What is Medronho?
The Medronho trees – Arbutus unedo- have traditionally grown in the rural lands of the Mediterranean Region and Occidental Europe. But it is in Portugal, especially in the Alentejo & Algarve regions, where their peoples have been picking the medronho fruit for centuries. This event usually begins in mid-September finishing in November or December – depending on climate variations- when the strawberry tree branches are packed with the little orange and red fruits.
This part of the process is especially laborious because they need to be handpicked one by one from the branches of the “Medronheiro”. From that moment on the fruits can be used for different purposes: most of them will be fermented in wooden or clay tanks being used months later to produce the famous spirit. However, the fruit is also very appreciated in the kitchen, especially for pastry recipes.
The medronho spirit is part of the identity of the SW Portugal and represent a process with centuries of history, being transmitted through generations. After the picking of the fruits we need wait a few weeks or even months to allow the fruits to ferment. Afterwards, the Medronho will be ready to be distilled. This process is done following the traditional way, using “alambiques”, copper tanks which are heated up to allow the alcohol to be extracted. This delicate process can last up to 7 hours and not all the resultant liquid will be bottled, only the part that guarantees the highest quality and has an alcohol concentration never lower than 42%.