What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


There is a fairly dominant part of Czech life that is not really talked about, especially officially: the making of homemade plum brandy, a cornerstone of Czech society. Seemingly everyone I know is either making it themselves, taking their own plumbs to a local distiller, or has access to it through friends and/or family.

For me, in my time in and out of the country it has been a highly sought after commodity as the quality of "domaci" (homemade) slivovice is night and day from that produced by big distillers. Last year, my first at my house in Czechia, I did not have enough plums to do anything other than give a few to my neighbor to add to his batch. Instead, I had plenty of apples, so my neighbor and I made Calvados - which was amazing! Yet, for all its glory, it still pales in comparison to its plum counterpart.

This year I've been vigilant in finding and collecting plums. I went with my friend to Moravia (the wine and slivovice region of Czechia) to make "povidla" - a dense jam like preserve from plums - and came back with an extra bin of plums. Then I went to an old abandoned house, were over the last two years I've watched the plums rot on the tree, and filled two buckets of plums. Another neighbor, who is not around, told me I could use his plums to mix into mine and those from the abandoned house. I also found a "mirabelky" tree on the side of the road and picked them. All told, right now I am fermenting 500 Liters of plums, which should yield 25 liters of slivovice. Some of which I will age.

The process is simple enough. You pick the plums in a couple stages as they ripen over time. So one weekend you pick what you can, and then climb up into the tree and shake the branches. What drops you start fermenting, picking out any moldy ones as you go. The next weekend you come back for what is left on the tree and pick/shake again. It is not easy work. Try climbing into a tree and balancing, pulling, holding, and vigorously shaking each branch until things are falling. Then it is picking them all up off the ground, sorting out the "moldy" ones and taking the stems off. Imagine climbing, shaking, and then picking up hundreds of plums. Exhausting... but still enjoyable!

You then put them all in big barrels with sealed tops. I would like to use wooden barrels, but they are absurdly expensive, so I'm using the standard local plastic ones used by most people here. And its really simple, you just pour in all the plumbs, and let the fermentation process start. My neighbor blends them up into a thick liquid, but without the tools I'm just letting them ferment as they are. The mirabelky started to break down immediately and are seemingly practically fermenting before they hit the ground. The first couple days I checked the barrels to see if anything started to mold and picked a couple out.

And that is where I am right now, just waiting for nature to take its course. It should be about a month, and then it can be distilled. But I'll cover that once I get there... 

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