Last night, after a pretty eventful week, we finally cracked open the cherry rakija we made with our buddies from Remote Year Earhart! We spent some time savoring the sweet taste of our very own cherries, marveling at how this fertile land really does give us everything we need to sustain ourselves & see our dreams through ~ i.e. alcohol.
…just kidding. We’re not alcoholics. But rakija is a very important part of Dalmatian culture, and we figured it’s time we talk about it. We’ll also show you a step-by-step guide to making your very own cherry rakija ~ featuring our Earhart buddies & Ante’s grandma as models.
You don’t need anything fancy for it, as long as you’ve got access to some fruit, sunlight, and a liquor store ~ you can make it even in your own room.
What is rakija?
It’s a collective term for various kinds of fruit brandy. While it can be made from plums, apricots, apples, pears, etc. ~ in Dalmatia, rakija is pretty exclusively made from grapes.
Here’s a Wikipedia page about other types of rakija.
Virtually every other household in Dalmatia – especially out on the islands – makes their own rakija from scratch. It pretty much involves getting a massive amount of grapes, stomping them into a mush, adding sugar & allowing it to ferment for up to a month.
It is then distilled, and poured on every occasion all the time.
We had too many cherries and not enough patience to go through the above process, so we just got some from our cousins on Lastovo (we also highly recommend you visit Lastovo).
When is the right time to drink rakija?
ANYTIME. Here’s a very serious guide to the specifics:
You’ve got a headache? Have some rakija.
Your stomach is a little off? Have some rakija.
You’re happy? Have some rakija.
You’re sad? Have some rakija.
Jugo’s got you down? Have some rakija.
If you’ve got a google translator open, you can read this pretty comprehensive Croatian article called “Rakija: Remedy for many illnesses”.
Note: ANYTHING that can’t be fixed by rakija can be fixed by olive oil & garlic.
But we’ll get to that later.
From preventing heart attacks to treating muscle pains and curing the flu, rakija is seen as the miracle fix to everything.
Now you know everything you need to make this magical cherry liquer. And if you’re not the biggest fan of cherries, you can use the same steps with pretty much any other fruit, or even some herbs.
Making Cherry Rakija (with Remote Year Earhart):
Step 1: Pick some cherries ~ and if you don’t have access to any, come visit the eco camp.
Or I guess, you could also visit farmers market or a store with fruit in it.
Step 2: Sort & take off the leaves:
Step 3: If necessary, seeparate into 2 containers to make space for sugar & rakija:
Step 4: Pour some sugar on it.
I know some of you might not be a huge fan of sweets, but some sort of sweetener is necessary for the process. We tried to ask Katina (Ante’s grandma) for better alternatives to white sugar, and she laughed in our faces and kept going. But we’ve heard you can also use some fruit sugars, brown sugar, cane sugar, a mix of different sugars, corn syrup, or honey.
Step 5: Put it all in jars:
Step 6: Pour some plain ol’ rakija on it:
Step 7: Close the jars and leave them out in the sunlight.
Leave the bottles/jars in direct sunlight for up to a month, stir every once in a while, and when most of the sugar seems dissolved ~ you’ve got yourself a whole jar of magical panacea liquid!!
I gotta say, ours turned out pretty damn good.
Special thanks to Ante’s grandma Katina for sharing her rakija-making wisdom.
And special props & hi-5s to Remote Year Earhart for learning & growing with us. We hope to see you back & can’t wait to share the fruits of your efforts with you. <3