Cheers to boilo, a homemade Yuletide brew that’s part of coal region history – Baltimore Sun

Rediscovery of 100-year-old Boilo Recipe Revives Coal Region Tradition

When cousins Ryan Twardzik and Paul Domalakes stumbled upon an old family recipe for boilo, they wasted no time in whipping up a batch of the potent holiday drink. After debuting their creation at a family gathering, the duo quickly realized the significance of their find in reestablishing a link to their family’s past in northern Schuylkill County.

Boilo, a holiday tradition for many families in the coal region, holds a special place in the area’s culture and heritage. Immigrant miners from Lithuania and Poland are credited with developing the brew in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While it shares similarities with the Polish honey liqueur krupnik, boilo has its own unique character.

According to local author Amy Dougherty, boilo’s origins can be traced back to the immigrant miners’ inability to distill krupnik, leading them to boil a similar brew, hence the name “boilo.” She also suggests that the drink may have started as folk medicine, as evidenced by its association with providing relief from the hardships of coal mining and ailments like colds and flu.

Reflecting its standing in the community, Friendship Fire Company No. 1 in Frackville has been holding an annual boilo contest for about 20 years, drawing over 100 attendees. Contestants, vying for recognition in traditional and flavored categories, submit their homemade concoctions for judging by a panel and compete for the People’s Choice Award.

Despite its humble beginnings, boilo has evolved over the years, with various recipes emerging to suit individual tastes. A basic formula includes ingredients such as clover honey, oranges, lemons, raisins, cinnamon sticks, and an assortment of spices – often served warm in shot glasses for a heartwarming holiday experience.

The annual boilo contest brings together community members to celebrate and honor this time-honored tradition, showcasing the craft and creativity that goes into producing this beloved beverage. As the years go by, it continues to strengthen the bond between the community and its rich cultural heritage.

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