Yesterday, I told you that Palinka, an apricot brandy, is kept on the table in Romania, much as we might keep salt and pepper. Palinka seems to be a symbol of hospitality along with a loaf of bread and salt.
Here a man operates a communal still. Farmers hauled barrels of apricot peels and pits to the still to be made into the potent liquor. There were two stills, side by side. Two distillations produced a better brandy, but just to be sure there were tin mugs tied near outlet valves so taste testing could be done at any and every stage of the production.
Palinka was served to me when I went on a horseback ride across Hungary years ago. Because we were riding in a group, think foxhunt without the fox, and we would be encountering jumps, we were served palinka before we mounted as a way to “shrink the jumps”. Being something of a tea-totaler, I didn’t drink mine, but I do remember an angelic faced young woman saying she hoped we would be served palinka every morning as it had been quite helpful.
I think many homes in Romania have stills. We could see new copper stills set on the roadside for sale by the gypsy coppersmiths. It is common to find stalls selling home made bottles of palinka for sale at the local produce markets. The farmers were proud of their palinka and when I looked at the label to see what it was, I was offered a drink. Hospitality, indeed!