Ţuica is a traditional Romanian alcoholic beverage made from plums.
Traditionally, ţuica is prepared from early October until early December (after winemaking is complete). The process must generally be finished before Christmas, as not to leave unfinished business for the next year. The plums must be left for fermentation for 6–8 weeks, in large barrels. According to both tradition and Romanian standards, distillation must be done in a brass still, using a traditional fire source (generally wood, but also charcoal). Distillation can be done inside a specially built barn (this is practiced especially in Oltenia and Wallachia) or outdoors, usually on a hill (in Transylvania). The temperature is controlled traditionally by interpreting the sounds that the still makes and by tasting the brew at different points in the process. After distillation, ţuica may be left to age between six months and ten years in oak aging barrels (the result is pearlescent yellow, has a strong aroma, and is known as "old ţuică", or it may be consumed immediately (new ţuică). Mixed with water, ţuică should never turn white or opaque. Most ţuică is moonshine, prepared using traditional methods, both for private consumption and for sale. Although this is illegal, the government tolerates these practices, and does not consider this bootlegging, due to the nature of the drink. Some communities have acquired production licenses and legally produce and bottle țuică.
A famous type is "ţuica cu fruct". This is basically a glass bottle of old ţuică containing a whole fruit (usually an apple or a pear). This is obtained by hanging empty bottles on trees in spring or early summer, and growing the fruit inside the bottle.
Normally, ţuica is only consumed before the meal, usually alongside some telemea cheese, olives, tomatoes and onions. In most cases, only a shot is served as it's too strong to be sipped. The drink is also present in all traditional parties such as weddings, baptisms, hunting parties, harvest festivals, religious holidays, family reunions, and wakes. In most of rural Romania, ţuica is the usual drink to hold a toast with, rather than wine, which is almost always consumed towards the end of the party. Usually it is drunk before meal, as it increases appetite.
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