Palinka is another kind of national "moonshine", this time Magyar. Strong fruity alcohol (37.5-70 degrees) is widespread not only in Hungary and some regions of Austria, but also throughout the Carpathian basin. In fact, this is a complete analogue of Serbian brandy; fruit and berry vodka can also be found in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania.
Despite the fact that palinka is produced and drunk almost throughout central Europe, since 2008 the name itself has been controlled by origin. This means that only Hungarian palinka made from local raw materials in local factories can be considered real. Neighboring countries also have the right to distill fruit moonshine, but must release it under a different name.
This decision at one time caused a lot of debate, the question was raised about the legality of such restrictions, especially since the historical regions of the first production of palinka lie far beyond the borders of modern Hungary. Nevertheless, the Magyars firmly hold on to their national symbol and are not going to concede it to anyone.
To be called a palinka, a fruit brandy must not only have a Hungarian "residence permit", but also meet a number of other criteria:
- no preservatives, flavors, dyes,
- alcohol content not lower than 37.5%,
- exact adherence to traditional technology.
The first mentions of strong Hungarian alcohol date back to the XIV century - judging by the surviving chronicles, the court doctor insisted fruit moonshine on rosemary and treated the royal couple with this remedy for arthritis. The first name of the palinka - “the queen's living water” - unambiguously testifies to the exclusively medical purpose of the European brandy.
However, this applied only to the nobles, and the peasants were happy to drive fruit vodka from padans, cake and other unsuitable fruits for food. In those days, they were usually limited to one distillation, and therefore the quality of the drink was lower than today. By the middle of the 19th century, “palink-making” had finally become a state monopoly, but in 2010 citizens were officially allowed to drive fruit moonshine - no more than 200 liters per year per family, the first 50 of which are not taxed.
In Hungary, there are a lot of small industries, where you can include pre-prepared mash and for a small fee, after a set time, pick up the finished distillate, there are also full-cycle plants, but there are much fewer of them.
The raw material for Hungarian vodka can be literally any local berries and fruits: grapes, cherries, plums, mulberries, quince, pears, apricots, apples, even hazelnuts. In Hungary there is a saying: "what is good for jam is also good for palinka." Each region "specializes" in its own kind of moonshine - for example, the city of Kecskemet is famous for apricot, and in Tokay, grape alcohol is more respected.
For a high-quality palinka, only ripe fruits without flaws and wormholes are selected. The raw material is kneaded into a homogeneous gruel (hard bones are pre-ground), placed in anaerobic conditions (no oxygen is available) and left alone for 10-15 days. During this time, the raw material has time to ferment.
The resulting mash is poured into small boilers with a volume of up to 1000 liters and subjected to double distillation, and then only the "middle part" of the distillate, the so-called "heart", in which there are almost no fusel oils, is bottled. The first and last portions ("head" and "tail") cannot be drunk, they are either drained or used for technical needs.
The finished drink with a strength of 40-70 degrees can already be drunk, but it is better to withstand it for another six months or a year in wooden barrels or metal tanks. In the first case, palinka vodka will acquire a noble golden hue and rich aroma, but will give away some of the fruity taste. Steel containers do not change the drink much, but the "share of angels" (evaporation in the barrel is 1-3% per year) will be significantly less.
First of all, palinka is divided into "apricot", "pear", "nut" and other types depending on the raw materials used. In addition, the name of the fruit vodka depends on the method of production.
- "Little cauldron" (Hungarian kisusti) is the most common type of moonshine brandy, obtained by double distillation in a copper cauldron.
- "Aged" (Hungarian erlett) - after distillation, such a palinka languishes in wooden barrels for another 3-6 months.
- "Old" (Hungarian O) - the same as matured, but the shelf life is already several years.
- “On a bed” (Hungarian Agyas) - a “bed” of fruits is poured with ready-made distillate (at least 10 kg of ripe fruits per 100 liters of drink) and left to infuse for 3 months.
"Zhmyhovka" (Hungarian Torkolypalinka) - many sommeliers make this type of palinka a separate category of alcoholic beverages. It was this kind of vodka that was produced by medieval peasants (and is often produced by modern farms for household consumption). They say that the most delicious moonshine is obtained from grape press, while the strained juice itself is used for the production of noble wine.
How to drink palinka
Hungarians are sure that any reason is good to feast on a fragrant palinka. It is best to serve this soft moonshine at a temperature of 18-20 degrees. Chilling fruit vodka is only worthwhile if its quality leaves much to be desired.
They drink palinka from tulip glasses, snacking on fresh berries, cakes and other sweet desserts. You can add Hungarian brandy to coffee or cocktails, it is often mixed with Tokaj wine.
Palinka is not only the national pride of the Magyars, but also a luxurious souvenir: tourists annually take out thousands of liters of the famous drink from Hungary. In an effort to please the public taste, manufacturers release fruit moonshine in intricate bottles with an original design and an intuitive interface. Even a traveler who does not know the Hungarian language can easily understand what kind of drink he is holding in his hands from the pictures on the labels.
Bottles with a whole pear inside are especially popular - the fruit is placed in a container while still on a branch, there it gradually grows and ripens, and then it just falls off, as befits any ripe fruit, and remains in the container.
Gourmets who want to get a good taste of Hungarian vodka should visit Budapest in late spring - in May, the Hungarian capital hosts the Palinka festival. At this holiday, you can taste the national drink, admire its production, and even get hold of a couple of family secrets of hereditary producers.
Attention! Excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to health.
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