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Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 10:17 am
by Paulinka
Dear Fellow Distillers,

thank you for being here in such an awesome community with strong roots. My family owns a little orchard of fruit trees and I legally manufacture the legendary Hungarian pálinka, 50L/yr for each of my family members. Now the EU is not very happy about it, but hey, I welcome them too with a tulip glass of my finest fruit spirits if they come and make me a visit. :)

In 2004 the European Union accepted pálinka as a Hungarian speciality, and hence it's production is limited to Hungary (and four provinces of Austria for pálinka made from apricot). So, in a nutshell, you can make sparkling wines anywhere in the world you wish, but you can't call it champagne. Same with pálinka. There are very strict production and higienic rules too.
I am lucky to live in a farm near Kecskemét, which is the historical site of the apricot-pálinka, and I have a few apricot tree as well (different plum varieties, apples, cherries, sour cherries as well). For instance for my barackpálinka I use three types of apricot, all of them has a role:

- One that's skin is more sour than the others' when ripe, it will be the protector of the mash, leader of pH-lowering under 3,5 in a natural way, so no harm can be done, only our yeast will thrive in that region. Bearing the name "Kécskei rózsabarack", which means rose-apricot from Kécske, and it really looks like a string of little roseheads on the bough.

- One that gives the body, it has a honey sweetness and most sugars, giving more alcohol than the others. It is also the variety that has a sweet stone, some can be put in the mash (depending on the blend I make). Called "Ceglédi óriás", giant from Cegléd. A robust, very juicy and sweet fruit indeed.

- One that has that intensive heartwarming "sunripe apricot skin" aroma, it gives most of the wanted apricot terpenoids, esters and ketons, best in fragrance and flavor, but a little bit too perfumy alone. It's name is "Gönci magyar kajszi", means Hungarian apricot from Gönc, the oldest variety and a national heritage, it is like no other apricot.

Mind you, all of those apricot varieties can be great alone too with a good blending, I just happened to have these old trees and this is how I use their fruits in pálinka-manufacturing. The rules I follow are pretty straightforward: if you wouldn't eat it then don't put it in the mash. No piece of straw, not even the tiniest drop of soil goes to the mash. If a fruit is not good enough for a premium apricot-marmelade then it will end on the compost-pile, not in the mash. Applies even to unripe parts of the same fruit. As simple as it sounds, it also means lots of work: when the apricot is as ripe as it can be, it falls down to the lawn under the trees. Harvesting is not picking from the trees, especially not shaking the tree (no touchy at that time of the year!), but picking up from the ground. Yes, bending down, a few hundred times for every liter of pálinka.

On those summer nights, after a bucket of two ripe apricot is collected, they are properly washed by hand in a baby bath tub filled with water, destoned and cut into pieces. If a varieties' stone can be used in the mash, it is collected and dried separately, a part of them is cracked when dry. Most of the apricot variants' stone has a pretty high cyanide content, so a select variety with a "sweet seed" can be used only, it will give enough almondish kick, no need to use poisonous seeds.
I have big rain-collector plastic barrels as fermenter. They have a perfect spot under a cherry tree, temperature does not fluctuate there as much as elsewhere. I don't use store bought yeast, our orchard is an organic garden thus we have that wild yeast culture that developed through the last 15 years freely. They are not as fast as bakers' yeasts but they produce much less sulphur and much-much less metil. A little bit more than two weeks is needed for full conversion of the sugars, then the mash calms down ("takes off its' hat") and is ready to be cooked.

Did I mentioned no sugar is added? Alcohol made from sugar makes a kick on the tongue and harsh on the throat, while pálinka should be an elegant drink with smooth high alcohol and strong fruit taste. There is no place for sugar in the pálinka-mash if we are going for quality and not quantity.

Testing the readiness of our mash: a drop of the mash on a foil, burned with a lighter, smell-test. If no caramel or burnt' sugar coal is there, and it does not taste sweet then it is ready. I trust my senses better than a refractometer.

