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If you are a frequent visitor to this cooking site, you have surely come across multiple posts in which I am grumbling about the difficulty of finding plum jam in the United States. Plum jam (slivkový lekvár) is an essential ingredient in Slovak cuisine. It’s thick and does not run, which makes it the ideal filling for koláče, buchty, sweet pierogi, or jam turnovers. There is also a popular dish made with whole plumes, plum dumplings.
Long story short, I decided try making my own plum jam. The difficulty is that I couldn’t actually find fresh plums. I started this project in December, long after the plum season ended. On top of that, the plums that can be found in my local grocery stores are the big red kinds, not the small blue Damson plums used in Slovakia. However, I noticed that the plums on the cover photo of the package of D’Noir prunes looked very much right! So I figured, perhaps I could try making jam from prunes – which are basically just dehydrated plums. The end result was quite satisfactory, although the color of the jam ended up more brown than blue. Below you will find the recipe. As you will see, making your own plum jam is actually quite easy.
Ingredients: either fresh plums (Damson) or prunes (I used 2.5 packages), shot of rum, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, brown sugar to taste, plus mason jars and canning thongs Time:About two days from start to finish, but the baking part takes between 3-4 hours
This post is actually the result of three different tries. They all started with the same ingredients but there were differences in the processing. The first try, for which I don’t have any pictures, was made in a pot by cooking the jam. This is a little bit messy and time consuming. I later stumbled upon a recipe on a Slovak recipe site calling for the jam to be baked (pečený). This actually makes perfect sense. On the stove top, the heat is delivered from one end only. Unless you continuously stir the jam, it becomes quite easy to burn it. On the other hand, the oven gives you a nice uniform heating from all sides. Brilliant!
Try #2 (Baking)
The issue with the first jam was that it was quite thin – I didn’t cook it long enough. I used the baking method in try #2.
Try #3 (Blending)
The other issue with #2 and also #1 was that since I used whole prunes with the skins intact, the jam was not particularly creamy. So I figured I could improve the texture by first running everything through a blender. This was try #3. The texture ended up better, but I was less impressed with the resulting color. It ended up more brown and less the desired dark blue / black.
Finally, if you are making a lot of jam, and need it to last the whole year, you will need to preserve it. This is done by spooning the jam into mason jars, and then heating them fully covered in boiling water. This heating accomplishes two things: it kills off harmful bacteria, and provides an airtight seal that prevents new bacteria from getting in.
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