Bulgarian lifestyle and traditional Rakia brandy

An improvised Rakia brandy distillery in the open
Photo: BGNES
The traditional Bulgarian homemade alcoholic beverage, called RAKIA, has an important place in Bulgarian culture. Almost all Bulgarian families have their recipes for making rakia brandy or keep bottles of the drink for decades to open them on special occasions. Usually rakia goes hand in hand with the traditional Bulgarian Shopska Salad, made of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion, parsley and white Bulgarian cheese. The rakia has its place on the holiday table as well. The strong beverage is traditional on the Balkans. In Bulgaria the most common varieties are grape, plum, and apricot rakia. But other varieties, made from pears, or cherries are also available. Rakia can age in oak casks until getting a unique mild taste. In the winter rakia can be prepared as a strong hot drink. Radka Stancheva from the village of Shishenci is 98 years old. Here is what she told us about rakia:
“Buy grape, crush it and let it stay for a while until fermentation starts. Then you make rakia,” she explains. “I do not add sugar. The best wine and rakia are made when you mix several varieties of grapes. You can use plums to make rakia, too. I haven’t made rakia from apricots or apples, though. The added sugar makes the rakia strong but we never add sugar. We don’t put herbs either. During the winter you put some sugar in the rakia and heat it until it boils. In our village it is a popular way of drinking rakia during the winter.”

© Photo: Lyudmila Savova

In times of crisis a number of Bulgarians are concerned with prices and wonder which type of rakia is cheaper. The homemade, of course. Production of rakia at home is a part of the Bulgarian culture in a number of regions. The tradition is attractive to foreigners, too. Two years ago the retired English policeman Michael Weavers, who now lives in the Bulgarian village of General Toshevo won the local rakia competition. The locals now call him with respect Bai Michael.
It is known that monks from the monasteries near the town of Troyan in Central Bulgaria are masters of the plum rakia, which is prepared according to a recipe from the 19th century. At least 12 different types of herbs are used but special varieties include 33 herbs. In the monasteries the rakia is stored in oak casks. Before pouring the rakia into bottles, it is blessed in front of an icon of St. George.
снимка: rakiq.comVassil Mandzhukov from the village of Oreshak told us more about the tradition of rakia production. “You should only drink rakia that has aged for 12 years,” he claims. “When we make rakia, we keep it in an oak cask for 6 months, before pouring into glass bottles and burying them in the ground,” he explains and adds: “Aged rakia has different qualities and that is why my father diet at 95.”

English: Alexander Markov

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