The poor man's fermented answer to moonshine, pruno is a very, very crudely concocted beverage produced by enterprising would-be vintners, most often in maximum security prison. It should be fairly self-evident why it should be popular in such a setting, as inmates are overwhelmingly unlikely to have access to more conventional forms of alcohol or have particularly high standards for the quality of which they consume. Besides, if you've got two back to back life sentences on your rap sheet, it's a much more interesting (and lucrative) hobby to pursue than whittling or checkers.

Pruno can theoretically be made from anything and everything that can contain sugar. The raw materials are most often gleaned from the scraps left on a prison lunch tray: prunes, (hence the name), raisins, sugar, cinammon, ice cream, frosting, and Jello. You get the idea. Once a suitable amount of sweet goop is collected, the mess is thrown together in a small plastic fermentation flexi-tank (colloquially known under the brand name of Zip-Loc), placed tentatively in a roomy, dark porcelain storage facility (to the common layman, a crusty, rancid toilet) and allowed to ferment for a number of days until deemed ready to consume (i.e., when you can't bear the smell any longer).

These kinds of things they definitely don't teach on PBS. But if you've read this and are still insanely bored or thirsty enough to risk your eyesight or liver for a few hours of a slightly altered state of consciousness, a more sanitized version of the jailhouse classic exists, made primarily from fresh fruit, stale bread, and ketchup. As you can imagine, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than getting a case of Brut to entertain your wedding guests, and makes a much more understated, sublime impression.

You will need to start preparing pruno at least five days before the intended date of consumption. Take ten oranges and about 250 grams of fruit from a cocktail cup -- the kind with a mixed assortment of fruit, usually chopped pineapple, peaches, oranges, strawberries, etc. Individual flavor is really not going to make a difference to the final taste of the drink; but it helps to get a good variety of juices to give it that nice, orangy-red tropical look. Peel your oranges and press the juice into a plastic bag -- ideally, with as much pulp as possible. Throw in the rest of the fruit, mash down a bit, add a bit of orange peel, several crusts of wheat or rye bread, a half-liter of water, and seal the bag.

Now, all we need to do is entice those billions of microorganisms to produce us some alcohol. Place the bag in a sink and heat it with hot running water for fifteen minutes. Insulate it with several paper towels to preserve the heat, and store it for forty-eight hours in a dry, dark place where other people won't be able to find it, if only to spare you the pain and embarassment of trying to explain to your grade-school child what the hell it is you're doing to his missing lunch.

After the time has elapsed, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar (or around roughly fifty cubes) and six teaspoons (or packets) of ketchup to the mix. Put the bag back in its position for a further seventy-two hours, removing once daily to heat with hot running water for fifteen minute intervals. At the end, skim off the scum at the top and strain any solid ingredients. This should make roughly about a liter of wine. Pour the desired portions into plastic cups and serve.

Also makes a handy substitute for Boone's Farm. Just add Sprite.

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