Plum is a precious blue fruit. It is sweet, tasty and good for you and good for your digestion. It can be eaten fresh or dried, or in a jam and other forms of preserves. Many a ruler, an aristocrat, a soldier of vast armies and an underprivileged have delighted in eating the fruit and jam. Its brandy heals the tired and the sick, and helps people rejoice and celebrate, grieve and mourn. The Serbs have always made toasts and thanked God, drinking the plum brandy.
Where there are Serbs, there are plum tree groves. It is the most common fruit, particularly in Serbia and Bosnia. Through centuries it helped the Serbs to endure and make a better life in the Balkans.
Even the old Slavic people had grown plum in their homeland between the Odra river basin in the west and the Dnepr basin in the east, in the Carpathian mountains on the south and the Baltic Sea in the north.
In the Balkans, the plum has been grown for centuries. Coming to the Balkan Peninsula, our forefathers found the plum already growing, so they just took over and went on growing it. Wild plum had been used as early as some 4000 years ago by the Assyrians, then the Romans took over and improved the mastery by grafting to obtain better varieties.
The plum fruit can be made into a host of different produces: prunes, jam, jelly and marmalade, compote, juice, dried halves filled with walnuts, glacé fresh plum, then dumplings filled with plums, and brandy. The most common produces are the fresh plum, prunes and brandy.
In Serbs, growing plum trees is a tradition. Depending on the region, there are several varieties of the plant. There are the Požega Plum, the Italian Prune Plum, the Čačak Early Plum, the Čačak Beauty, the Čačak Best, the Stanley Plum, the California Blue. Then there are those cultivated in Serbia in particular: the Red Early, the Bulgarian, the Thorny Plum (trnovača), the Morava, the wild yellow and blue cherry plums (džanarika, piskavac), the petrovka, the aromatic one… Limewashing the fruit trees protects against insects, thus the plum orchards acquire a particularly pleasant look. One can hardly imagine a Serbian countryside without the plum orchards. They are cultivated mostly in Šumadija, areas around Valjevo and in Bosnia, around Brčko. Čačak is famous for its variety, one of the most famous plum varieties in the world.
Production and sale of prunes used to bring a significant portion of income to Serbia. For many it was a source of livelihood. Serbia used to be a major world plum producer. For instance, as early as in 1897, the first export business between Serbia and the USA was a prune export deal. Thirty thousand tons of prunes got exported to America, earning $ 30m.
Serbia today produces less than it used to, but still half of all the fruit trees in Serbia are plum trees. There is a famous plum and plum produces fair in Osečina.
An image of a purple-blue plum among the green leaves is one of the most recognisable features, trademarks of Serbia.
Plum Jam Recipe:
plums – 3kg, sugar – 1kg, red vinegar – 2dl, rum – 1dl, cinnamon – 1 tsp, cloves – 1tsp
Wash the plums, take out the pits and dice them.
Pour the vinegar into a large saucepan, bring to boil and add the sugar. When it becomes syrupy, add the diced plums. Simmer for about 3 hrs at a low temperature, stirring all the time. When the jam becomes thick and gets a darker colour shade, add the rum, cinnamon and cloves. Stir energetically once again and let it simmer for another 30 min. In the meantime, wash and dry the glass jars and put them (warm) in the oven to sterilise them at 1000C for 20 min. When the jam is cooked, pour it into the cooled glass jars, seal them and turn them upside down and leave them in a dark and dry place.