Today we are going to talk about the process of making one of the most typical products of Alentejo hills and the Algarve countryside, a spirit made with wild strawberry that Portuguese people consume since immemorial time.
The aguardente de medronho or medronheira ends up being one of the spirits drinks most demanded by tourists from these areas of Portugal, who also buy it as souvenir. Behind every bottle hides the tradition of making ancestral spirits whose preparation has hardly changed with the passage of time.
Since it is to be expected, the Portuguese drink is prepared with strawberry fruits. The little tree grows wild in arable soils, so its production does not depend on farmers. In fact, it is the villagers who historically have been devoted to collecting wild strawberry, so they could then develop the typical liquor.
Actually, there are some semi-industrial distilleries using cement tanks for the fermentation of arbutus. However, it is common to use wooden or mud compartments. In all cases, the fermentation is natural and it is not being completed until a month or 60 days.
During the process it is essential that the tank walls are coated with the same fruit made puree, so they are sealed and the fermented product does not come in contact with air. After fermentation, the mendronheira must wait another two months sheltered, until finally it is ready for bottling.
The Algarve strawberry brandy has between 40 and 50 degrees, has a crystal clear look and has a smell and fruity taste. It’s a stiff drink that also improves significantly if it is allowed to age up to eight years in oak barrels. It is normal to drink it at room temperature. However, apart from conventions and purists, the fact is that foreigners prefer to taste it cold.