Monday, September 03, 2007

Scrumpy and The Marula Tree..

I am a huge fan of YouTube, and spend a reasonable amount of time typing in searches on all kinds of topics. It is amazing what can be found there. Just recently, a video has appeared showing African animals suffering intoxication as a direct result of consuming fallen, rotting fruit of the Marula tree.

It is true that a few animals do like the fruit, but most prefer it fresh. The leaves and bark have medicinal properties, and the skin of the fruit can be made into a coffee like drink. The pulp of the fruit contains way more vitamin C than all other more well known fruits, and the kernels inside release oil which is a good skin treatment.

People living in England's West Country and South West will be well acquainted with the alcoholic drink known as cider. Cider is the processed fluid extracted from apples. It is cleaned up, filtered, and has an appealing golden color. Scrumpy, on the other hand, is the raw product, straight from pressed, fermenting apples. The really strong varieties can knock out even a well seasoned drinker.

So, can animals get drunk eating rotting Marula fruit? The video, made back in 1974, would suggest that they can, but think about it. Eating rotten fruit is more likely to cause stomach upset, which will in turn cause the digestive system to reject it. One would have to consume a fair amount and hold it before fermentation and ensuing drunkeness would follow. Clearly, this would not happen, and in the case of elephants who actually prefer the fruit fresh from the trees, the amount of water also consumed by them would dilute the alcohol content to the point where it would have zero effect.

In the same way as rotting apples are used for Scrumpy and cider, rotting white grapes are used in the production of Sauternes wine. The vineyards call it the 'noble rot' which sounds better. I doubt that anybody eating rotten grapes has ever suffered drunkeness before having to use 'bathroom' facilities.

It would appear that the 'funny' video clip was in fact a staged event, and would not be allowed these days.

I can see that I have your mouths watering for a glass o' scrumpy, so here is a traditional Devon recipe.


  • 12 pounds apples
  • 1/2 pound raisins
  • 1/2 pound raw meat
  • 1 gallon water at 70 degrees
  • champagne yeast (tradition calls for bakers yeast)


  1. Chop and grind the apples and raisins. These days a food processor will do the trick
  2. Use a brewing barrel with an airlock
  3. Put the ground apples and raisins into the water with the chopped meat.
  4. Stir thoroughly
  5. Add the yeast and seal the brewing barrel with the airlock.
  6. Everyday swirl the barrel to stir the ingredients.
  7. After the first fermentation slows, about 8-10 days, move to a similar vessal for seconary fermentation. If you like a dry cider, add a second dose of yeast to the secondary fermentation.
  8. Seal with an airlock.
  9. Let it sit until it the fermentation slows to a very slow, almost imperceptible bubble.
  10. Move to a carboy to let the heavier particles settle out.
  11. Let it sit for about a week and bottle.
The scrumpy should be left to mature for at least four months, and if left for a year will mellow out quite nicely.

One glass and the world seems a better place, two glasses and you probably do not remember.

No comments: