How pálinka gets made
Hungary would never be the same without its world-famous drink, pálinka. It is a national drink – in the countryside people drink it after getting up, before lunch and with dinner, as well – this keeps them fit and healthy. So if you would like to experience some real ‘Hungarianess’, then you should definitely try local, home-made pálinka. It also keeps you warm during cold autumn/winter nights.
What is this drink exactly?
Pálinka is a traditional fruit brandy: a spirit made of mashed (any locally grown) fruit, distilled, matured and then bottled. The most common flavors are plum, apricot, pears, cherry, apple, or just a mixture of all these.
How does it get made?
Every autumn after the fruit harvest there is always a bit of leftover. These leftovers are put away in barrels for fermentation which takes 4 to 6 weeks. It is super important to stir the mix every day. Once it is ready the fruit will sink to the bottom of the fermentation bucket and clear fruit wine will rise to the top.
After that comes distillation: people usually buy the necessary technical equipment (even though it is quite expensive) or bring the fermented fruit mash to a distiller.
The process of distillation is based on evaporation and condensation and is traditionally done in a particular type of copper distiller. The mash is poured into one pot and a furnace slowly heats the mixture to 78 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of ethanol. During the process, toxic elements dissolve in the steam. The gas then travels through pipes where it cools, to a second pot where it condenses.
To produce the finished product this liquid should be distilled for a second time -before ageing the finished pálinka- in a metal cask. Added fruit can help to give extra flavour to it.
Good pálinka should always be served in a tulip shaped glass so it can be swirled and sniffed. It is best served at 10-20 Celsius degrees to ensure the best flavour.
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