Lëng shege

Must and Fermented Beverages - Albania

Lëng shege is a type of soft drink prepared through the simple fermentation of pomegranates, which are well known in the Kelmend region of northern Albania for their sweet, fresh taste and property of being a digestive aid. The preparation of the juice starts in the second half of November during the harvest. It is very important to collect the pomegranates when the fruits are not damp, and that the barrel where the fruit will be stored is very dry. The interior fruit is mixed with sugar (in a ratio of 1 kg of sugar to 1 kg of fruit), and left uncovered in a cool place for at least seven days. Two to three times a day, the contents are stirred. Then, the light crimson colored juice is drained and filtered twice before being bottled. The juice can be drunk in small quantities on its own, or mixed with water, raki or red wine. It is often used as an aperitif. Unopened, a bottle of lëng shege will last for more than one year.

The collection and the processing of fruits and herbs have always been common activities in Albania’s Kelmend Alps.  Pomegranates are widespread and grow spontaneously in the local villages, but their use for juice has only developed in the last few decades, after the opening of the borders and the spread of recipes and knowledge from neighboring countries such as Montenegro. Today, however, this product has become widespread in the region, especially for its use as a digestive drink. Lëng shege is mainly prepared for home consumption, but can also be found in traditional restaurants. However, the preparation of the drink is very time consuming and the practice may be lost with growing emigration from the region.