Croatian Fruit Spirits

     "The recipe that I use is one that has been in my family dating back close to 200 yrs. (of course there have been slight modifications over the years...we now use boughten yeasts instead of wild yeasts and we buy tomato paste instead of making it). This recipe is for a 5 gallon mash. I take 20lbs. of the biggest stickiest grapes we can pick, and I freeze them.(it is easier to de-stem them when they are frozen). Then I pull them off of their stems and put them in a 3 gallon stockpot and add enough water to cover the grapes a few inches. Then I bring them to a boil and mash them with a potato masher untill ALL the grapes are mashed pretty good. Then I add 5 lbs. of white granulated sugar and a 6oz can of tomato paste and stir until it is disolved. Next, I pour it all into a 6 or 7 gallon bucket and fill it to 5 gallons with cold water, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon and cover it. When the temp is down to about 78-80 degrees F is when I get my yeast started. I have used baker's yeast and it works fine, but lately I have been using Red Star's champagne yeast.(very similar to ec-1118). I take 3-5, 5gram packets and put them in a pitcher that is 1/2 full of the mash from the bucket. I stir it well, and leave it sit over night. The next morning, I skim off whatever is floating off the top of the bucket and discard it. Then I SLOWLY pour the yeast pitcher into the mash stirring it gently. Then I cover it with a couple layers of plastic wrap and a rubber band (I poke some holes in the plastic with a pin). Every morning, I skim whatever is floating off the top and stir vigorously, and stir again 3-5 times a day. After about 3 days of this, I slowly pour the contents into a new bucket. The grape seeds will be on the bottom of the bucket (I save them and plant them later) you can discard them. Top the bucket with water to 5 gallons, cover it again. I will stir it vigorously 3-5 times a day until it stops fermenting. (usually about 2 weeks) when it is done fermenting, it is still a thick juice that contains alcohol, and does not resemble wine at all. NOW it is ready to run. We have always run in a pot-still. 1st run. FAST, collect everything until the distillate coming out is about 20-25%abv. 2nd run. SLOW, discard the first 150ml. we collect in 250ml increments, and add them together to taste. we stop collecting at about 30%abv. The finished product has a little bit of a grape aroma and after flavor. We usually age it in natural uncharred oak, and sometimes we add about a half cup of raisins to age it with.
     This is how we have made ALL of our fruit spirits for as long as anyone can remember. Although, when we make our heritage slivovitz, we use wild yeast only, and NO sugar, and we also use a bit more fruit. This is the traditional Croatian method of making Slivovitz that my family and others have used for around 200 years."

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