Something’s Brewing…

One of the nice things about the house where I live is that the back yard has several large fruit trees. A month ago my landlord was forcing upon me all the apricots I could possibly eat, then a few more. Recently it’s been plums.

On a couple of occasions in the last couple of weeks the smell of plums in the stairway has been pretty powerful. Obviously Otakar was not finding uses for the plums as fast as he was collecting them. Time waits for no plum.

But here, sometimes the obvious is not the same as it would be in other places. Anyone who live here would already have figured out that the plums downstairs were not going bad, they were going good. As I came down the stairs this afternoon there was a pot of plum juice, complete with peels and some of the pulp, sitting by Otakar’s door. The light bulb suspended over my head blinked on. He’s making Slivovice.

The Czech Republic has two national boozes. Becherovka is a brand name, made from a supposedly secret recipe; it hails from the Jagermeister school of boozemaking but is far less foul. Slivovice, or plum vodka, is just the opposite. It’s a people’s drink, the recipe owned by all collectively, and the best stuff is homemade. (I have had three chances to confirm this, and the homemade stuff really is better.) You have to love a country with a national tradition of making hooch. I wonder if old-timers lament that kids these days are content to drink liquor from factories rather than make their own.

12 thoughts on “Something’s Brewing…

  1. What? What? All those apricots and we had nary a one? I’ll volunteer to come next year during apricot season–that is, if WE don’t have any. Plum jam is pretty good, too, but they have to be tart. Slivovice is great, but plum bum is easier. (Plums steeped in vodka.)

  2. The title of your entry reminds me (perhaps intentionally?) of Yacoff Smirnoff. The jovial 80s russion emigre comedian. Whatever happened to him?

  3. He’s in Branson, MO. Besides performing he conducts “Love and Laughter” seminars all over the country (he holds a degree in psychology U of Penn) and writes a column for AARP Magazine (you’re too young, yet).

  4. Jerry’s mom….tart plum and cherry jam this year. The plum tree in backyard is Satsuma (probably spelt wrong) the tart plums red all the way through.

    I love apricots!!!

  5. My folks apricot tree in the backyard is long past producing fruit. I didn’t really realize that a fruit tree could stop producing. Almost like menopause. Probably something to wikipedicize, so I can find out more.
    The tree used to be a real producer for us in its younger days.
    And once…
    one magical time…years ago…
    There was one special summer when the flowers bloomed, the bees buzzed, the nascent fruit budded and the most perfectly timed late frost came. Some special, magical fraction of the buds were killed, and the tree devoted its resources to the remaining buds. We always had nice, regular sized apricots. A little smaller than a tennis ball. But this year, they grew and grew until they were the size of softballs. With no knowledge of the word “tart.” Large, apricotty, sweet orbs of magical goodness. Never happened again. Good crops of “normal” fruit in later years, but that was a one time special.

  6. Peach trees, in particular, are known for experiencing old age, in which they cease to produce fruit and subsequently die off. Stone fruit trees, in general, seem to have that problem.

    Pomes, on the other hand, seem to keep on going. There are 100-plus-year-old trees in the Rio Grande Valley and in the appropriately named Manzano Mountains that are still producing bumper crops of apples. I’ve heard of similarly productive ancient pear trees.

  7. One thing I didn’t mention in the article is that local farmers can take their protohooch to local distilleries and they’ll do the distilling for you. Apparently they are running at capacity this year. Oh, boy!

    On the other hand, I just noticed that the EU is trying to change the definition of slivovice to be something more like “plum bum”. Would Moravia secede?

    Bob: I revisited this thread because of a plumhoocher.

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