Romania’s traditional tuica
All Romanians know what tuica (plum brandy) is because is almost like a national drink for us. This is why I will not describe here a technological process or some cold physical characteristics, which are available on Google anyway. Yet, I would like to speak about my personal and close experience about ţuică (pronounce tzuika). I am not much of a drinker but in time, I have tasted about all kinds of plum brandies and palinkas’ made in Romania. It is much more interesting mo make your own plumb brandy, at home, in your own alembic. I learned to make plum brandy in my grandfathers’ village (Oituz, Romania), where every people has its own alembic and everybody makes its own brandy (I think you know this better as moonshine ).
We make the plum brandy in the autumn and at my grandfathers, there was a real stunt of 24 – 48 continuous hours of “boiling” plum brandy, because one can not speed up the plum brandy and the fire under the composition must be slow, only hot coal, no flame. I have made tuica almost out of anything, from plums to other fruits, husks of grapes and even corn, crushed and left to ferment for few weeks with water and “helped” with a bit of sugar. The best time was at night, when we all gather around the fire of the alembic and tell stories, “warmed” up with fresh tuica and roasted potatoes, made directly into the fire. That was a good life and I think I could live for 100 years like that. No phones, no Internet, no rush, no cars, no deadlines … just a still night with the friends around a fire.
Although I promised I would not speak of technical terms, I must explain some rather colorful terms: the “head” is the tuica (plum brandy) that comes out first from the alembic. It is a very strong spirit, of 50% vol. and above, very clean and which remains clear if you put water in it. The composition is the mixture of fermented fruits, which is distilled to obtain the alcohol. The husk of grapes is what remains after you crush the grapes into a grapes crusher to make the wine.
Hint: tuica is very god if boiled in a pot with sugar, spices (pepper grains, one leaf of bay laurel, pimento, cinnamon) and a bit of citron or orange hull. In some regions of Romania, you can buy a bottle of tuica with a full fruit in it such as a pear. That is made in a very interesting method: in the spring, when the fruit trees are blossoming, you take an empty bottle and put in the tree, introducing one of the branches with the blossoms into the bottle. Then you wait all year for the fruit to grow inside the bottle and when is rape, you take the bottle and fill it with tuica, over the fruit. The fruit will not spoil because of the alcohol and it also gives a certain flavor to the brandy.