Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Happy Machines

The other weekend we spent a very pleasant afternoon in the company of a Happy Machine (a Bosnian still for making plum brandy for the uninitiated amongst you). It was rather late in the year as everyone felt a little guilty about making very strong alcohol during Ramadan, but no one seemed to be having too much guilt about drinking large quantities of the stuff immediately afterwards.

The men sat around stirring the plums, sterilizing the machine, bringing it all to the boil, watching it condense down, measuring the alcohol content with a whizzy little gadget that floats in the liquor and tasting it all to make sure it was all ok. We could see which the most important aspect of the process was judging by the amount of time spent tasting the output. The rest of us ate large quantities of food, the kids ran riot outside and life was good.

This brewing of the sljiva is an integral part of Bosnian culture (Muslims many of them may be, teetotal Muslims they are not). It is one of the autumnal rituals. The rumours that are running rife that the EU would ban the Happy Machines (bah humbug to the miserable fun stealing Brussels bureaucrats) are seriously testing Bosnians desire to join the Europe. I think most sane countries have banned the stills years ago, but this doesn't appear to deter the Bosnians. Apparently those who have emigrated to other European countries still manage to get their fix, just making sure the brewing happens indoors behind drawn curtains.

Dave loves this part of being in Bosnia. He looks forward to a Happy Machine afternoon, even though he doesn't really like the end result. I hadn't really paid much attention to this interest, right up the point I discovered him in the supermarket supposedly shopping for milk and cheese gazing covetously at and seriously considering buying a brand new still. A snip at only 2,400KM (1,200Euros).

Happily we remain Happy Machine-less after some fast talking on my part and a reality check on the state of our bank account on his. May we go to many more afternoons where the brandy is brewed, but I'm not Bosnian enough to want it happening in my garage.


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If you've had enough sljiva and are feeling brave enough, then make straight for the brilliant Hot Cross Mum's Halloween Best of British Mummy Blogging Carnival

18 comments:

Marsha Moore said...

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing...

TheMadHouse said...

I love that it is a happy machine and that everyone is scared of what the EU will ban.

Teacher Mommy said...

Hmm...I'm thinking some of that might kill what ails me today.

Think you could get away with shipping some alkyhall across international borders?

gaelikaa said...

Oh yes, just go sometimes. Have it in your garage, it's way too close!

Metropolitan Mum said...

I didn't know that it was banned in most countries. That explains a lot.

ourprivateblog.wordpress.com said...

Happy Machine is such a cool name!!

nappy valley girl said...

Sounds like great fun. Reminds me of all the students I once knew who spent hours making home brews and once, distilling peach schnapps, which disturbingly turned out to be black...

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Here we have raki, it's horrible, made from grapes. You'd never guess though. Don't think most of it is made by anything as high tech as a Happy Machine though.Not much of anything gets done by machines here...

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Ok, maybe they do use those here, having read your other Aug post,it sounds like there's not much 'machine' to it, just semantics.I've never seen it made here, will have to ask someone to show us...

Anonymous said...

Dear FM -

I was surfing the web at the office this afternoon and stumbled across a book that made me think of your blog. The book is "Are We There Yet: Travels with my Frontline Family", by Rosie Whitehouse.

It looks like something that you might enjoy.

Cheers/Prijatno

2 Brits, 2 Yanks, 2 Dogs said...

I think that is a great name "the happy machine"

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

MM - thanks for stopping by.

MH - me too!

TM - trust me, the Bosnians may love it, but you won't!

Gaelikaa - my thoughts precisely.

MM - apparently so, moonshine making is not thought to be a good thing. Although I don't know how many countries actually pay attention to the letter of the law.

Kathryn - I think so to!

NVG - Dave has some home brew here. The Bosnians dismissed it as just adding water like making squash.

PLT - I bet they have something similar. Otherwise we could always send you one!

Anon - thanks! I've actually read it and really enjoyed it, and I think I wrote a post about it -

http://britsinbosnia.blogspot.com/2009/02/in-praise-of-smokis.html

Always looking for a good book recommendation though, any more let me know!

2BY&D - isn't it brilliant!

Toni in Ithaca said...

The second time we lived in Tuzla, in 2001-2, we experience five nights of restless sleep while the still-ers sang and brewed at the house across the lane.

Richard said...

I remember having some plum brandy when I was on my honeymoon in Jajce. For a start I was surprised that it was clear (I think I probably expected it to be purple or something) and it was pretty strong-tasting, but I managed to get it down in a couple of gulps.

At this point, Mrs J looked at me imploringly and pushed her glass towards me. "I've had a bit of it" she said unconvincingly, as I looked at her obviously still full glass. I managed hers too, but I can't say I really enjoyed it. I think it's an acquired taste.

rosiescribble said...

I want one of those machines!!

A Modern Mother said...

I think I need a happy machine.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Toni - you guys know the reprobates who were hosting us the other weekend. There was singing too.

Richard - definitely an aquired taste. I can't stand it but shhh don't tell the Bosnians. They have heart attacks when they work out that the stuff we have been given gets used to help get ticks off the dog.

Rosie Scribble - they do look pretty cool.

MM - I'd like a Happy Machine to help me make decent wine.

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