So, how is tuica made?
Let the fruit--in our case, grapes-- ferment in a big barrel for 6-8 weeks.
Sprinkle a bit of sand on the bottom of the distiller tank and fill it to the brim with the month-old grape mush.
Put the cover on the tank and seal it so steam doesn't escape during the distilling process. For the sealant, Tibi prepared a glue-like mixture of hot water, flour and wheat chaff.
Light the fire and wait. Tibi gave me nothing more than corn stalks to feed the fire. And, since they burn up quickly, I had to be vigilent and constantly add more stalks (even though wood would have made my job easier, it's too precious to waste on anything but heating the home).
When the tank begins to boil, steam travels through a copper pipe which is routed into a barrel of water (pictured above). The water cools the pipe causing the vaporized alcohol within to condense and dribble into a collecting pot (just like in high school science class, except back then we weren't making alcohol, unless it was 'Bootlegging 101'). The process takes a while, but you know it's time to stop collecting when the tuica starts to taste sour-- at which point it's little more than musty fruit juice.
There you have it, tuica!