Hungarians wash it all down with fiery Palinka

Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:47am EST
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By Gergely Szakacs

EGERSZOG, Hungary (Reuters Life!) - What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger or in the case of Hungarian Palinka leaves you feeling scorched on the inside and craving more.

From the hard labor of picking the ripe fruit when autumn sets in to the explosion of flavors upon taking the first sip of this feisty fruit brandy, Palinka is a very physical, yet highly rewarding experience.

Dezso Boros, 44, knows a thing or two about the pleasure and pain that comes with good Palinka.

He runs a small distillery in Egerszog, a tiny village 230 km (143 miles) northeast of Budapest, tucked away in the western foothills of the Carpathian mountains.

Scores of people from surrounding villages throng to this subtle, unassuming building, one of about 500 licensed distilleries in Hungary, to have their home-made mash, a fizzy stew of fermented fruit pulp, boiled down into fiery Palinka.

Boros, a soft-spoken, humble craftsman in charge of the distillery since the death of the previous stillman in 1991, has retained memories of his childhood years when townsfolk used to carry mash to that same place on horse carts.

And while the technology has improved over the years, the essence remains unchanged.

"Fruit is fundamental," he said. "The main thing is that it has to be natural, untreated."   Continued...