The height of summertime heat is plum season for me. Almost 20 years ago, we planted a plum tree inside a newly built garden deer fence, a gift for my 40th birthday. The plum tree now has come to define not only that space, but also the sweet golden plum meaning of summer.
It is now close to a decade that the over-abundance of plums have become my annual ritual of decocting homemade plum brandy.
Although I don’t have the homemade stills that are commonly used in my husband’s homeland of Slovenia to produce clear slivovitz, the brandy you can make from soaking plums for months in a clean alcohol will produce an abundance of Christmas gifts that people will remember for years.
I have experimented with the base recipe by switching up the type of alcohol and spices, although I have always stayed true to our golden plums. Although of course the kind of plums you use will change everything. And you don’t need your own abundant plum tree to make this a summertime ritual like it has become for me. Just a quick trip to the farmers market will get you started. Here is the basic recipe.
Plum Brandy (Slivoitz)
· 2 1/2 pounds Italian prune plums (quetsch)
· 1 1/2 cups sugar
· 3-inch cinnamon stick
· Two 1-inch pieces of lemon peel
· 4 cups vodka or everclear grain alcohol, plus more as needed
1.5 - 2 quarts
You will need half gallon or multiple quart size mason jars with tightly closing lids. This is also not an overnight project. Although most of the work happens on the bottling and unbottling days, the bottles need to sit and be mixed for two weeks before setting them in a dark cool place for 90 days.
Cut your plums using a sharp paring knife through to the pit. The best plums are soft but not mushy or browning. Bruised fruit ferments too quickly and unevenly.
After you slice through the plums on all sides pack them into the jars and add the sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon peel. I have also used whole cardamom seeds which really enhanced the flavors. Pour in enough alcohol to cover the plums
Then cap the jar securely. Be careful to not overfill the jars because they will leak while you spend the next two weeks inverting the jar so that the sugar dissolves throughout the mixture. It takes that initial turning the jars for 2 weeks to melt all the sugars and have the contents uniform.
After the first 2 weeks, place your jars in a dark closet or garage for 90 days or longer. I usually take up the project of straining the plums and spices out of the alcohol as it gets colder in November. Strain the finished alcohol with cheese cloth in a fine mesh strainer. Pour into gift bottles. Serve by the fire and feel the heat of summer time come back with each sip.
Original recipe is from The Washington Post.