Tuesday, 11 November 2008

More on Romanian Tuica and Palinca

More on Romanian Tuica and PalincaA recent trip made to Romania found the pleasures of the Romania 'Rakia' tuică and pălincă. Essentially they are the same as Bulgarian Rakia but in a slightly different climate, soil compound, sliva variety and local ferementing and distillation methods, the spirit will be authentically unique to Romania in many ways, including the traditions pertaining to when it is drunk.

The excerpt is well written and gives a good picture of the Romanian equivalent of Rakia.

Ţuică and pălincă are two types of brandy sourced from the process of fermented plums. Though some people freely swap these terms to describe the same drink, they aren't, as your tongue will tenderly note, distinctly different. Pălincă is essentially ţuică, distilled twice. Ţuică is about 30-40% alcohol, while pălincă is 45-55%, sometimes dangerously higher. One time I got my hands on a bottle that could've dissolved lead.

You're not going to find these two beverages in most stores as they are in fact that moonshine I teased in the title of this post. Ţuică and pălincă are almost exclusively produced in stills on private farms or in people's tool sheds. Though this is technically bootlegging, the Romanian government tolerates this production, probably for the same reason that cats tolerate humans: unabashed personal gratification.

Traditionally, a shot of ţuică/pălincă is consumed right before a meal to 'open up' (or alight depending on the potency) the palette and help with digestion. Yet, if you ride down the main street of any village in the winter months, taking note of the large number of people who've only half successfully dressed themselves, weaving down the road singing folk songs to the neighborhood and you'll get a sense of exactly how much moonshine gets consumed as a matter of course.

Though a few communities have negotiated dubious production licenses, making moonshine for restaurants and high-end tourist shops (complete with a whole pear at the bottle of the bottle), you're more likely to find it for sale on folding tables by the side of the road in recycled soft drink bottles along with cheese and honey products. These roadside vendors will probably charge about 15 lei (~US$6) for a 0.5 liter bottle, but I hear tell that if you have the right connections in places like the Maramureş region, you can get a two liter bottle for as little as 10 lei (US$4). If the Romanian parliament is any indication, a two liter bottle of pălincă goes a long way.
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