Now, before it comes to lit up under the pot, there are three tricks that will help greatly, and the latter two can come handy in making grainspirits too, and these are those secrets that are told and not written on public forum, trust me, they work wonders:
- Puree the mash just before cooking, so it will release all the aromas trapped in remaining chunks and pieces.
- To reduce the possibility of burning down the mash when harvesting the tail: butter the bottom of the pot lightly with purified butter. Do not use oil, oils capture a lot of taste and replace with oil-taste which is avoidable. On the other hand, a little methyl butyrate that comes from the converted thin layer of butter adds to the taste and smoothens it a bit.
- Drop a few little piece of broken rooftile on the buttered pan-bottom, those will be the "boilstones", they prevent spitting flow by calming down the boiling.

Now we are ready to fill the pot up to 2/3. Wheatflour+water "glue" is applied on all connections, and a very slow cooking starts. The first glass of the fluid that comes out is put to the freezer, and the top is "deoiled" with a piece of blotting paper. Those are the chaotic oils we do not need. I keep collecting the predistillate until it comes sour and bitter, and alcohol-content drops drastically.

At the distillation phase (when I also add boilstones) I start with a strong fire, shooting out the metils first (the Fat Lady screams), it is used as a window-cleaner, lovely shining blue color it has, also it is very poisonous, as we all know it here. Flames then turned to minimum, here comes the fun part: the fresh ripe apricot skin and the almond seed sensation (sopranos) comes with the head, so it is collected in different numbered glasses. The body (tenor+baritones) is also highly aromatic and tasteful, deepening slightly as we reach the tail. Now, the tail (alto+bass) is not an easy task with apricot: to make most of the complex, deep, "aged to black, cut with a pickaxe" apricot jam scent that lingers in the tulip-glass even an hour (!) after the pálinka is drank, it had to be separated very precisely, way before the tail start to smell like a dead hedgehog. All in all the final blend used to be between 60-65% alcohol-content wise before thinning up with a very thin strip of reverse osmotic water.

Yet blending is only done when all the batch is ready, with (relatively) clean head and full concentration are attainable. In our cellar the pálinka has 42 to 44% alcohol-content, I found it to be a perfect balance for the style I cook. No barrel-aging is used, it takes a bit less than half a year and the taste smooths out to be harmonious and rewarding. I usually test previous years' drinks in Easter. So far I made William's Pear, Apricot, Plum, and Greengage pálinka, also I made "brandy" from a few bottle of orange&apple flavored wine (I needed those bottles to put pálinka in), but I am interested in FG spirits, and it makes me very happy that I can learn here a lot.


Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 10:28 am
by Bushman
Wow, for a first post thats a lot of info. Technically our policy is not to approve your first post unless it is made in the Welcome Center but I didn't want you to have to retype all of it. Please go over to the Welcome Center and give us a brief introduction and maybe something about your background.

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 11:59 am
by Paulinka
Thank you Bushman.

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Mon May 12, 2014 5:38 pm
by MDH
Thank you for this post Paulinka. I believe the European way of making fruit brandy is still the best; some have challenged the idea of using wild yeast on this forum but I believe it is really the best way if you are trying to make fruit brandy. The best fruit, the best water, wild yeast only and a good six months to six years in a glass demijon. Recently I tried brandy from a producer called Rochelt that was simply unbelievable, they as well as many others stick by this process!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue May 13, 2014 3:44 pm
by Dan P.
Great post, thank you, Paulinka!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Sat May 31, 2014 7:45 am
by GuyIncognito
Very interesting post!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:03 am
by Paulinka
Yesterday I finished distilling that 120kg (265lb.) cherry we harvested and mashed.

Here is the story of my Cseresznyepálinka:
I washed the cherry (Bigarreau Burlat) in a big plastic baby-bath, picked out all the pedunckles, dry flowers and those cherryes that were unripe or showed signs of botrytism. I chopped the cherries to a coarse puree, used a paintmixer drill in an electric drilling machine. Only takes a minute or two for half bucket.

