Sljivovica ( Slovenia)

Sljivovica ( Slovenia)

Šljivovica, plum rakija from Serbia is a world famous alcoholic beverage. Mostly homemade, it exceeds any other spirit.

ZevalicaMushroom

Serbian people have many uses of rakija. It has an important role in everyday and ritual life. There is no slava, wedding or funeral without rakija. Although the consequences of alcoholism are very well known, Serbian people has always considered rakija more useful than harmful. There is a saying “Rakija is medicine”. Many elders drink it every morning on empty stomach because it opens the appetite. In traditional medicine it was used as the basic disinfectant.

WellDead Tree

History of rakija is blurry. Slavs came to Balkans in VII century and their affinity to Medovača, spirit made of honey, was documented in V century. We should certainly not ignore the fact that various fruit spirits were made and that they could have “evolved” into rakija. Speaking in the favor of the assumption that rakija was made in Serbia even before XV century is the fact that there is a paragraph about alcohol misuse in Dušan’s Code (XIV century), one of the most significant Medieval law documents:

“DRUNK GOES FORM SOMEWHERE AND IF PROVOKES OR CUTS ONE, OR BLEEDS ONE, AND DOESN’T KILL, TO THAT DRUNK SHALL AN EYE BEEN TAKEN OUT AND A HAND CUT OFF. IF DRUNK YELLS, OR TAKES ONE’S HAT OFF, OR EMBARRASS IN SOME OTHER WAY, AND DOESN’T BLEED, THAT DRUNK SHALL BE BEATEN, A HUNDRED TIMES WITH A STICK, THEN THROWN INTO A DUNGEON, AND THEN TAKEN OUT OF THE DUNGEON, BEATEN AGAIN, AND THAN LET GO.”

PARAGRAPH 166 – ABOUT DRUNKS

Although the type of alcoholic beverage is not specified exactly, it is most important to know that the process of distillation was know in that time and that knowledge was almost certainly applied for making fruit rakijas.

MossCat

Rakija probably got it’s name from arak (“Al-rak” – sweat) – a spirit distilled from palm sap, brought to the Balkans by Ottomans. We also know that there were stills in Serbia in that time since there was a “still tax” of 12 akçes. After the First and the Second Serbian Uprising, production of rakija rapidly started to grow.

Corn FieldTractorSomewhere in Serbia :)

CowsCow

Every family has it’s own recipe for making rakija. This is how Mateja’s uncle makes it:

Fermentation: Prunus Domestica is cleaned thoroughly and pitted. It is left in a 1000l barrel covered and it will look like this after approximately 21 days. There is a top layer that got molded which is called “cake” and is thrown away. The good part thet is left is called komina.

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Kolač Komina

Distillation apparatus:

StillStill

Copper still – a part where fermented komina is cooked. It has a thick bottom and a mixer that prevents burning of rakija.

StillKomina

The dome (kalpak) – goes on the top of still and it’s function is to collect vapors created during cooking.

Distillation ApparatusDistillation Apparatus

Condensator (tabarka) – attached to the still with a pipe, cools the vapors into liquid.

Gas BurnerGas Burner

Fire in the still is traditionally made with wood, but in the recent times new techniques are emerging. This one is gas burner, it is a lot cheaper and effective – regulating the heat is much easier.

RakijaRakija

The most fun part – tasting :) The first rakija that comes from the condensator is thrown away. Due to presence of pectin in fruit, amount of methanol is inevitable. Throwing it away is essential, since it’s extremely toxic! That part of rakija is called “the first born”. After that, it is very important to taste it often to see if it weakened. If so, still should be emptied and refilled with new komina. The part that is thrown away is called džibra.

Fixing StillDžibra

Sometimes the dome starts to leak. It is “repaired” with plain flour dissolved in some water or bran.

The next step is another circle of distillation after which rakija is sealed in oak barrels and should lay in there for at least one month before consumption.

Cheers!!!