Tsanka The Master

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Most country people in Bulgaria make their own Rakia, from plums, grape must - after the wine has gone, or from other fruits (quince is particularly good). It was recently time to distill ours, from last year’s grape must (the wine was a good Cabernet Sauvignon, sadly long since gone!) Knowing how busy we’ve been lately, our neighbours, who have a still, kindly offered to do it for us.

Their still is a magnificent copper contraption, sitting on a fire box expertly fashioned from an old tractor wheel. The grape must is put into the big copper, which is then sealed completely with a flour and water paste. The fire is started, then, it’s a matter of feeding the fire and waiting for the floral-scented, but very potent, clear liquid to emerge from the condenser pipe. This can take a good five or six hours, so it was no lightly-made offer of help from Tsanka, who tended to it for us.

She did a great job, even fending off interference from her husband Mitko, saying ‘I am the Rakia master today!’ We now have a lovely fresh batch (in a ten litre bottle!) ready to offer our guests and to warm us up in the winter months!