Just Knock on the Tree
The Odyssey of the Coddiwompling Tortoise – Rozinante – and The Storyteller
(Coddiwomple: to travel in a purposeful manner toward a vague destination.)
More than I’d bargained for
Martinhus Nel at M&M Mampoer showing me his selection of mampoer.
I was going to tell you about my hairdryer drama but I think I’ll leave that for later. I’m sure you’d prefer me to elaborate on my visit to the nearby farm, where they were making Mampoer. I think I heard a resounding ‘yes’ there — because there has always been a lot of mystery and controversy surrounding mampoer. I set out to discover whether this was true or not.
I discovered that M&M Mampoer in the Marico is only one of three legal distributors registered in the North West province and Gauteng. The business was being run by Ampie Roodt and Rina Lewis but it was Martinhus Nel (Rina’s father) whose conscience may possibly have bothered him in 1995 so he decided he should ‘go legal’ – easier said than done.
It’s hardly surprising that legally brewing mampoer is a headache because you need not one but four licences.
– One for distilling
– One for the kettle
– One for bottling and
– Another to sell it
A SARS inspector can check on a brewer at any time and if you haven’t completed your monthly paperwork, the fine is stiff. Rina missed submitting once as she’d been needed at the hospital with her dying mother. The inspector was not in the least compassionate – he made her pay R5000.
Martinhus & Rina Nel at M&M Mampoer
The recipe is simplicity itself but as in anything, there are tricks of the trade. Mampoer must be made from fresh fruit – not to be confused with Witblits (White Lightning), where only grape skins are used. M&M uses peaches, lemons, naartjies, bananas and so on – just as long as they’re fresh. Combined with water and sugar It can take two weeks in summer for the fermented fruit to mature but it can take up to two months or longer in winter.
The mixture requires checking and stirring twice a day and the smallest electrical kettle for a commercial licence is 680 litres – made professionally by a boilermaker with his number on it. The still’s elements are turned off if it’s too hot or the water evaporates and the alcohol content from the distiller needs measuring every 15 minutes for two days, from 6am-9pm.
Oddly enough, the fruit is only for flavour and anyone can be trained to make the brew, with no course deemed necessary. The tricky part is checking and stirring it with the alcohol content worked out mathematically. A good return from one batch is considered to be about 45 litres.
Ampie taking me through his selection of mampoer.
Neither Ampie nor Rina are big drinkers but they give presentations at Mampoer Festivals, guesthouses and on farms where they say the liqueurs are the most popular sellers as the alcohol content at 24% is not as strong as the clear mampoer at 60%.
The Canadian’s Moonshine has a 50% alcohol content while the Japanese have their Saki of the same strength with the Chinese rice wine having 25%. Most countries have a strong drink but unsurprisingly, compared with their vodka, Russian visitors don’t find it so at all.
Mampoer will always be a novelty but it’s not for me — after all, should I really risk hairs on my chest?
Directions: Take the tarred road from Groot Marico (not the dirt one) to Riekerts Dam camping site. Once you see the camp site on your right, it’s only 3km of bad dirt road to Doornkraal Farm and M&M Mampoer on your right-hand side. Maybe the road has been improved by now.
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