Because sweet cherry is not acidic enough to be a solid ground for the yeast, and any infection can devastate it's subtle aroma and light fruit-taste, I added a preventive lemonade: about 300g of citric acid with one kilogramm of sugar-syrup to the pulp altogether. I know that white sugar affects fruit taste negatively if used more than 2-3% in a fruitbrandy's mash but a very recent test showed that only one percent or less can enhance flavour. Traditionally (also officially) it cannot be called pálinka if it made from sugar other than the fruit's own, but this dozen liter of 45% cherry is not made for sale, so I can play and compare it to others.

A few drops of pectin-converter enzyme mixed in the mash too, even if cherries don't have that much of a pectine, but because pectines degrade to methyl-alcohol if not broken down before fermenting, and for broad cherry taste and nose we need to keep as much head as possible - so better not be there too much malcohol.

The yeast I used is Uvaferm's "Danstil A", it is very recommended for fruits (very good for grains too). "Danstil CM" is even better but it is hard to come by, even "A" is bought out from the shops as we are going deeper in the summertime. Fermented in two 120 L barrels with caps on loose, took almost two weeks to finish. When it is ready the surface is shining more than a well-cleaned mirror, and a lit match will go out only under the mash, not above it.

Now I had my mash fully fermented, but it is more than a mash just now. The seeds. Just a few years ago, usually all-and-everything were dumped to the pot from the cherry-mash, made a stripping run, and then distilled down to 30%v/v, with tails and heads in, you were lucky if the foreshot been thrown out.

These days however, as pálinka gained nearly as much attention as it deserves and it's popularity is on the rise (we already consume >12 litres of pálinka per capita in Hungary per year), most of us are focusing on quality, and this - among others - means a controlled amount of seeds. So before I put my boilstone and the mash in the pot for a stripping run, I deseed it by spreading and massaging the fermented pulp in a vegetable compartment tray that I put on top of the baby bath. It is really useful as a big sieve.

Most of the seeds is thrown out, but for 100kg fruit a kg of seed is cooked in the mash, it gives a nice almondish bitterish aftertaste that stands as a backbone to the slight warm cherry taste.

Stripping run is collected down to 8%v/v, at 5% it is easy to burn it. Because cherry-mash foams like the living hell while boiling, it absolutely needs a few drops of Foamsol (FDC 511) before closing the lid. This is very important, else fill the pot only half. It really foams badly, just like oat and wheat does.

Now we have about 25 l of 30%v/v cloudy cherrywater, dilute it with tapwater down to 20% and it is ready to distill. I have only a 17 litre pot, so three spirit-runs were needed.

Starting with a slow fire to drive out as much malcohol as humanely possible, foreshot is thrown out, then after the pause I cut back on temperature even more. First three dl is separated in different jars, and I collected the heart down to 45%. 45-40% were recycled in another mash, it is the part that has a wet-dog smell and a flabby range overall. 40-20% collected by 100mls, aerated for 24h. Around 32% I found a nice mellow buttery cherry-jam, it was mixed with the heart, the other tails were re-run. Also from the first three dl head only the first was not suitable to mixing in. Next two runs were nearly the same, of course the last one had a longer tail and it was separated more to find the sweet spot.

I will make the blends today, I have to buy a brand new clean bucket for mixing and diluting the 8 litre 60% cherry-pálinka with distilled water (very-very slowly), most of them to 45% and some of it to 40% for my mother who likes it with less alcohol. Most of us here in Hungary can tell the difference between a 42% and a 40% pálinka without hesitation and without error. :)

Some pictures will follow, thank you for reading through my bad English. :)

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:58 pm
by Dan P.
Excellent posts, thank you again!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 4:04 am
by Paulinka
Blended in my "Distiller's Bucket", yielded 11L 45%V/V. I store the pálinka in 2L jars, a little air is needed for them to ripe properly. Now I'm a happy camper, even if it takes about 6 months for the taste to fully settle. :thumbup: Black cherry (with lots of cherry-raisins as it was literally cooked on the tree) and sour cherry are nearly fermented too, lot's of work to come again soon. :)

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:25 am
by Mikey-moo
I have to say... I'm finding this thread to be inspirational :-)

Thank you!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:29 am
by Mikey-moo
Quick question though... You say " Puree the mash just before cooking, so it will release all the aromas trapped in remaining chunks and pieces." So am I right in thinking that this is the exact opposite of leaving the wash to settle and just siphoning off the clear liquid? You literally just get a blender (or equivalent), churn it up and run it straight away?

