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La saison du txotx, un rituel traditionnel


The "txotx" ritual, an ancient tradition


La saison du txotx, un rituel traditionnel

A drink that is changing all the time, that's natural cider. The famous Donostiarra (from San Sebastian) gastronomer Felix Mocoroa wrote: "Fermentation can last for months, making cider drier and drier. The cider maker must choose the right time to drink it or put it in the bottle." What the gastronomer said is known to all the cider makers; that will give the cider its character and the proper natural spark. That's why it was so important to open the barrel before bottling, taste it, and take the shape that cider would have in the close future.


The tradition of txotx is based on tasting the cider, on knowing if the product to be purchased — still young — will be good. Of course, the current tradition is not only that, but also has a friendly/familiar environment. The germ of the txotx season we know now is in the gastronomic societies of half a century ago. These associations were the main consumers after the war, when the consumption of cider and other products had declined. The group of friends used to go to the cider cellars to taste cider and eat a bite. People brought in people, and this festive habit has gained strength in recent decades, maintaining its original appearance, but changing its initial meaning.

However, clichés are not good; there were all sorts of cider lovers in the past. Here's what Mocoroa said in 1953: "There are three kinds of people who go to the txotx: experts who think it's a sacred thing to taste cider; amateurs who fill the cider cellar with big pots of food and drink cider that the previous ones says is good; and family groups who go on Sundays to spend the day with their big casseroles of traditional food". So we don't seem to have invented anything at all.


We don't know when the txotx was "invented" probably, since there's a habit of making cider. There are a lot of papers in the archives of so many villages that talk about cider, and the first quotes are from the 12th century. The trade in cider was very regulated in Gipuzkoa; since the sixteenth century it has been stated in provincial ordinances that the cider maker could not open the barrel whenever they wanted. First, the cider makers and two representatives chosen by the villagers had to try the new cider from the barrels to agree on the price and approve it. Then there was a drawing, and the barrels opened alternately; we could not open one until the other was empty. That's the tradition of many centuries ago. Moreover, the priest announced the opening of the barrels from the pulpit to the air of the bells of the church; and all that was missing was to say: "This is the new cider of this year!" Here's the special opening act of the txotx season. We don't seem to have invented anything at all.


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