Slivovica / Slivovitz
Q: What is the recipe for homemade slivovitz?
Get really ripe, better overripe (no rot or mold) prune plums – sugar plums – slivka, plural slivky in Slovak, Prunus domestica in Latin. No other plums will do for slivovica: the root sliv- refers only to the sugar (prune) plum in several Slavic languages. The liquor made from them is called slivovica [sleevoveetsah] in Slovak, Moravian Czech, šljivovica in Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian (шљивовица), slivovka in Slovene, and is considered a characteristic local drink in most of those regions. The growing of slivky on Slovak territory has been traced back to Great Moravia in the 9th century and may have started earlier.
Remove the stems and put the fresh sugar plums, no dried prunes, in a vessel (vat, barrel). It is better to mash, or even purée them in order to leave little or no room for air among the sugar plums, and between them and the cover. Remove the stones for a smoother taste, as some insist, others leave them in for a "true" taste. You may add a little ammonium phosphate (about 0.3 ounces per 10 US gallons).
Add sugary water if the plums are not really sweet and really, really (over)ripe, which will also help push out the air. Cover tightly, but allow gasses to escape. Stir periodically for the first 2 weeks.
Stop the fermentation after about 2+ months when the mash becomes pronouncedly sweet-and-sour and the amount of sugars drops under 3%. Stir in calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or calcium hydroxide (Ca[OH]2), about 4 ounces per 10 US gallons, more if the mash is very sour, in order to remove the sourness. Keep the mash cool and airtight for 1-2 days, then take it to a distillery.
Historically, Slovakia's most famous sugar plums (Prunus domestica, var. amygdalina) came from the Banská Bystrica area in central Slovakia. Hence, the choice plums – flavorful-aromatic sweet from trees suitable for cooler climates – used to be called bystričky in Slovak, bystrzyczki in the Podhale and Lesser Poland regions north of the Slovak counties, beszterceiszilva in Hungarian. The published doctor and botanist Anton Weszelszki (Veselský) believed in the 1700s that they were already prized in the early 13th century.
Mostly old trees still bear the top-rated plums. Due to the susceptibility of the fruit to sharka (plum pox), Slovak growers have largely replaced bystričky with less toothy, but sturdier imported cultivars since the early 1990s, mainly from Germany in the 2000s.