My Messinia

Oikos VIII-Leonidas’ raki distillery-Alagni-Crete

3 places in Greece are very familiar and and very precious to me: Messinia, being my home and Ikaria and Crete which are my constant companions. I have just returned from a short trip to Crete and I am unpacking my memories from the stay. One of the highlights of this trip was “kazani”- raki distillig celebration which I am presenting in this post. October and early November is the period for “raki” or “tsikoudia” drink making and we were lucky to be there on a weekend when my dearest friend Korinna (who by the way runs a great cultural initiative in Crete: “Carob Mill Arts and Culture Centre”) was having her kazani party.dsc_0241-1The celebration took place in the Distillery of Leonidas in Alagni village near Heraklion. Every autumn Leonidas goes into great pains to prepare the interiors of his distillery to warmly welcome the raki producers and their friends. dsc_0119-1otvdsc_0107-1otvThe empty white walls of the humble building are lavishly decorated with traditional and personal memorabilia in such a way that the space looks as if it has been arranged like this for many decades yet surprisingly the collectibles stay put for 2 months only and then they are carefully packed and preserved till next season. I loved the massive tree trunks and old stone olive mill wheels used as stools and tables and the unexpected combination of everyday objects with elaborate items: laces, embroideries and paintings hanging together in perfect harmony and looking stoically at us-the crazy drinking humans-from their lofty positions.dsc_0106-1otvAbout raki or tsikoudiatsikoudia – or also commonly raki in the eastern part of Crete– is an alcoholic beverage, a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy of Cretan origin that contains 40%–65% alcohol. The drink is made by distilling  of pomace, i.e., the pieces of grapes (sometimes including the stems and seeds) that were pressed for the winemaking process. The pomace is kept for about six weeks after the grapes have been pressed, in a tightly-sealed barrel,and then the fermented mush is distilled.dsc_0245-1otvdsc_0190-1otvRaki making: The content of the barrel with pomace is transferred to a kazani (word from Turkish origin meaning big pot), which is put on a wood fire; the contents get to near boiling point and the steam gets syphoned off through a piping system, gets cooled-down and the resulting liquid is called raki or tsikoudia, pending where you come from. Tsikoudia is sometimes served cold from a bottle kept in a freezer. This is commonly offered as an after dinner digestif and in most tavernas in Crete, as a complimentary aperitif with fruits and sweets after the meal

dsc_0175-1otvdsc_0179otvdsc_0174-1otvdsc_0136otvThe “kazani”celebration takes place during this process and is organized by the owner of the grape mush; friends gather for a party with live music and a taste of the new raki.

 dsc_0217otvdsc_0221-1cotvdsc_0222-1otvBesides the great raki we listened and danced to Cretan and Irish music performed by wonderful musicians who are based in Crete: Paul Goodman/Manolia Kokoloyianni/Minas Mpampatsis ….dsc_0164otvdsc_0161-1otvdsc_0159otv……………………………and I had a pleasure to sing with them a few songs too!dsc_0213aotv2

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