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Ţuică

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Ţuică (sometimes spelled tuica, tzuika, tsuika, tsuica, or tzuica), is a traditional Romanian alcoholic beverage, usually made from plums. "Ţuică" is officially, after the Romanian standards for drinks, the name for the drink prepared only from plums. Other drinks prepared from fruits, cereals, etc. are called "rachiu" or "rachie".

Left: Bottle of Ţuică from România.

Traditionally, ţuică is prepared from early October until early December (after winemaking is complete). The process must generally be finished before Christmas, as not to leave unfinished business for the next year. If using plums, they must be left for fermentation for 68 weeks, in large barrels (butoaie or căldări).

According to both tradition and Romanian standards (SR) distillation must be done in a brass still, using a traditional fire source (generally wood, but also charcoal). Distillation can be done inside a specially built barn (this is practised especially in Oltenia and Wallachia) or outdoors, usually on a hill (in Transylvania).

The temperature is controlled traditionally by interpreting the sounds that the still makes and by tasting the brew at different points in the process. Usually, this process results in three grades of ţuică:

  • very strong - distilled twice, generally a quarter of the production, and the first to come out of the still - about 55-60% alcohol by volume. It's called făţată or întoarsă depending on the regions. It's the most famous ţuică being served before meal. In the rural regions it's a habit to serve someone with this kind of drink, when he comes to your house.
  • normal (known as 'vodcă' after Russian vodka), the last to come from the still, between 20-30% alcohol.

After distillation, ţuică may be left to age between six months and ten years in oak aging barrels (the result is pearlescent yellow, has a strong aroma, and is known as "old ţuică", ţuică bătrână), or it may be consumed immediately ("new ţuică", ţuică proaspătă). Mixed with water, ţuică should never turn white or opaque.

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A famous type is "ţuica cu fruct". This is basically a glass bottle of old ţuică containing a whole fruit (usually an apple or a pear). This is obtained by hanging empty bottles on trees in spring or early summer, and growing the fruit inside the bottle.

Left: Bottles with whole fruit inside.

Normally, ţuica is only consumed before the meal (traditionally every meal), usually alongside some telemea cheese and tomatoes and onions. In most cases, only a shot is served as it's too strong to be sipped. The drink is also present in all traditional parties such as weddings, baptisms, hunting parties, harvest festivals, religious holidays, family reunions, and wakes. In most of rural Romania, ţuică is the usual drink to hold a toast with, rather than wine, which is almost always consumed towards the end of the party. Usually it is drunk before meal, as it increases appetite.

 

Growing whole fruit inside a bottle

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