As a little boy, I remember climbing plum trees by the roadside and harvesting the over ripe plums for my father and uncles to create their guilty pleasure “Slivovitz”. However at that time, I had no idea that plums could be dried and served as a snack or preserved that way, as it was simply not done in our culture. As I grew older and during my travels, I noticed that the French love plum sauce and it was the same here in Singapore, where I was introduced to dried plums also known as a prunes.
I did my research and looked for more information about prunes, but everything I have read mainly leads me to plums so we will cover a bit about plum in this article as well.
Plum trees were introduced all over the Mediterranean by Greeks and Romans as they had established trading routes with China along the Silk Road. Romans planted the first varieties of plum in Gaul, near Agen in France. The first varieties of plums introduced were Saint Antonin also known as Maurine. Maurine, the “little blue plum” is the oldest variety and most widely cultivated plum producing a very dark and modestly sized plum. It was in the 12th century, when inspired Benedictine monks returned from 3rd Crusade and started grafting the new Damas plums from Syria onto the local varieties and created the well known Prune dEnte.
Prunes become the superfood of its time as they have a long shelf life which made them the ideal substance during poor harvest or for long sea or land journeys.
One of the largest producer of plums is in China, in the Yunnan area, where they use it to produce plum wine with a smooth sweet fruity taste by locals. A plum blossom is considered the traditional floral emblem of China.
Plum has many different species (Damsons, Greengages, Mirabelles) to name a few, however only two species are commercially recognised. The first one is the European plum which is mainly grown in Eastern Europe where the use varies between food and alcoholic beverages such as sweet plum dumplings, jam or an alcoholic spirit called Slivovitz. The second one is the Japanese plum which is well known as Ume and applied in similar ways of culinary and beverage use.
This time, for the cocktail recipe I will use the plum brandy called Slivovitz as it works well in a twist on the whisky sour:
50 ml Slivovitz*
25 ml fresh lemon juice
20 ml Sugar syrup (1:1 ration)
½ of egg white
- Combine all ingredients together and dry shake.
- Add ice and shake again.
- Once shaken strain into a chilled martini glass or into a rocks glass with ice (based on your preference).
If you cannot get Slivovitz from your nearest East European deli shop, look for Umeshu and use 30 ml of Japanese umeshu and 20 ml of bourbon instead 50 ml Slivovitz. This will do the job!
Bartender’s note: “The flavour and use of plums and prunes are very diverse.”