Slivovitz is one of the most famous schnapps (rakija) on Balkan, if not the most famous of all. Colorless or yellow fierce alcoholic drink (38-50% strong). It is stored in glass, stainless steel or in oak barrels. It doesn’t require special attention, with time the schnapps gets on quality and prices. However, the experts think that period of keeping shouldn’t be longer than 35 years, after that period slivovitz looses on quality.
By experts assessments on Balkan, around 60% of plum is used for “baking” the schnapps. The plum is convenient fruit for schnapps production because of the fruit characteristics and the high yield. There are several types of plum that differ in the amount of sugar, resistance to diseases, time of maturation and the size of the fruit. There are many types of plum, some are on this area for centuries, and some came under the influence of globalization.
How to make Slivovitz (recipe)
As with other schnapps, the process of producing slivovitz starts with picking the fruit. Fruits should be healthy, picked from the trees or from the floor but right after they have fallen. There is an opinion that the best plum for schnapps is the one that is already mature which is not true, eventually it is good for Stanley, but not for pozegacha. The fruit should be washed in regular water.
The next step is muddling the plum so that fermentation process starts and ends as soon as possible. For fermentation usually are used plastic barrels, and if you are making bigger amounts you use concrete pool. While muddling you must be careful not to brake pits because then the deadly poison is released – hydrocyanic acid. Amount over 50-70 mg per liter can be deadly for a human!
Carbon-dioxide is formed during fermentation that lifts the “honey”, if the fermentation takes place in an open barrel. When the pressure of carbon-dioxide gets down after the finishing of fermentation, this bench returns to the commin and if it’s physically or chemically polluted, and most often it is, it can spoil the commin. To prevent that, when the barrel is filled with scooped plum, a grid is put on the top that prevents forming of collar, and also a future “barrel overturn”.
Fermentation of early types of plum is usually sorter and it lasts 20-28 days. With middle types the length of fermentation is more dependent on richness of fruit with sugar then on the temperature.
Use whirlwind to know for sure when the process is finished. The value should be around 8-20°Oe. If distillation won’t be conducted 15-20 days after the fermentation is done, conservation of hook must be done.
One of the most important things in producing schnapps is to use the caldron of the appropriate quality. The next important thing is the length of a steam pipe (It should be at least 3 mm long and just a little inclined towards the caldron). Distillation equipment should always be clean (this is the precondition for good and quality schnapps).
Schnapps that gushes the last
If one-time distillation is carried out (mostly the case) there have to be three parts: the first part (the schnapps that gushed first), then the middle fraction or part (drinkable part) and “Patoka” (schnapps that gushes the last).
This first part consists of many compounds that spoil the schnapps quality. It should be collected along with Patoka and this mixture can be used for making lower quality schnapps.
Patoka is collected in the end. This is the last part when baking schnapps. It is essential to determine the moment when it’s necessary to stop separation of middle fraction and begin to collect Patoka. The main sign of Patoka is dingy schnapps. Its taste is stale, bitter and sour at the same time. It is a rule not to drink this schnapps because it causes hallucinations but there are some people who actually enjoy drinking it. The choice is absolutely yours. If you want to drink it, you should do it while it’s still hot (right from the copper still).
Second distillation – the process of getting more quality schnapps.
When you over-distillation the slivovitz you get more quality schnapps, but while baking certain roles must be followed because if you don’t, the quality of overbaked schnapps won’t be much better. The process is actually the same as for the first baking ie. distillation of the husk.
“Baking” of schnapps should be done with no hurry and should last for 7 hours, because on that way the overbaked schnapps will have better quality.
Determining the strength of slivovitz
The common mistake while distillation schnapps is the desire to get the strength of 45-50% and thus to save on the schnapps and on the needed work (avoiding dilution of slivovitz). With that bad approach of overbaking the bigger part of PATOKE is caught that spoils the taste and smell of the obtained overbaked schnapps.
Obtained over distillation schnapps (middle fraction) , strength 60-65%, is diluted with distillated water to obtain 45% schnapps.