Every year, around the end of October until mid-December, aromas of raki and local dishes overwhelm Cretan countryside along with traditional music and friendly hospitable people. It is the period of “rakokazana”.
“Rakokazana” or “kazanemata” as the locals call it, is the process through which raki is distillated in a traditional way. “Rakokazana” is something like a ritual for the Cretans since this tradition is deeply rooted in their culture.
Following is the process of producing raki. There are specially designated areas where prominently holds the caldron. The caldrons vary depending on their dynamic distillation while the process remains in all cases the same. The boiler consists of three basic parts. The caldron or pot, lid and a pipe through where the steam is transferred.
The drink raki is destilled from grapes, and more specifically from the pressed grapes used initially for the production of wine. The skins and the seeds left over from pressing the grapes, which are called “strafylla” or “tsikouda”, are kept for about 40 days in barrels until the fermentation is done. When the production process of the raki starts, “strafylla” are placed in the pot with water while the bottom of the caldron is covered with thyme in order to avoid burning them. Beneath the cauldron lit a wood fire and strafylla start boiling…The intensity of the fire is very important as the boiling should being kept constant. The caldron starts to boil and then the alcohol evaporates and it is initially trapped at the top of the cistern. After that, the trapped steam is slowly released into the tube which is connected to the cauldron. The outer tube assembly passes through a tank containing cold water and therefore because of the difference in the temperature the steam in the tube is cooled and liquefied. Finally, it ends at the end drop by drop in a clay jar and “protoraki” (the very first distillation of raki) is ready! The collection of the traditional strong drink needs patience. The person who organizes the “rakokazano” counts the grades of raki and when the degrees of the drink go down to the desired level, the procedure is completed. Usually the procedure ends when the alcohol reaches at about 18 degrees or lower.
The domestic distilled spirits is not a legal procedure in Greece and requires a special permission from the government. The tradition of raki was instituted by Eleftherios Venizelos in 1920 where permits for distilleries were given to Cretan farmers. The owner of the license holds also the space where the cauldron is. Traditionally the licenses are transferred from father to son.
The “rakokazano” is undoubtedly a very interesting tradition of the Cretans.
Visit the Island of Crete to taste raki and attend in a traditional “rakokazano”!