading with our ATVs and Polaris Ranger we ran into a group out riding the same trails, (we usually do).
After small talk and introductions, they asked us if we'd like a taste of their homemade Apple Pie Moonshine. I'm a light weight when it comes to booze and usually never venture far away from a glass of wine or a cold beer. And I usually never taste someone else's home brew, I'm just too leery of their process and standards, but that day I took a little sip. It was extremely smooth and yes, tasted just like apple pie!

2 years ago, my husband and I took our Miata on the Moonshiner's 28 route. The route starts from the Tail of the Dragon and twists and turns for 103 miles through 3 states. It was used by moonshiners to avoid police while going across state lines. The route is great for sports cars or motorcycles and has many turns, water falls, lakes and scenic views.

The Moonshiner's 28 Route Map

I decided to look up a recipe and give it a try myself. I have been experimenting with flavored or infused vodkas such as Strawberry Schnapps and Cherry Brandy, to give as gifts and serve at parties so I was pretty sure I could come up with something similar to the drink passed around to us on that dusty dirt trail.

First things first, let me tell you that this really is NOT moonshine. It is an infused grain alcohol (or vodka, depending on what you're using). I'll leave the real moonshining and copper stills to the professionals.

Old photo of a moonshiner's still and revenuers 

Moonshining is Illegal
Liquor-control laws in the United States still prohibits moonshining. The laws that once consisted of a total ban now centers primarily on evasion of revenue taxation or money laundering. It's important to note that it's illegal to distill your own liquor, have possession of illegal alcohol containers, trying to conceal beverages or conspiring to violate beverage laws.

Moonshine 411:
Moonshine dates back to the Scots-Irish who brought the shine making techniques to America with them. And Moonshine wasn't illegal until after the Civil War.

Moonshine was especially important to the Appalachian area. This white whiskey most likely entered the Appalachian region in the late 1700's to early 1800s. Scots-Irish immigrants from the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland brought their recipe for their "uisce beatha," Gaelic for "water of life". The settlers made their whiskey without aging it, and this is the same recipe that became traditional in the Appalachian area.”

One of the most famous moonshiner's was Popcorn Sutton. His obituary was even written up in the Wall Street Journal.
“ A scrawny, long-bearded mountain man with a foul mouth and a passing acquaintance with copper tubing and kettles, Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton seemed the embodiment of moonshiners of yore.
Brought up in rural Cocke County, Tenn., identified as one of four “moonshine capitals of the world” in the corn-whiskey history “Mountain Spirits,” Mr. Sutton learned the family trade from his father. ”

The Moonshine capital of the world is said to be Franklin County, Virginia. It's been notorious for moonshine for at least 100 years and during Prohibition moonshine was so prevalent in Franklin County that 99 out of 100 people in the community were either running shine or helping out in the “shine business” in some way. Even now it's believed that the number of old still sites in the woods of Franklin County is so staggering that you could walk up almost any creek in the county and find the remains of an old moonshine still. During the years of Prohibition, agents destroyed 3900 moonshine stills in Franklin County alone and from 1930 to 1935, 1 million five gallon whiskey cans were sold in the county.

And most everyone knows that NASCAR got it start in the days of Prohibition when moonshiners used their souped up cars to evade police while running moonshine.

A painting showing moonshiners outrunning the cops

Recipe Tips and Suggestions:
  • Use 190 proof grain alcohol or use 100 proof vodka
  • Everclear is the closest to real moonshine but it's not legal to sell in some states
  • This recipe can be cut in half for smaller batches
  • You can use all white sugar if you don't have brown sugar.
  • Do not discard the cinnamon sticks, place one in each mason jar with the moonshine.
  • Use caution! This stuff is smooth and tastes great, but packs a punch!



1 gallon Spiced Apple Cider
1 gallon Apple Juice
1-½ cup Granulated Sugar
1-½ cup Light Brown Sugar
8 whole Cinnamon Sticks
1-liter bottle (or a 750 ml size) 190-Proof Grain Alcohol, Everclear or use vodka


Combine apple cider, apple juice, both sugars and cinnamon sticks in a large stockpot, and bring to a boil.

Remove the mixture from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once the mixture is completely cool, add in the grain alcohol.
Transfer to sterile mason jars (about 8 – 10-quart jars). Divide up the cinnamon sticks so that each jar.

Although the apple pie moonshine is now ready for consumption, it's better if it's allowed to age or mellow for 4 to 8 weeks. I usually let mine age until the end of September or early October.

Checking the Bead
I found this tip on-line:
You can find out how high the alcohol content is in booze by checking the “bead.”
Shake up a bottle and watch how fast the bubbles dissipate. This is known as checking the bead. 
The faster the bubbles dissipate, the higher the alcohol content. The bubbles in 190 proof alcohol are large and will disappear almost instantly, while the bubbles in 80 proof booze are smaller and will take a few seconds to disappear.

This Apple Pie Moonshine can be served heated or chilled. Remember to drink this with caution! For the amount of alcohol in it, you really can’t taste how strong it is; it’s that smooth!
Store the jars in a dark, cool room.

Summer is finally here and I am busy with my vegetable garden and canning. This year many of my fruit trees are producing as are the grape vines. 
The apples are about half grown and will soon be ripe and I can't wait. With apples come thoughts of autumn, apple pies, fall parties and drinks. Apple Pie Moonshine is good anytime of the year but also goes well with fall gatherings. Mix it up and enjoy over ice on a hot summer evening or let it mellow and serve warm once cool crisp fall evenings arrive.


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