I was walking along the countryside roads around the village yesterday just enjoying the bright warm (18 degrees) November weather and I came upon this cheery sight.
I thought that it looked a little like early Christmas decorations slightly out of place on a warm afternoon.
In November the nights are drawing in and my neighbors have all got their thick coats on. Its about time for a Magusto (roasted chestnuts and local wine) a very nice, simple social gathering. Its also the month that the fruit of the Medronho tree (Latin name – Arbutus unedo) are coming into ripeness. You can tell that by the fruit which have dropped to the floor.
Very soon now you will see people out picking the ripest fruits to take home and make medronho “Aguardente de Medronhos” which is a subtly flavoured fruit brandy. When I say fruit I mean this in the botanical sense as if you were to eat one you would find them very unpalatable.
The brandy made from these fruits is a great example of traditional ingenuity making something good out of very little. Medronho trees (sometimes called strawberry trees) grow wild in rural regions all over Portugal.
Medronhos is a strong spirit made locally by farmers. Hand processed therefore there is not a limit to its alcoholic strength usually it is between 30% and an eye watering 60% alcohol.
Home brewing/distilling of this fire water is illegal but tolerated by the authorities to keep alive this traditional Portuguese custom.
Aquardente de Medronhos can be bought mail order and in some shops so if you want to try it go to – http://www.medronhoshop.com/age_limit.php?lg=en
If you want to try it locally. I suggest you go into a hole in the wall type bar full of locals and ask for it there. “um copo de medronhos se faz favor” Take it slowly and sip it to experience the unique flavor.
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