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:59 am
by moosemilk
No need to apologize for your English, it's perfectly understandable. Your methods are very fascinating and I am really enjoying the read. I have never yet made any distilled spirits with fruits, but this really intrigues me. I can almost taste everything as you describe it,and my mouth is watering, and making me want to take a trip to Europe! I have family in Slovakia...stare hore is where some are from many years ago. If I ever visit, I'll now add Hungary to my destination to try some of that wonderful drink!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:38 am
by Paulinka
There are different methods, all of them works well with only a bit different results that are barely detectable if at all. For instance, the Slovakian Slivovitz, which is a very good and clean tasting plum brandy, is made by pressing all the juices from ripe plums and fermenting only the liquid. Contrary to that, the Hungarian Szilvapálinka's mash is made from finely chopped or ground plums, cut to pieces or pureed before yeast is introduced.

This way the skin of the plum also plays part as a source of taste. Basically, a fruit pulp or juice ferments much faster than chunks, and the latter can have air trapped between the pieces which can be a source of infection, especially in a long fermentation period. Before the stripping run it is recommended to puree the fermented mash, as the bigger pieces of skin can stick to the bottom of the pot, and by all means we wish to avoid the possibility of charring a fruit mash down.

Several fruits can benefit by adding the same fruits' seeds to the stripping run, cherry and sour cherry most usually cooked with ~5% stones for a nice almond kick, that should serve as a canvas for the otherwise pastel hues of cherry taste and subtle aroma.

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:40 am
by Paulinka
Moosemilk, Hungary is a very interesting place these days in aspect of fruit brandies. Back in the communist/soviet-influenced era in our history pálinka-cooking was an underground activity with constant fear of getting caught. Children were sent to the end of the village or far to the farm's road junction as spotters, they had to run and alert daddy or granddaddy to take apart and hide the distilling apparat if an official came in the vicinity while cooking.

Obviously, this setting was anything but good for making quality products, as with all distilling it cannot be made in a hurry, so those old pálinka's were harsh spirits with little taste and offtaste. Nonetheless, it was okay for a morning shot before going out to the field for a day's hard work. Industrial pálinkas were not much better, as most of the fruit is processed to be canned and sent to the Russians, so "pálinka" was made from beetsugar with some artificial fruit-aroma.

After the Sovietunion collapsed our canning factories were quickly privatised (->stolen) and sold to foreign companies who shut them down all, one by one, clearing their competition out from the region. Orchards were cut out as nobody wanted to buy our fruits in raw, ripe form, which is understandable given the high cost of transportation of cooled produce.

This situation was only good for the big distiller companies, who bought up tons of ripe fruit for literally buttons and continued to produce inferior liquors from it that were unacceptable on Western markets. Fruit-producing villages and towns were left empty for gypsies who looted the leftovers, thus full regions of rural Hungary started to decay and sink into a state closer to anarchy than to order. People who worked in agriculture for generations on such a rich land with black soils fled to the cities to live.

To slow down the death of villages the current government decided to legalise cooking up to 100L of pálinka per household, so a new renaissance has begun.

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:19 am
by Paulinka
If you visit Hungary and wish to taste really good pálinka, I recommend to find specialist shops that sell only pálinka manufactured by little distilleries who really work hard to stand out from the crowd. In supermarkets you will find only mediocre pálinka, but in cafés and pubs you can find good pálinka these days, except in the tourist-flayer ripoff places.
Feeling adventorous? Try your luck and ask for házipálinka (house-ee, means homemade) in places where Budapest's trendy young adults hang out, like Gozsdu-udvar, which became the new hotspot of nightlife. Those under-the-counter drinks areusually higher in alcohol than the branded ones, and they have that special sweet taste only untaxed drinks have. :wink:

However and where you meet pálinka, be prepared, it is an expensive drink, in specialist shops usually around €50/litre for usual fruits (apple, apricot, pear, plum), cherry, sour cherry and quince is more expensive, and berries are very expensive (raspberry can be easily €100/L or more).

