Ole has been a bootlegger for years and years. Well, I should clarify that. Ole has made homemade wine for years and years. I'm not a wine drinker, but according to the local folks that have been known to imbibe a time or two at our house, Ole makes some wine that will curl your toenails it's that good (and give you a BIG headache in the morning, too). And he even keeps his socks on when he stomps the grapes! He grows all his own fruit - chokecherries, rhubarb, pears, apples, and grapes.
One fall after Ole retired he was helping out Farmer Neighbor Dave during the sugar beet harvest by driving the beet topper when he noticed that there were these odd red sugar beets growing in the field. Just a fluke of nature I guess is what Farmer Neighbor Dave said when asked about it. Something to do with cross pollinating with a red domestic beet. There. Now you know more about sugar beets than you probably wanted to know (snicker).
Anyway, Ole decided to take enough of these red beets home to make a batch of wine, thinking that the color would be pretty in the final product.
Well, let me tell you about processing sugar beet wine. First, you have to cook the beets to soften them up because they're like rocks when they come out of the field. So Ole set to work slicing and dicing and then set the pot to cooking. I wouldn't let him cook them in my kitchen so he set up shop in the garage and cooked the beets in the turkey fryer. He sat out in the garage cooking and stirring one whole evening to get those beets tender enough to mash up. And you can't imagine the awful smell!! Even though he had both the front and back doors open it still made me gag in the house. Glad I didn't let him cook in the kitchen!!
We only had one German Shepherd at that time. His name was Zeus - this was before the days of Daisy and Beau. His idea of having fun with sugar beets was to pick them out of the bucket, place them at Ole's feet, wait for Ole to toss them and then he'd fetch them back and wait again. That dog was possessed to the point of OCD with fetching things. He would pick up anything he could find and place it at your feet and pester you until you would toss it so he could chase it. When Ole would get tired of playing that game he would put whatever it was away. Then Zeus would find little tiny sticks down to match-stick size and lay them at your feet, then poke you until you would throw it again and again. Unfortunately he met his match with a truck out on the highway one night. He was chasing a rabbit. The rabbit got away but Zeus didn't.
Sorry - I digress. Anyway, the sugar beets got cooked and mashed and fermented and stirred and processed into wine. The smell of them cooking should have been a warning to Ole as to what the outcome was going to be - but obviously it wasn't. So - many months later after the wine had aged and mellowed and whatever else it is that wine does, he invited Farmer Neighbor Dave over to sample the wine being the sugar beets came from his fields.
And - - - -
after all that work and waiting they uncorked the first bottle, took a sniff like good wine connoisseurs do, then put a small amount in their glass, sipped it and immediately spit it out. It tasted like mud!!
Well, what to do with this 5 gallons of wine that had used umpteen pounds of sugar to help in the fermentation process. It couldn't be thrown away - that would be wasting. So - - -
Many years ago a friend of Ole's had given him all this stainless steel equipment - all kinds of pipes and tubes and pots and filters and stuff like that. When it was assembled it just happened to turn into a (whispers with hand over mouth so no one can hear) (shhhhhh - don't tell anyone because it's illegal) a machine that process spirits (a still!!) (Shhhhhhh). Ole had never bothered to assemble this contraption but he and a buddy decided to experiment a bit to see what would happen.
When all was put together properly Ole and his buddy thought they would process the sugar beet wine - out in his shop - under cover of darkness so nobody could see what they were doing. (Doesn't it remind you of moonshiners out in the woods?) This was one very chilly November night so they had all the doors and windows shut in the shop where they were processing. About 9 o'clock that evening I decided to walk out to the shop to see what was going on. Our house is about 300 feet from Ole's shop, but when I stepped out of the garage door all I had to do was take one breath and I knew something was going on that shouldn't be. It was a still night, so I hoped that the odor wouldn't travel out to the highway for passersby to sniff.
Anyway, after an evening of "processing" the pipes and tubes and pots and filters were disassembled (thank heavens) and stored away, hopefully never to be seen again. Now the problem arose as to what to do with this straight hooch. Well, Ole just happened to have some chokecherries laying around doing nothing that needed to be used before they spoiled. The chokecherries were embalmed with the moonshine in a bucket, stirred every day for several weeks then strained. The result was the most beautiful dark red liquid with the most wonderful flavor that packed a punch enough to set you down on your backside the next day. The day of consumption you just think you're drinking a wonderful liqueur that is so tasty and goes down so smoothly that there couldn't possibly be anything dangerous about it.
WRONG!! I just won't tell you about all the people that have been caught off guard (snicker).
So that's the story of how Ole made his chokecherry juice from sugar beet wine.
(Just remember - mum's the word, okay?)