I have been practicing the cauldron craft for 57 years, I have held the hammer in my hand for more than half a century. I inherited the craft from my father who inherited from my grandfather. In the old days, it wasn’t just one shop – it had to be done in multiple shops to perfect the craft. And I’m still learning, especially in the age of new technology, when you have a variety of welding machines. In the past, when I wanted to weld something, I used to cook on a blacksmith’s fire, says Boško Despotović, from the village of Kočićevo, near Nova Topla, the only cauldron maker in our region who manually hammers the cauldrons.
The Despotović family gave three generations of the cauldron makers, and the family shop was founded in 1914 by Boško’s late father. The blacksmith fire that Despotović mentions came from a master from whom he was learning the craft and the tool arrived in Nova Gradiška by ship and other means of transport.
“It says on this old tool that it was made at the American Champion Foundry in 1901, says how many inches it is, and was licensed and patented in 1902. We almost contacted this company to get some more information about the machine itself and they wanted to buy it from us, but that is out of the question. The blacksmith’s fire still burns today and will remain as a legacy in our family, ” said Boško proudly.
Before the war, the Despotović family lived and worked in the village of Mašići, near Nova Gradiška, Croatia. At the beginning of the war, they moved to Okučani, and after the war ended Boško with his wife and three children, two sons and a daughter, went to Australia. For fifteen years they lived in the vicinity of Sydney, after which this master of skillful hands and his wife returned to Koćićevo.
And Boško also made cauldrons in Australia. As he says, he is the first and probably the last in the territory of this distant land to have established a cauldron shop.
“They protect your industry in Australia, you can produce alcohol as much as you want, but only with the necessary licenses. Those who have been licensed used to take big pots for the production of alcohol, and those who were not licensed less than 20-30 liters, so they baked brandy and hide it from the authorities. Because the beauty is just what is not allowed, ” recalls Boško laughing.
Even today, Boško is making cauldrons and says there is plenty to do.
“There used to be one cauldron in one village, so three surrounding villages bake brandy. Today, it is different, many people have their orchards and want to have their own cauldron. Now the cauldrons are least bought by people from the village, the clientele is mostly politicians.” explains Boško, who, in addition to brandy cauldrons, also produces essential oil distillation boilers and alcohol purifiers during distillation.
“It takes about three weeks for me to make cauldron. It also depends on the size of the cauldron, but I have to keep in mind that everything is hand-forged, it has value, ” says Boško, who, after leaving Mašić, did not bring any of the tools, but said that several Croats managed to preserve his hammer and anvil, which he still has in his workshop today.
The price of a cauldron depends on its size and the material it is made of.
“It depends on how much material is installed, because it is not the same to install 30 kg of copper or 100 kg of copper, and copper is expensive. The largest cauldron I made eas for 1,000 liters, and the smallest ones were for two to three liters.
When asked what is his recipe for good brandy, he said that it is important to have a good cauldron, but also a good material, that is, a good plum, pear or apple, and fermentation and distillation processes are very important.
“I am a happy man, I do what I love, and the customers who bought cauldrons from me bring their brandy for me to try – cider, apricot brandy, herb, honey, pear, good plum brandy,” Boško concludes.
Source: Nezavisne novine