For connoisseurs who are interested in special pálinka - but do not wish to mortgage the house or sell the wife for a demijohn of berry-pálinka - I highly recommend to try quince from Marton & Lanyai (multiple winner of many awards and blind-tastings), cigánymeggy (wild black cherry) and peach from a good-named house that uses potstills. And of course, if you happen to visit the Great Hungarian Plane (like Bugac-puszta) then drop me a PM and I will be proud to give a taste from my own pálinka if I happen to be at home.

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:11 pm
by moosemilk
You really know your facts! From the making of spirits to the history behind them and your country. Fascinating read, thank you for taking the time to type that all up. I really enjoyed it!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 9:00 am
by palinkagus
Hello Paulinka,

As you can tell by my handle, I am a big fan of Pálinka. My wife's family comes from Vas county right on the border with Austria. The small bottles of hazipalinka smuggled home by my inlaws was the inspiration for me to take up distilling as a hobby. The best compliment I ever got was from my wife's uncle, who was visiting in the USA, who asked me to bottle some of my plum brandy (can't call it szilvapalinka because it wasn't made on Hungarian soil) so that he could smuggle it home to Hungary.

I love the detail in your posts. Please keep them coming as you progress through your fruit crops.


Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:23 am
by Paulinka
Dear Palinkagus, thank you for your kind words. I'm happy that you have success with plum, I believe it is one - if not the most - rewarding fruit of all to make brandy from.
2014 was (and still is) a strange year in regards of fruit mashes in Hungary, cherry and sour cherry gave a very nice crop, ripe fruits with high sugars and lovely taste, blue mirabelle was ok but nothing spectacular, however for apricot and plum is not very good. After the initial sunny and warm start of the summer most of the time we had lots of rainy days and less than enough sunshine, which resulted in less sugars and aromas in fruits that ripe in late summer.

My apricot-pálinka was distilled about one and a half month ago, so yesterday I filtered a tasting-glassful and tried, it lacks the broad body that previous years' had, but it has a sweet'n'sour sensation that dried apricots have and a creamy, butterscotchy aftertaste. Still, the scent elements are a bit scattered yet, but I believe for Christmas those will be pulled together.

Blue plum pálinka is so new it is not even diluted to 45%, just finished it distilling yesterday late evening. Fun fact that my mother cooked three rounds of the four potfull of our plum mash cause I was at overseas, she done it cleverly, but with a bit too slow and unconfident cooking, so quite a lot of body (that the plum already lacked this year) was thrown out with the slop. Nonetheless I am very thankful for her help. I tried to compensate with distilling on higher flame from the outer center of the hearts toward the tails to smear some tails in.

My humble tips for distilling fruit brandies:
identifying where the heads end and where the hearts come, I search for a smell with just a little ethyl-acetate (that nail polish remover like stuff). It is not good to start the hearts when ALL ethyl-acetate parts are gone, because those will mostly dissolve in a day of aerating, and there are lots of great aroma in that segment that I surely wish to keep. Final blended pálinka will (and should) not have any EA smell, only a controlled pinch of them, as those little EA-s are the airplanes of noble smells that would not travel otherwise to your nose cause they are less volatile.

As I collect the hearts down to 45%, at 50% I am starting to be careful, not to collect the "deaddrops". There is an inbetween part I use to throw in the heads'n'tails balloon, usually it comes from 45%, so I smell the spirit a lot when I reach that point and separate. 45-40% is the loathed wet cardboardy smell, in my opinion it is a section of "negative taste", if it is blended it not only stands out as kind of a "loose end" in the pálinka but also negates good flavour components. Good to cook it with the HnT "feints" later in a grainmash, because I cook AG on grain and hydrolization breaks down those unwanted components into the slop but the ethyl is reused.

