Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Törkő Pálinka (Grappa)

In the Sunday Tasmanian, last weekend, I've read an article about Tetsuya Wakuda's latest visit to our state. In it Jarrad Bevan mentions that the great chef "was excited about a locally made grappa". Now this got me thinking...have they already heard about us being in the process of applying for our distilling license or there is a competitor out there we don't know about?
In case the first is true, I'm Over The Moon...in second case, the Australian market soon will be over-run by locally made grappa!!! :-)))
Of course grappa is known by any self-respecting winemaking nation and any grape aficionado :-)
It is a distillate of grape mark and lees, the by-products of winemaking. The Italians call it grappa and under this name is best known. We Hungarians call it törkő pálinka ( tör = tur from turky, kő = ...now this needs a longer explanation :-) [If you are interested to find out how to pronounce these - impossible-I-was-told - vowels you can find them here ], Pá = pa from pathos, link = link, a = ah). This is how we will name our product so you better learn it... :-)) or you can just say torko palinka :-))) In Transylvania it is made very strong. Can be up to 70% alcohol. Now that is fire water! You drink it as medicine :-)... just a shot before meals to aid appetite and digestion.
Grandma Eszter really used it as medicine. Any tummy bug... out came the pálinka...one big mouthful swallowed (burned all the way down to your stomach, your eyes popped out of your head, takes your breath away so much so that it is said it's only good if you can't thank it)...sure the bug was killed in minutes. She steeped white lily petals in it to use as a rub on sprains and bruises. She soaked various herbs in it to cure all sorts of ailments. Geeee....it smelled and tasted horrible!
We used to take a good supply of pálinka on any trip around the country. Once sailing around the Danube Delta we run out of pálinka on the 4-th day :-) The crew didn't find amusing that solid land was so few and far between :-)) We had to substitute with crude, cheep vodka that was affordable to the 5 of us, young, carefree adventurers navigating Paul's home-made, open-decked tub.
Grandpa Feri was in charge of distilling in our village. In fact our house among the vineyards was at one stage the distillery, still having the large gap on one of the walls - they used to shovel the spent mark through - by the time we married and decided to make it our home. Grandpa Feri died young, when I was 8 years old. I remember him walking down the road from hunting, his shotgun dangling from his shoulder, his pocket always full with lollies for his one and only granddaughter :-) Wintertime, sitting on his lap in the warm distillery, listening to old men tales, in awe of the echoing big hall, the smells, the hissing, clanking, dripping copper pots...
Cheers to grappa! Cheers to pálinka! May our product -when we will be ready to make it and sell it to you- bring good health and fond memories!

PS: My use of word -törkő- is conscious and deliberate. It is how the spirit is named in Szentimre, the village, so this is how it will be called in St. Imre, the vineyard/winery. Törköly is the grammatically correct version.

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