The hour is coming. We already have the sloe ready. Taking walks through the countryside we can already see the sloes ready to leave them trembling and make our homemade pacharán. Pacharán, a centuries-old spirit drink, is still a liqueur that many people like. Increasingly, it is gaining followers in all Spanish regions and beyond the Iberian borders. A liqueur, whose essence is sloe, a rustic bush where there is one. Go ahead and you can make an exquisite and homemade pacharán .
ORIGIN OF THE PACHARÁN
One of the first references to the consumption of pacharán dates back to the Middle Ages. The first historical reference that confirms the existence of the pacharán was in the year 1441. The White Queen of Navarra took it in the Monastery of Santa María de Nieva for her stomach ailments. In fact, it is believed that its main purpose was that.
Many of the liqueurs that have herbs or macerated fruits are well known for their medicinal properties as a stomach tonic (taken in just the right measure ;-)). Pacharán is a “medium strength” spirit drink (if we compare it with other distillates such as whiskey or vodka) with an alcohol content of 25 to 30º.
SLOE. WHAT DEFINES A GOOD PACHARÁN
The blackthorn (Prunus spinosa L.) is the bushy and thorny species from which the fruit called sloe or spider is obtained. Sloe is a drupe (plums, peach, apricot, almond, cherry among the most common). The fruit is the size of a hazelnut, bluish, or almost black purplish, covered with a very thin layer of pruine, (protective wax) that gives it a velvety appearance. smooth and shiny skin. Its taste is bitter and very astringent on the palate, which becomes slightly sweeter when ripe. However, that astringency and bitterness is what gives the pacharán its characteristic flavor.
WHERE CAN WE FIND THE BLACKTHORN?
The blackthorn turns out to be a shrub with unprecedented rusticity , making it possible to collect its fruit in almost any point of the peninsula. It can be found from sea level to altitudes of almost 2000 m so it can be found in a multitude of habitats. We just have to find it. The bush is thorny and often matted, so care must be taken when harvesting sloe to avoid getting too scratched.
THE VECERO CHARACTER OF THE BLACKTHORN
In Gardenprue we have already talked a little about the turnaround. For those of you who do not know this phenomenon, we have an extensive article that you can use to find out why this happens to some fruit trees. Briefly we will tell you that the time limit means that many fruit trees a year give excessive productions and others scarce, almost null and sometimes practically none. It occurs for various reasons and depending on the species we treat, this character will be more or less genetically marked. In the case of blackthorn it is pulling high.
HOW THE BLACKTHORN HAS BEEN TAMED
If you have ever taken to going to catch sloes, you will have seen that it is often not easy to catch them. The Latin name of the species says it all “SPINOSA.” It pricks a lot, so manual collection is precious time to be careful and not end up bruised as if it were a cat fight. This means that manual harvesting of wild blackthorn for large-scale production purposes would drive the price of the final price to prohibitive levels.
For this reason, and after several years of research, in Navarra , blackthorn plantations have been grafted onto plum stems for years, in such a way that they manage to transform the shrub to tree growth. This domestication of the crop makes their agricultural work (treatments, planting, harvesting) more comfortable, fast and efficient, with what this entails. Harvesting is carried out mechanized with umbrellas, as is done with the olive tree, managing to drastically lower harvesting costs.
The sloes are harvested in the autumn, during the months of September and October. It is possible that in warm places they ripen a little earlier.
AND HOW DO I MAKE PACHARÁN IN MY HOUSE?
If you have found a blackthorn with ripe sloes and you have caught a good handful of them, we will tell you how you can make pacharán in your own home. There are numerous ways to make pacharán. Adding more or less amount of sloe or other ingredients. I will tell you a little about the regulations regarding ingredients and the way of making Navarrese pacharán according to the DO and then my homemade variant, which gives me good results.
The Pacharán Navarro according to the Denomination of Origin must be made:
- From 125g to 300g of ripe sloes.
- Ethyl alcohol, minimum of 96º from agricultural production.
- Total sugars: from 80 to 200 g / liter expressed as sucrose.
- Maceration for 1 to 8 months.
- Only the essential oil of green anise ( Pimpinella anisum, L. ) and / or star anise ( Illicium verum L. ) is allowed .
- Drinking demineralized water (to adjust the graduation).
- It must be filtered and decanted to leave a clear product without turbidity.
Once we see more or less how the pacharán is made according to the Pacharán Navarro Designation of Origin, I am going to give you a simple homemade variant that is also very good to entertain guests at meetings and meals.
INGREDIENTS FOR 1 LITER
- Ripe sloes : About 200-250g.
- Aniseed distillate (you will have to ask to get anise with a graduation between 25 and 30º). In northern Spain it is easy to find specially distilled aniseed drinks to make homemade pacharán.
- Sugar (Depending on the anise you have bought or how sweet you like the mixture).
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 4-8 Coffee beans (optional, gives color and aroma). It can be natural, roasted or a mixture of the two.
As for the aniseed distillate, some aspects must be taken into account.
- It is advisable to know the graduation .
- Dry, semi-sweet or sweet anise : From my point of view, I would not advise using sweet anise. It’s too cloying. There are people who do like it. Matter of testing. If you use dry anise you can add a little sugar to the mixture. 2 tablespoons will be enough. You can try and add sugar until it is to your liking (if you are not sure and you have to try many times, I advise you not to drive ;-)) Particularly, I think with semi-sweet anise it is fine.
- In a transparent, clean and dry bottle, pour the ripe sloes, the coffee beans and the cinnamon stick
- Anise is added
- Correct the sweetness with sugar depending on the anise that has been purchased
- Remove lightly and close with a cork stopper or screw cap. The important thing is that the closure is well sealed.
- Let it marinate in a cool, dry and dark place (a storage room…) for 6-8 months.
- After maceration, filter the pacharán with a cloth or funnel and re-bottle it.
THE MISTAKE (OR NOT) OF LEAVING THE PACHARÁN TOO LONG WITHOUT CONSUMING WITH THE SLOE INSIDE.
In Spain we have the custom that when we let something marinate, the longer it is, the older it is, the more reserve and the better it will be. Perhaps it comes to us from the wine culture and we think that the longer a “broth” is kept, it wins in all aspects. This is not wine, ladies and gentlemen, it is Pacharán and it has been shown that after more than 6 months (pressing down to 8), the pacharán does not improve with the sloe inside . It will no longer provide more aroma than what has already been achieved after half a year. Perhaps if you add cinnamon, coffee or other seasonings, what we get is that they mask the sloe’s own astringent aroma to turn it into a sweet drink with the flavor of cinnamon, coffee and sugar.
From my humble point of view, a good pacharán does not have to be too sweet, and it has to have that acid touch that sloe gives it with great grace . For this reason, we recommend that after 6 months, with a cloth strainer, filter the content into clean and dry bottles to store and consume when desired. For this reason, we have highlighted the 6-8 months in the previous section and the subsequent filtering. It is advisable to store in a place protected from sunlight.
There will be people who like to leave sloe in the bottle longer. There are as many tastes as sloes in a bottle of pacharán! 😉 In fact, there are trademarks that do so, but from here we tell you that the Pacharán Navarro denomination of origin strictly prohibits leaving sloe in the final product if the product wants to be certified within the denomination. There must be a reason!