Under 40% I taste frequently and lookout for the very first appearance of bitterness. For tasting this part, take a tiny sip and fold back your head, so the sample can pour on the back of your tongue - this is where bitterness can be detected. It can be a bit sour, it will be diluted, but bitterness is unacceptable.

Smell should be great, close to a marmelade or jam of the same fruit. I recommend to go down as much as you can, as this last part gives the much sought after long aftertaste. Stop collecting to hearts container when it starts to become bitter or metallic or dull, then push the tempo and collect for the feints container if you wish.

Having a rising Lyne-arm I can make a bit of reflux here and there with the potstill by controlling the temperature, but all fruits are a bit different at what pace is best to distill them. It is my overall experience that for a smeared taste jog, for a clear taste and elegant body walk slowly, the tempo also depends on the quality and the aromatic properties of the mash.

I don't have enough pears and apples this year, so here I close my Year 2014. pálinka-distilling season, now I only have to wait for them to mature and filter those that need it (cooling-deoiling and/or paperfiltration).

Cheers, see you in other topics. :)

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:43 am
by Mikey-moo
Great thread! Thanks very much :-)

Reading about how tails smell a bit like a dead hedgehog made my day!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:52 pm
by Odin
Bugac Puszta ... I have been there. Great horse show.

I bring my kids to Kecskemét every year for a summer holiday camp.

That's not too far away from you, right?



Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:56 pm
by Jimbo
excellent thread and cutting notes! all can learn here. Thank you for taking the time to post.


Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:22 pm
by moosemilk
Jimbo wrote:excellent thread and cutting notes! all can learn here. Thank you for taking the time to post.


This thread needs a special place for anybody looking to learn. I have learned a lot from this post in my research of doing my first brandy.

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 8:45 pm
by Odin
Excelent info!


Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:57 am
by Paulinka
Dear Odin I live just outside from Kecskemét, so it would be a privilege and an honour if we can meet next summer. After I finish the pálinka-season I use to accept contracts from other countries and come back to Hungary only next late spring or early summer when the first cherry starts to ripe. Winters here are not for my taste, so I migrate with the birds every year when I have the possibility. :)

I re-read the topic and realized that not reflected to MDH regarding the use of wild yeast.
Wild and commercially bred yeasts both have pro and con virtues. Professional Hungarian pálinka-distilleries - if they have no own yeasts - use these yeasts for the different fruits, but they are available for home-distillers too:

For stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries etc.) Uvaferm CM brings out the best flavours, while Danstil-A is more reliable and provides a somewhat more clear result. For mashes that has unripe fruit mixed Uvaferm 228 is helpful, as it accents the ripe fruit aromas and brings them forward. Uvaferm CGC-62 makes a strong fruit esthery pálinka, it is used if the mash is not sweet enough compared to a good year.

For aggregate fruits (like berries and grapes) Uvaferm 228 and SVG brings forth the nature of the fruit material, CM is best for high-tannin fruits (rowanberry, juniper, etc.), CGC-62 & SC and Danstil-A is used when esthers and scents should be emphasized (with less scentful and tasty fruits, like elderberry or rosehip), and PM is used for aszú-marc pálinka (and for brandies and grappas).

For fleshy fruits (apple, quince, pear, etc.) Uvaferm 228, SC, CGC-62, SLO and Danstil-A is used, in this priority as listed it goes from elegant->broad->clear type results. Also, it depends on the qualities of the fruit what to use.

Exotic fruits (figs, dates, bananas, oranges etc.) and vegetables (sweet bell peppers, carrots, beetroots, tomatoes) need a very reliable yeast that can cope easily with the somehow special environment it is thrown, and it is Danstil-A. Uvaferm SC has a good esther-producing quality, so it is especially great for pomegranates, lichee and bananas* to strenghten the flavours and smell, while BC - because of it's high alcohol-tolerance - is good for vegetables-mashed and even for secondary fermentation of vegetable-wines. In vegetables some of the typical taste dwells "deep" in the produce, so high alcohol is preferred to bring those out (fi. pumpkins). CM is okayish overall for exotics too, clean taste and aromas, good reliability.

