“Making Moonshine” Montenegrin style.

Every October, wherever you travel in Montenegro, you can smell ‘Rakija’ – the fiery loza distilled from Grappa, clear, smooth, 50% – 55% proof and unbelievably a favourite breakfast tipple for many!. This is the time of year when the drink is distilled creating a pleasant but distinctive aroma.

Many households own a still, (they can be bought from any good local garden center).  This afternoon I joined Jelko, Mikki and Zee to help them with distilling.

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Miiki and Zee own Portfino Restaurant on Bela Vista square in Herceg Novi. Jelko owns a 150 year old organic farm in the hills above Kuti – just below Mount Orijen.  Each year they produce their own domestic red wine and this year about 50 litres of Rakija. They learned their skills from a neighbour who at 80 years old passed on his techniques and his local recipe collection so that the knowledge would not be lost.

Using locally sourced grapes at just under 20% sweetness, fermentation is natural – no sugar is added to the process. Each distilling takes about 3 hours, so 3 batches can be prepared each day.

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Why not try it yourself?

Wine and Rakija making will be on offer to visitors and guests next year. The farmhouse will be opening as a Gastronomic cookery school with programs allowing guests to experience Balkans ‘living’ culture,  as they source local ingredients and learn the centuries old arts of Mediterranean Balkan cuisine. Do you fancy night snorkeling for mussels? a trip out on a squid boat? hiking with villagers to collect herbs? a visit the stone olive mill?  or shopping for fresh produce at the farmers market? At Kuti the cooking is only the last part of the process as visitors will need to experience as much of the lifesyle as the food. When the ingredients are collected guests will learn how to make traditional dishes unique to this region. Fun and informative cookery classes indoors and out. Organic food, raw food and eat local, specialities for all tastes… and the Rakija, of course. Come in season and make your own, to take home, or enjoy with all the local people you will meet during your trip.

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50% proof – straight from the ‘still’ no added sugar and no hangover.

Gastronomy and Wine – Montenegro 2. Activities

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Hiking the Bay Leaf Forest

Above the bay of Kotor , just south of Dubrovnik, a mountainous ridge line runs from Mount Orijen to join the Montenegrin Coastal Transversal range, where high mountains fringe the sea. The coastal cuisine blends Mediterranean sea dishes with mountain meats and vegetables. Use of native wild plants in traditional cookery also reflects the incredible diversity of wild habitats.
Authentic Balkans cuisine should not only be prepared, ingredients must first be gathered following tradition as old as the landscape. The wild hillsides are a source of herbs and spices to create the most distinctive of local flavours. Depending upon the season it is possible to collect all manner from the hills: olives, wild asparagus, wild garlic, mushrooms, figs, pomegranite, lemon, sweet oranges, sage, copriva, shaffran and more than 100 other types of medicinal plants and herbs.

Guests will be guided by knowledgable guides and with a shopping list of seasonal items to collect, for use in their dishes.

An example hike, close to the farm is the impressive ‘forest of bay trees’ – an evergreen and ever fragrant forest comprised of only one tree species, the Bay tree. Balkan Lore sets a limit of 3 bay leaves used, maximum for any dish, the bay is a popular ingredient in so much Balkan cooking.

The first water stop.

Hiking the Bay leaf forest

The way to walk through the bay forest is barefoot, the evergreen leaves have a short life so the forest floor is buried beneath a layer of bay leaves – said to have medicinal properties, certainly one cure for foot odour, I am guessing.

A walk through the forest with out shoes was said to be a good deterrent to the Tenjac (Vampires from hereabouts).

hiking guides

Plenty of hiking staffs are left by other walkers at the start of the church path.

After we leave ‘the last house in the village,’ along this road at least, the path becomes a forest track again . Only the church is still to be reached, sitting on the peak above us. Before we departed we had to stop and sample Zova Juice (Sok), chilled, a gift from the family who live here – We would be collecting some to make and use in our recipes. At this last house we were entrusted with the key to the village church and invited to go in and if needed take a drink from the many left there, for passing walkers in the hills.

rest - juice (sok) stop

Cold drinks on this shaded terrace from gracious hosts.

Below the church is the large forest clearing – the church lawn – long the picnic and party place for villages, for weddings and saints days, dances and important gatherings.

There are several established fire cooking sites here which guests can use to cook outdoor and festive dishes – reviving a tradition of meals that were cooked here for village gatherings.

The woodland enclosed green is a perfect venue for yoga – which can also be arranged, (and will be included as an option in our package).

The climb to the church is a steep but short one, until suddenly the bay trees give out and you have reached the summit – enjoy the view!

Typical Cottage

The end of the road

RECIPE FOR ZOVA SOK
Equal measures of sugar and Zova flowers by weight.
Add 2 litres of warm water for KG of Flowers/Sugar mix.
Stand, stirring often , for two days until the sugar disappears.

Strain the flowers and serve – chilled if you can wait for it to cool – never easy.

zova

Also: http://vojvodjanskakuhinja.blogspot.com/2009/05/sok-od-zove.html (na srpskom)

Why not nominate your travel ideas to National Geographic Western Balkans Geotourism Mapguide.  Where tourism can help . thankyou