Ark of taste
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Lyuto is a fermented, mildly alcoholic beverage made from wild fruits. The word lyuto in Bulgarian means ‘hot’ or ‘spicy,’ and in the Rhodope dialects it has the meaning of ‘sour.’ The drink is light red in color and has a particular, sour taste. It is made with a mixture of fruits including the European crab apple (Malus sylvestris), wild pear (Pyrus pyraster), snow pear (Pyrus nivalis), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), dog rose (Rosa spp.) and hawthorn (Crataegus spp.). These ingredients are collected in autumn between October and November, following the year’s first autumn frost, when the fruits are soft but not spoiled or mushy. Sometimes, the fruits of danewort (Sambucus ebulus) are added for their pinkish-red coloring. There is no specific ratio for the different fruits, but the crab apple flavor should be the most dominant. Fruits are layered or placed in gauze bags separately in wooden casks or plastic barrels with spigots that hold up to 100 liters. Sacks of barley are placed between the fruit bags. The fruits are topped with clematis (Clematis vitalba), which is used to prevent acetic acid fermentation. Water is added, and the vessels are stored in cellars at a constant low temperature (4 – 10°C). The fermentation process is slow and followed by malolactic fermentation, which contributes to the specific sour taste. Lyuto is ready for consumption after about a month. The alcohol content is very low, averaging less than 2%.   The traditional recipe is orally passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth within the mainly rural settlements in the Western Rhodope Mountains in southern Bulgaria. Lyuto can be found in some guesthouses in the area, however commercialization is difficult due to the short shelf life of the beverage. After a cask is tapped, it should be consumed within about three days. Therefore, most Lyuto production is for home use. Lyuto production is declining every year due to the extensive fruit collection required. The preparation is labor intensive for the local, mostly elderly population. Harvest of the wild fruits requires visits to many remote areas, often accessible only by foot or with carts.

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