Monday, January 25, 2010

Food Ethnography on a Budget: Tanzania II: Pombe Ya N'Dizi

After a very busy few weeks, I was able to return to my Tanzanian banana recipe project. True, Tanzanians don't put bananas or plantains in everything. That said, Dorinda Hafner, author of A Taste of Africa, puts it right out there in regards to the cuisine of Tanzania: "You can make an entire meal out of bananas!" That includes appetizers, entrées, side dishes, soups, desserts and beverages. The beverage she offers: banana wine.

Yes, I am currently making wine out of bananas.

To get another perspective on winemaking, I looked up "banana wine" elsewhere on the internet, and got hit in the face with a lot of items specific to homemade winemaking, including Campden tablets, wine nutrients and special "wine yeast." Hafner mentions none of these things - there is yeast, as you will see, but it is simply spread on toast. So honestly, I don't know if this recipe is going to work. And I won't know this for a while. You see, the entire process takes at least three months, though Hafner recommends six in order to get a more flavorful wine. And I'm doing it the way Hafner recommends, which worked for her.

The beverage: Pombe Ya N'Dizi (Banana Wine)

That measuring cup full of water? You'll need five more of those.

For this project, I had already bought most of the ingredients for the previous project. This includes several unripe bananas. But this project calls for the opposite: very ripe bananas (no standard, plain old "ripe" bananas for me). So really, I had to wait a while to start on this wine after I made the N'Dizi Ya Na Nyama. In addition to the seven thinly sliced overripe bananas, I needed a few other things:
  • about 6 liters of water (right out of the tap)
  • one slice of soft toast (just a piece of white bread I snagged at the parents' house - I actually don't have any white bread, which is strange)
  • one cake of fresh yeast (not active dried - you need it to spread on the toast - this you can find at Giant for about $1.50)
  • 4 lb sugar (one bag was about $2.50)
In addition, I needed a fairly large container in which to hold the wine. Since I don't have amphorae or wine barrels just laying around, I needed to buy this new. The 2.5 gallon air-tight jar I got at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $20 was easily the most expensive item I have put out for this or any Food Ethnography project thus far. On the plus side, I can use the jar for other things when the wine is finished. I also needed a piece of muslin to stretch over the opening for the first week. Jo-Ann Fabrics is currently selling cheap muslin for $2 per yard. I don't need to strain the wine with it, just cover it. This is also the first time I have gone to a fabric store to get something for a recipe.

The procedure that Hafner lays out is roughly as follows. First, boil the water. I used my crab pot to do this - too big is better than too little for these sorts of projects. After a good long while, the water will have started to boil. Thinly slice the bananas and add them to the water, boiling them for 20 minutes.

A beautiful bunch o' sliced banana!

Strain into a large vessel, add the sugar, and allow to cool. I let mine sit overnight.

THIS was a pain in the ass.

The cold January moon...
Saw everything...

Once cool, cut the toast into four equal strips, and spread 1/4 of the yeast cake over the front and back of each strip of toast. Drop the yeasty toast strips (mmmm, yeasty toast strips) into the banana-sugar solution, cover with muslin and let sit for a week.

It places the yeast on the bread or else it gets the knife.

It's been two days since I did this. For now, it sits and waits. But just two days later, it looks really frightening. I love kitchen science!

Pombe Ya N'Dizi: Day 1...

...and Day 2

Really, this is all I have to report on the banana wine project for now. The wine gets strained next week, at which point it gets to sit in an air-tight container for another week before being strained again and left to sit for three more weeks, then left to sit for a month before being strained for the fourth and final time. It then can be bottled and corked until at least three months are up.

So that's it for now. Check back in for the weekly "Pombe Ya N'Dizi" report.

UPDATE JULY 25, 2010 - The wine is done! Read about it in this final update post.


theminx said...

You're a brave man if you drink that!

Nanc Twop said...

I second that...

btw - didja you notice this little article about Maryland seniors trying to 'Top Chef' some new treats?

If your banana wine works out, you could share that with them.

*but maybe they'd need a prune version? ;-)

John said...

I'll drink it. I just can't promise that I'll finish it.