(*bananas - beside their readily fermentable sugars - have quite a lot of starch that needs to be broken down with glucoamylase added, simultaneous fermentation works well, but if you don't convert those starched it will scorch badly.)

Instead of DAP most distillers use Uvavital komplex as yeast-nutrient (if they prefer to use yeast-nutrient). It is useful for very sugary mashes. If the mash is somehow lacking scent, there is a fruitscent-enhancer enzyme called Lallzyme B, but the mash needs a special treatment (pH-down and oxygen-free environment) because the enzyme works for a full month. This is used for wild apples, wild pears and quince, but it can be useful for apples and pears too to enhance flavours.

If one MUST work from musty or moldy produce* it is recommended to use GO-FERM yeast-nutrients with a yeast that has a good killer-factor. I choose Fermivin PDM for this tough task, and it is the only yeast I use to kickstart a stalled fermentation. (*I do not accept to make mash from moldy produce if I'm asked to make some pálinka, it will not be quality even if I work hard with it. However, if one has a chance to buy extremely cheaply or get fruits for free that would otherwise be thrown out, this is a way how to make a mash from it, just read the label on GO-FERM and have some PDM)

By using commercially bred yeast you can control fermentation from the very start, you will know that it will be finished in max. two weeks and the finished product will have a plus fruity smell that belongs to that yeast or no plus smell at all. Also, those yeasts are strong, and most of them have a "killer factor", that means they create (non-volatile) toxins that defends them against wild yeasts and bacterii. By being strong and fast in their vitality and work, they create a thick layer of CO2, which not just prevents from infection but also a suresign of active fermentation. Pálinka made with commercial yeasts are somehow uniform, like a pyramid with it's top cut off. To make an outstanding fruit brandy you need some special yeast, one of its' own, and this is where wild yeasts come into the picture.

Wild yeasts can be bred at home, but if you don't want to rely completely on luck, you need a few bowl of ripe fruit weeks before starting your main mash. It is possible by having a (mold-free!) cellar with good aeration, where you can collect your just-before-full-ripe fruits until your chosen yeast is ready to work with the big batch. Alternatively, you can freeze fruits, or leave it on the tree if you can IF the weather is dry to harvest later. Or bring it to a refrigeratory or other cold storage.

Anyway, what you do is choose the finest fruits, set them to 3-4 little groups, do not wash them this time, just puree them, give the puree a whisk with an egg-beater to bring in oxygene, then pour the mash in ziplock-bags, put it away in somewhere @ 20-25 Celsius temperature. You can give a pinch of yeast-nutrient and/or sugar-syrup to make things faster. After about a week smell the cultures, and choose the one you like best. Factors by I make my choice are in this preference order: how much it resembles the fruit (originality and elegance), how strong it smells (intensity), how sour it is (alcohol-conversion*), how strong it is (vitality: CO2 layer and no bacterial off-smells). *Burn a line of the mash on foil, the less caramel your sample got is the fastest in fermenting.

If you happen to be lucky, you may have a winner. If you are not lucky but choosed wisely, you will still have a great fruit brandy, but fermentation can be delayed (by weeks) and CO2-layer can be thinned badly in the last weeks, giving great possibility for infections. Fear not as this protective CO2-layer can be poured on top from CO2 cartridge. Pushing out oxygene (for LallzymeB-treatment or storage) it works too.

Wild yeasts may or may not have "technical" qualities that commercials do. Remember that store-bought yeasts are chosen on factors more industrial than qualitative. So prepare for a long lag-phase, incomplete conversion of sugars, stalling under difficulties (temperature or atmospheric pressure fluctuation), unsteady fermentation kinetics, bubble-forming (use a drop of Foamsol, problem solved), SO2 and acetaldehyde production (no, you didn't chose THAT one :) ).

