Baking Rakija. Distilling Fruit in the Balkans.
Tamara and I have just got home from making a brief visit to her uncle, where today, he starts to make (bake) his annual stock of Rakija.
It made me think or maybe realise that people in some countries don’t seem to eat their fruit.
Some prefer to drink it.
The countries I refer to are those of the western Balkans, (the former Jugoslavija). The region where I live.
You see, every year around late October to late December, everyone (it seems like everyone) in the countryside here, is distilling their fruit harvests into strong alcohol.
Tamara’s father (and our neighbour) for example, team up to put our plums and apples “to good use”. They share both resources, ingredients (fruit) and the effort.
Extended family members help each other as well. Family is BIG in the Balkans.
I digress (as usual).
The “rakija man” is engaged, who then arrives bringing his trailer mounted still.
The diary to book this guy must be chaotic.
Copious quantities of wood are required (and provided to keep the fire (that’s used for “baking” the fruit) going, plus water for the tank that will reconstitute the condensed alcohol.
Depending on how much fermented fruit there is (consider that fruit has been collected and left to ferment for the past month or so), it could be 3-4 days of dawn to post dusk stilling to get everything completed.
A few years ago some 250 plus litres of 52% proof plum were distilled alone from our orchard.
Rakija is rarely consumed “young” rather after spending a few years in bottles to mature in dark places or in barrels where it assumes a range of golden hues.
Click on the image below to see our photo gallery from the day!
Apparently, fruit that has had sugar added to assist fermentation produces inferior quality alcohol and a lack of experience on behalf of the stilling team can produce Rakija with a heavy ethanol content, so, bloody dangerous!
There’s a trick (that I can’t grasp) regarding shaking a bottle of Rakija and observing how the bubbles (if any) react. More bubbles (I think) means WATCH OUT!
A bit of a science as well as tradition!
Check out our VLOG below to find out more!
Storie’s here tell of the period under Tito of domestic Rakija production being banned. I have not been able to confirm that but it would sound reasonable in a “functioning” 20th century state.
There’s a lot of dysfunctionality these days in the Balkans.
Maybe that explains things a bit better for me.
Anyway if you ever want to experience the Baking Rakija season just let us know?