Makes 1 1/2 to 2 quarts
Slivovitz is a plum schnapps or brandy made all across eastern Europe and under different names in Germany, France and Italy. It's made in home kitchens with whatever plum is local. It's sharp and strong, and will be much appreciated at the holidays.
The pit lends a crucial character to the final product, so don't pit your plums first. Choose perfect, unblemished fruit.
If you intend to give this as a gift, plan ahead: It needs to sit on the counter for two weeks and then in a dark place for 90 days. Buy some pretty bottles for a nice presentation. Serve it in small glasses, accompanied by cookies.
You'll need one half-gallon jar or two 1-quart jars, with tightly closing lids.
Adapted from a recipe by cooking instructor and food writer Cathy Barrow.
2 1/2 pounds quetsches (Italian prune plums)
1 1/2 cups sugar
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
Two 1-inch pieces lemon peel
4 cups vodka or Everclear grain alcohol, plus more as needed
Use a sharp paring knife to pierce the fruit through to the pit, cutting each plum 3 or 4 times and examining each one to make sure it's perfect. (Bruised fruit ferments too quickly.) Pack the fruit into the jar(s) and add the sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Pour in enough vodka or grain alcohol to cover the plums, and cap the jar securely.
Every day for 2 weeks, invert the jar. It's a good idea to place the jar in a bowl, to contain any leakage, then pour the contents of the bowl back into the jar. At the end of 2 weeks, the sugar will have dissolved.
Place the jar in a closet or other dark space for 90 days.
Strain the finished slivovitz through a coffee filter and transfer it to a storage container or gift bottles.