You must monitor mashes made with wild yeast more carefully than the ones made with commercial yeasts and always, always have PDM ready to restart fermentation if it stops before completeness. Lot's of possible problems right? But if you take the chances, wild yeasts from your own orchard or garden can be very rewarding, my plum-pálinka from 2011 that was fermented spontaneously with my native wild yeast has a strong, happy smell and a looong aftertaste with hints of walnut. Best apricot-pálinka I ever tasted was made with wild yeasts too. So, from my experience plum and apricot can benefit from wild yeast, if you have time, go for it.

How to store your wild yeast that you come to fell in love without all the hassle and fear from mutation? Easy. Have different wooden paddles for your every wild yeasted mash, that is you should use to push down the cap of the mash. When the mash is ready, wash the paddle, wipe it dry, and store it in a long airtight bag that has a big handful of rice in it. It will act as desiccant. Next year, when you will surely know how good your fruit brandy is, just stir your puree with that dedicated paddle. If the brandy made with it is not up to your standards, chop it or give it a try on grainmash, who knows, maybe it will show something special there. :)

I hope you like this wall-of-text, I accent that this is only how we do it in Hungary, in other parts of Europe there are different methods and choice of yeasts. Nothing is better or worse, just different. As for myself, I use Danstil-A for all my AG, baker's for washes, and Danstil-A and PDM for fruits if I don't have time to play with wild yeasts. This year I haven't made mash with wild yeast as "Monilinia laxa" (a plant pathogen fungus causing brown rot) hits hard because of the ugly weather. Still, I believe I made very good pálinka this year, and I am happy to give a taste for all my friends here in HD if they ever visit Kecskemét, Hungary.

Cheers, Egészségetekre!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2014 8:02 am
by Odin
I will come by next summer! And I'd love to try your pálinka! In fact, I am in Hungary around Christmass. But in Siofok. Pretty far away!


Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:25 am
by Hyko
I love your post, it's so informative and full of info I've never seen before! I had some palinka in Germany that a guy had picked up while visiting Hungary. He said it was made from bison grass. I don't know if that was true or not as I've never tried any bison grass spirit before, but I could tell that it was definitely homemade (plus it was stored in a 1.5L water bottle.) I unfortunately didn't visit Hungary while I was in Germany but I will definitely have to put it on the list after reading your posts!

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:26 pm
by Paulinka
Hyko wrote:bison grass
it was Żubrówka, a Polish spiced rye vodka It can be homemade, yes, and most of the shops carry it here, although not a very popular drink, as most Hungarians don't like spirits that had to be ice-cold for consumption. We make pálinka from many-many different fruits, and spirits from vegetables, but grass is not amongst the ingredients, Żubrówka is a Polish specialty, just like Kontušovka is Bohemian, and Cognac is French.

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 12:01 pm
by udiraz
Paulinka, I read your thread about Palinka, and this is so much knowledge, and it is truly so fun to read, especially that because of palinka I got the passion to distill alcohol myself.

I used to live in a kibbutz, and my neighbor came from Hungary (he had quite an heavy hungarian accent :D ), and once a year he was visiting Hungary, and came back with a bottle of palinka that his friend makes.
Man, that was one of the best drinks I ever drank ! mostly made from peaches. wow.
When I tasted it, I said to ,myself that one day I want to make something like that myself.
Well, this is in an ideal world.
In the real world, I have grapes with too much bisulphite that I don't know what will be made out of them :ebiggrin: :ebiggrin:

So, thanks for all the information and the stories, and I will surely ask about palinka as we get close to next summer, which is the peaches season in Israel !

Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:11 am
by Odin
Hungarian palinka is beating the crap out of pretty much any other fruit brandy, whenever there's tests going on and medals to be won. If I look at the wealth of knowledge shared by Paulinka, that allmost comes as no surprize!

Congrats on a great product and an even better thread!

And save me a bottle please!



Re: Pálinka - The Fruit's Spirit

Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 3:08 pm
by scuba stiller
Thank you for this "Classic" thread; one to read and read again...