Sake is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. Despite the name, Japanese rice wine, sake, and indeed any East Asian rice wine (such as huangjiu and cheongju), is produced by a brewing process more akin to that of beer, where starch is converted into sugars which ferment into alcohol, whereas in wine, alcohol is produced by fermenting sugar that is naturally present in fruit, typically grapes.
The brewing process for sake differs from the process for beer, where the conversion from starch to sugar and then from sugar to alcohol occurs in two distinct steps. Like other rice wines, when sake is brewed, these conversions occur simultaneously. The alcohol content differs between sake, wine, and beer.
In Japanese, the character sake (kanji: 酒, Japanese pronunciation: [sake]) can refer to any alcoholic drink, while the beverage called "sake" in English is usually termed nihonshu (日本酒; meaning 'Japanese alcoholic drink'). Under Japanese liquor laws, sake is labeled with the word "seishu" (清酒; 'clear wine'), a synonym not commonly used in conversation.
In Japan, where it is the national beverage, sake is often served with special ceremony, where it is gently warmed in a small earthenware or porcelain bottle and sipped from a small porcelain cup called a sakazuki. As with wine, the recommended serving temperature of sake varies greatly by type.
Sake production was a government monopoly for a long time, but in the 10th century, temples and shrines began to brew sake, and they became the main centers of production for the next 500 years. The Tamon-in Diary, written by abbots of Tamon-in (temple) from 1478 to 1618, records many details of brewing in the temple. The diary shows that pasteurization and the process of adding ingredients to the main fermentation mash in three stages were established practices by that time. In the 16th century, the technique of distillation was introduced into the Kyushu district from Ryukyu. The brewing of shōchū, called "Imo–sake" started, and was sold at the central market in Kyoto.
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- 2 cucumbers
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 (0.4-ounce) packet ranch dressing mix
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
- 5 cherry tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges