Monday, March 2, 2015

Rakija, Connecting People: An Insight into Homemade Rakija

In Dalmatia, there has always been a culture of homemade grappa distilling (in Croatian grappa is rakija). Basic grappa is grape brandy: lozovača (in Croatian loza = vine) or komovica (in Croatian kom = fermented crushed and drained grapes, which is also called drop or drof).
After wine production (drop) what remains of the grapes is left for a few weeks in plastic bags, whereupon it undergoes distillation (in Dalmatia there is expression “na kotol” or even more often “lambik”, which means copper boiler which is heated by lighting fire). Apart from grapes, grappa is also made from various fruits of which are perhaps most famous figs, strawberry tree (native to Mediterranean region) and carob. Also, people often put different aromatic herbs in already-made grappa, and so travarica (herb brandy, from Croatian trava = herbs) is obtained.
The fire under the boiler must not be strong, which is why, as the wood burning material, low calorific value trees are used (Phoenicean Juniper, pine or cypress). It is important that the boiler is heated lightly, because then condensation of steam is carried out gradually in the second boiler which is called serpentine. The two boilers are connected with a pipe; under the first boiler a fire is maintained, the alcohol vapor slowly evaporate and travel through the pipe to the second boiler (which is filled with cold water) where the vapors are condensed into a distillate of pure spirits.
The first grappa that flows has a high percentage of alcohol, so it’s called špirit (methylated spirits). Grappa that comes last is much milder and is called flema. Špirit is put to the side; usually used for lining and disinfection. Since there is not much of špirit, there is a saying that says "in a small bottle spirit is kept".
Grappa is an important element in any Dalmatian household. Old people washed themselves with a rag soaked in grappa. Grappa was also used to treat all types of injuries and ailments. Dalmatian nono (from Italian, meaning grandfather) began every day with a sip of grappa - it is calleda mouth wash”, and Dalmatian nona (grandmother) necessarily added grappa to her special Dalmatian sweets, pašurate and fritule.

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