Make your moonshine the old-fashioned way with this recipe for Popcorn Sutton Moonshine.
Moonshining is a pastime with deep roots in American history. While it has recently become a trendy new hobby for many to make their own spirits, for many growing up it was their way of life and means of making a living.
One of the most infamous moonshiners of the recent past is Marvin ‘Popcorn’ Sutton. This legendary moonshiner was born in 1946 into a long line of moonshiners. For more information on Sutton, click here.
Sutton made his living by making whiskey using a 100 year old family recipe and selling it out of the back of his Ford Model A truck.
He rose to fame later in life by inking his own autobiographical guide to making moonshine "Me and My Likker", as well as starring in self-produced instructional home videos.
He also became the subject of many documentaries, one that actually went on to win a regional Emmy.
Moonshine was his way of Life
Popcorn Sutton was a big believer that since he came from a long line of moonshiners and it was his way of life, he should not be persecuted for it. Unfortunately this became his downfall.
Sutton had many run-ins with the law but never served time. However, this all changed when according to the New York Times, Sutton told an undercover federal officer that he had 500 gallons of moonshine in Tennessee and another 400 gallons in Maggie Valley that he was ready to sell.
This led to a raid on Sutton’s property and Sutton was convicted of offences related to producing and distributing moonshine as well as illegally possessing a firearm. He was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
Sutton never ended up serving any time as he committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on March 16, 2009. Sutton was reportedly suffering with cancer at the time of his death. He had pleaded with the judge for leniency but due to the fact that Sutton had actually been convicted of several offences related to moonshining over the years and never served any time, he was denied.
The Advantage of Copper
Popcorn Sutton came from a long line of moonshiners. One of the things he was the most passionate about was using copper stills to distill his moonshine. Sutton knew that using a copper still produced the best tasting moonshine.
Both stainless steel and copper are good materials for conducting heat. This is important as evenly conducting heat creates a more uniform distillation. However, on a molecular level, copper is able to cancel out the sulfur created by the yeast. This is because the sulfur formed by the yeast will bind to the copper and form hydrogen-sulfide which in turn, forms copper sulfate. This sticks to the side of the still and is washed down the drain after your moonshine is distilled, rather than into the moonshine itself. The copper can essentially remove the sulfur taste from your final product.
The Right Equipment for Moonshining
At How to Moonshine we offer the Copper Top All-in-One Still Kit. This hand soldered kit is the perfect piece of equipment for both new and experienced moonshiners.
This still combines the affordability and durability of stainless steel with a copper coil. Many 'shiners insist on copper stills for many good reasons. However, a pure copper still can be expensive and difficult to clean.
Popcorn Sutton insisted on copper in his stills because he recognized that copper is an ideal material for stills as it has an exceptional ability to conduct heat, reduce sulfur, and is exceptionally resistant to corrosion. The ability for copper to reduce the presence of sulfur is one of the top reasons so many shiners insist on copper stills.
This copper still is a perfect choice for producing quality whiskey as well as brandy, gin, rum and vodka. You can taste the difference in quality when you use a copper still. Popcorn Sutton knew this. That is why he only used a copper still to produce his family’s 100 year old recipe.
For a full guide on all the steps for "How to Make Moonshine" click here.
Popcorn Sutton Moonshine
While Popcorn Sutton Moonshine is not available on the market, you are still able to make your own moonshine using Popcorn Sutton’s 100 year-old recipe.
5 lbs of Sugar
4 gallons distilled water
2 1/2 lbs of coarse ground white cornmeal
1 small packet yeast (preferably Distiller's Yeast)
1 gallon of malt (rye, corn or barley)
Add 1 gallon of water to the pot and bring it to boil.
Add cornmeal cook at 165 °F. Don't forget to stir occasionally.
Remove the heat and let the cornmeal cool down to 150, °F.
Once cooled to 150 °F, add the remaining water, then mix in the sugar and ground malt.
Let it cool to under 90 °F.
Transfer mixture into the fermenter and then add yeast.
If you want to do an open-air fermentation, cover the fermentation bucket with an unbleached cheesecloth. If you want to do a regular fermentation, place the airtight lids on the bucket and insert the airlock.
Let the mash ferment completely for about a week until no visible activity can be detected.
Strain the mash using the cheesecloth to remove any solids that can burn during the distillation process.
Distill the wash as normal.
Should you allow your Mash to Ferment in the Open Air?
Popcorn Sutton was a big believer in leaving his mash to ferment in the open air. While this is definitely an option if you want to go for authenticity, it also leaves your mash vulnerable to bacterial contamination. We suggest a happy middle ground of an open-air ferment with an unbleached cheesecloth to prevent any contamination. Of course, you can also stick with using an airtight lid and an air lock to prevent any chance your mash could become spoiled.