The past six weeks have been joyful ones. It was the moment that every household took a turn at the village distillery to process their plums! This past summer gave a bountiful plum harvest, so lots of fermenting has been going on in many different barrels during the past months. All that rotten, fermented fruit has been distilled now, so everyone in the village can not only sit by the fire to stay warm this winter, but can also drink their own liquid fire…
Just outside our village, next to a little mountain stream, there is a small distillery, which opens twice a year. The fall sees the distillation of plums and summer apples, and with the springtime comes the distillation of all the fall apples. When the distillery opens, the fires are lit and will not be extinguished before everyone has had a turn. Day and night the flames heat the big copper cauldrons, day and night pure 'fire water' pours.
The recipe is very simple:
One gathers fruit and puts it in a (preferably wooden) barrel. Then, one waits. How long depends on the fruit and the outside temperature. For plums that are harvested mid/late summer, 2 months is enough. For apples that are harvested in the fall, 6 months is needed. Some add sugar, to get an even higher alcohol percentage and higher yield. When the fruit has rotted and fermented enough, one brings this smelly messy product to the distillery, together with the firewood required to heat the copper cauldrons. The fruit mess is put in the first cauldron and heated. Alcohol vaporizes and rises into a copper pipe, which goes up and over to a big barrel with running cold water. The copper pipe goes down into the bucket and forms a spiral, the vapor cools down, becomes liquid and a strong alcoholic liquor pours out the pipe. This liquid goes into a second cauldron for the same cycle of events, and now comes out a clear fruit brandy, or 'eau de vie' as the French say, 'water of life'. In Romania it is called 'Palinka' and is served to every guest, visitor or foreigner who happens to enter a Romanian household.
Sanetate! Noroc! Prost! Cheers! Good Health!