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Vișinată (Romanian pronunciation: [viʃiˈnatə]) is a Romanian alcoholic beverage produced from sour cherries (vișine in Romanian), sugar and alcohol. It is very flavorful and sweet, and most often home-made. As a consequence, there is no "official" recipe for it. Everybody tunes quantities and preparation methods to suit their own taste.
Vișinată is easy to make and is completely natural depending on the type of alcohol used. It is traditionally produced in small quantities, to suit a family's need.
The jar is filled halfway with sour cherries and an equal amount of sugar (by weight, not volume). The mix may be left to ferment for a few days, then the rest of the jar filled with țuica or vodka (which stops the fermentation process) and sealed. The jar is then left in a dark place at room temperature for about 100 days. Contents are rolled around occasionally during this period to encourage proper mixing, especially during fermentation. At the end, the cherries are filtered out, and the resulting sweet drink is the "vișinata".
The flavor will strongly depend on the quality of the fruit, therefore it is advisable to use only hand picked, healthy, well ripened, fresh fruit, if possible from an ecologic culture, and avoid getting leaves, peduncles or pieces of branches into the jar. The maceration in alcohol will amplify any bad taste there is in the fruit, such as fruit that started to rot, instead of hiding it. Wood or leaves will release an unpleasant tannin into the drink, which will only get softer with age.
Alternately, you may use honey instead of sugar. Few people do, however, since honey is more expensive, and depending on its type may not contribute in a positive way to the taste.
Also as a variation, some people smash the sour cherries before putting them in the jar, or at least take out the kernels, break them open, and add the inside into the jar. The inner, soft part of the kernel adds some almond-like flavor to the drink. There is a risk, however, that the filtering will be more difficult, and the resulting drink will not clear up if you smash the fruit.
Many people in Romania use single- or double-distilled plum brandy (also homemade) which is not allowed to age instead of alimentary alcohol.
Aging the drink improves its taste - depending on the type of alcohol used, the initial drink may feel a little rough and burning.
The remaining sour cherries are an excellent ingredient for cakes and pies, if used soon after removal from the jar - they get wrinkled and lose flavour with time.
Notes and references
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