Before the Internet, if you were a city boy and you wanted to learn how to make moonshine, you went down to the library and checked out The Foxfire Book. In the late 60’s, in the mountains of North Georgia, a high school English teacher and his students produced a magazine as a class project. They interviewed their relatives about the old mountain ways of living. Attempting to preserve the mountain culture that was quickly disappearing, they wrote about topics such as log cabin building, curing meat, planting by the signs, and soapmaking. They called the magazine Foxfire for a luminescent plant that grew in the mountains of Georgia. In 1972, the articles were compiled into a book and over the years many books were written. While the original Foxfire stands on it’s own as a great book, there’s one chapter that we’re interested in: Moonshining as a Fine Art.
I got my hands on this book when I was in high school. With the knowledge in the book, a friend and I built a small pot still. It was literally a pot we converted into a still that we had set up in his bedroom on a hot plate. We had a couple of buckets of fermenting mash in his closet. The finished product was quite horrible, but very strong. One day his mom walked into the room while we were running a batch. She asked what we were doing, and without missing a beat, my friend told her “it was our science fair project.”
It was July.
Somehow she believed him. Over the next couple of weeks we went on to make about a gallon total of moonshine (like I said it was a small operation.) Our moonshine was the hit of many parties – mainly because of its mystique – and I still get asked about it today by old high school friends.
Up until recently The Foxfire Book was the how to manual on making moonshine. Today there’s quite a bit of information that can be found on the internet, but 20 years ago this was it. The book is still a great storehouse of knowledge. The students that wrote this book interviewed over 100 people for the chapter. It’s amazing, but they got most of it right. The chapter is packed with 44 pages of information on moonshine history, multiple moonshine still plans, a step by step process of how to make moonshine, and an authentic mash recipe. The book is worth the price just for that recipe.
The one problem with the chapter, and it’s a minor one, is that it was written by non-moonshiners. Don’t get me wrong, the kids did an amazing job of collecting information and putting together a moonshiner’s guide book. It’s probably the single greatest first hand account of how to make moonshine that’s ever been written. However there are a few small problems with it. They mess up a few terms and there are a few sections where they should have explained things in more detail. Some parts are a little confusing.
Even with these few problems, the book is still a great starting place if you want to learn how to make moonshine. I know quite a few people that have used the information in the book to build their first moonshine stills. The picture above is my friend’s copy of the book – the same one he used 30 years ago to build his still. You can take this book and start moonshining right away. This book belongs in every moonshiner’s library.