Why do moonshiners use a raccoon pecker?

Raccoon peckers are some of the more unconventional tools in the moonshiner’s arsenal, and are used to direct the flow of distillate at the end of the process.

If you have ever tuned in to watch Discovery Channel’s Appalachian-based documentary series, Moonshiners, in the course of the last decade – you will already know that moonshiners are notorious for their creativity.

Raccoon peckers and how moonshiners use them

But between the building of underground shelters, the construction of mobile distilleries, and all of the extra-legal maneuvers that experienced moonshiners use to evade the law on a daily basis, their equipment and the old distilling practices handed down through the generations are perhaps the strangest things that moonshiners do.

And one of the strangest pieces of equipment that you may encounter in the distilling process of an experienced moonshiner is referred to as the “pecker” or even the “Alabama toothpick”.

This pecker is the penile bone or baculum of a raccoon and its unique shape is used within the distilling process to assist with the flow of the distillate, after it has been cooled down, and is ready for consumption.

As unconventional as it may seem, peckers are still commonly used within the moonshine distillation process today.

A rundown of the distilling process

Moonshine has a deep and rich history. And though every moonshiner will have their own, special technique for distilling their extra-special blend, the general moonshine distilling process isas follows:

Process Description
Step 1 Moonshiners start the distilling process by mixing a mash, which usually comprises corn or even rye, malt, or a mixture of these different starches.
Step 2 The mash (usually mixed with additional sugar and yeast) is then heated in a large tank or pot.
Step 3 As the fermented mixture heats up, vapors will begin to rise. Some distillers may add a doubler in the process to increase potency, but the vapors are eventually collected in the condenser (also known as a worm).
Step 4 The condenser cools these vapors to form a purified liquid (ethanol)

The pecker comes in at the very final stage of this process and it helps to control the flow of the liquid from the condenser (the worm) into a smaller vessel for consumption.

Why raccoon peckers specifically?

There is no doubt that moonshiners take their craft very seriously, and while things in the distilling process do not always go to plan, most experienced moonshiners are quite specific about the processes that they use.

While the use of a raccoon pecker may seem strange to most people, the use of this unexpected tool actually harkens back to one of the biggest challenges of moonshine-making.

The fact is – distilling moonshine in hidden locations under the cover of darkness, often in the middle of nowhere – requires a lot of ingenuity.

And since most moonshiners are also experienced raccoon hunters, it is likely that they use this tool simply because it is something that is often lying around, unused, anyway.

There is, of course, also something to be said about making moonshine the way that the old-timers did back in the day.

There are some alternative options

Raccoon peckers may be prevalent in the moonshining world than most outsiders may realize, but this is not the only tool that can regulate the flow of distilled moonshine.

It turns out that many moonshiners prefer using leftover bits of copper wire (which can be bent and molded into the correct shape) for their stills, or even green twigs (usually with a hole drilled in the center), or bits of straw, for the same purpose.

Other unusual moonshiner techniques

Moonshiners have been operating in the shadows for decades. And as result of the underground and homegrown nature of the business, moonshiners have developed more than a few unconventional techniques to fine-tune their distilling processes through the years.

If you have ever seen an experienced moonshiner shake their moonshine jar before opening it, you will know that there is a trick to gauging the alcoholic content of moonshine by sight alone.

Moonshiners who have been in the distilling business for a long time can judge the alcohol percentage of their moonshine by looking at the bubbles which are produced when the moonshine is shaken.

Larger bubbles, which disappear quickly, typically indicate the presence of a higher percentage of alcohol, whereas smaller bubbles indicate a lower percentage of alcohol (though, using a modern hydrometer, like this KOSORUR hydrometer alcohol kit, may help you confirm what you have seen in the moonshine bubbles).

Some old-school moonshiners also believe in sealing their stills with an oat-paste to avoid any unwanted leaks in the distilling process. And, of course, old favorites like duct tape are always good for any last-minute fixes on the fly.

Also read: