Many home chefs throughout Europe are busy each autumn harvesting ripe plums and making slivovitz with them. Slivovitz traces its heritage to the Balkan region of Europe, where this distilled beverage is a staple drink. It is primarily enjoyed as a cocktail and carries quite a punch, often registering more than 102 proof alcohol.
Although you can make slivovitz using virtually any fruit, traditional slivovitz is made using only very ripe prune plums, a variety also called sugar plums. The plums must have their stems removed and be washed free of any dirt and debris. You can either leave the pits in or remove the pits, depending upon your preference. Now the fruit is ready to place in a watertight barrel with water and sugar. Mash the plums slightly to break the skin and allow this mixture to ferment.
Continue to mash the plums down to remove any accumulation of air on a daily basis; keep doing this for at least six to eight weeks. Fermentation will be complete when a device called an oeschlemeter that registers sugar content indicates that the mash has at least 3% sugar content.
Calcium carbonate or calcium hydroxide must now be added to the mashed fruit mixture to help stop the fermentation process. The pH level of the mash should be around 4.0.
Once the calcium has been added to the mash mixture to balance the acidity, allow the mix to rest for several days while fermentation completely stops. Because it is not legal in the United States for private individuals to distill liquor once you have fermented mash, you will have to find a retail distiller if you want to take your mash mixture to the next level of slivovitz production.
Distillation is a process in which the mash is heated in one metal receptacle that is sealed with a lid attached to an evaporation spout to allow liquor to collect in a second receptacle. Distillation results in a clear liquor that is approximately 100 proof, but this can be reduced in strength by blending it with distilled water.
The slivovitz is now poured into glass jugs for several days which are opened throughout the day to allow built-up air to escape. The final process in making slivovitz is allowing the liquor to age by sealing the liquid into glass bottles for white slivovitz or oak barrels for a slivovitz with a slightly golden color.
Slivovitz is popularly enjoyed as an after-dinner aperitif, either at room temperature or slightly chilled.