My neighbor across the alley has a prolific Italian Prune Plum tree. Last year, I used her plums to create my recipe for Plum Butter with Chinese Five Spice in The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook. Even though I made multiple batches of plum butter, I still had pound of plums leftover. It was about that time that I stumbled on a recipe for Slivovitz in the Washington Post. Slivovitz is an Eastern European plum brandy common to Croatia, Serbia, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.
I am of Hungarian decent, and I wish I could share charmingly, clouded memories of sipping Slivovitz with my grandmother and great aunt, but unfortunately my grandmother passed away when I was in my early teens so no such memories exist. I was still intrigued by the idea and the recipe though. I teach a Hungarian and Eastern European cooking class (Grandma Rose's recipes) and Slivovitz dove-tailed right into that. With the abundance of Marie's plums to use up, it seemed like the perfect recipe to try.
Last spring, the Toth Family asked me to teach a Hungarian cooking class in honor of their 93-year old mother's birthday. I brought along some of the Slivovitz for a special treat. We popped it open during the last of the cooking, playfully referring to it as Hungarian Hooch and toasted Ann. The perfect end to a lovely afternoon of cooking and family.
So, here we are at peak plum season once again. I figured I should start another batch, just in case I'm asked to toast Ann at her 94th birthday!
Recipe adapted from Cathy Barrow, Washington Post, Sept 12, 2012
Makes 2 quarts
2 1/2 pounds small ripe Italian prune plums*
1 1/2 cups superfine granulated sugar
2 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 1-inch pieces lemon peel
4 cups vodka
Gently rinse the plums under cool running water. Remove the stems and use a sharp paring knife to pierce each plum through to the pit 3 or 4 times. Be sure to exam each one to make sure it's perfect. (Bruised fruit ferments too quickly.)
You can either use a jar beverage dispenser or 2 quart-size mason jars. Add the plums, sugar, cinnamon sticks and lemon peel. Stir gently and cover. If you use the mason jars, divide the fruit between evenly between the two jars. Add the sugar (3/4 cup per jar), cinnamon sticks, and lemon peel. Pour in vodka, and cap the jars securely.
If you used a large beverage dispenser, like I did, stir the plums gently with a wooden spoon once a day, every day for 2 weeks. If you used two mason, invert the jars once a day, every day for 2 weeks. At the end of 2 weeks, the sugar will have dissolved.
Place the jar in a closet or other dark space for 90 days. At the end of the 90 days you'll have a delicious amber-magenta liquor. You can strain the Slivovitz through a coffee filter and bottle it in something pretty if you wish but I kind of like the homey look of the plums in the mason jar. It makes a fun gift for the holidays.
Slivovitz is usually sipped chilled, as a digestif, but I love to mix it into a Champagne Cocktail. It's delicious and a little bit dangerous!
Plum Champagne Cocktail
natural cane turbinado sugar
brut champagne or sparkling wine
Moisten the rim of the champagne flutes with grenadine and coat with turbinado sugar for a sugared rim. Allow to dry slightly.
Fill 1/3 of each champagne flute with Slivovitz and top each off with champagne. You can use slices of the spirit-infused plums as a garnish, if you'd like.