Śliwowica (Yiddish: שליוואָוויץ) paschalna or pejseczna, that is the Polish Passover slivovitz, is a traditional Polish plum brandy, from the very South of the country. Much of it used to be and still is produced in the Beskidy mountains, though today neither the majority of its producers nor consumers is of Jewish origin. The tradition in the Beskidy mountains reaches at least the 19th century, when the rights to distill plum brandy were leased by some Jewish families like that of Grossbards.
The Polish Orthodox Jews adopted the plum brandy as its festive spirit, and it was produced in considerable quantities in Beskidy and many other Polish regions up to the World War Second. Similar products existed or still exist also in other countries producing slivovitz. The reason why the religious Jews of the Central and Eastern Europe stuck with slivovitz during Passover was because the most liquors of the area are either made from grains (grain-based vodkas) or distilled in the same facilities that are used for grain-based alcohols. The basic Passover food prohibition regards anything that could be defined as ‘leavened’ (chametz). Anything made with wheat, barley, spelt, rye, or oats that is mixed with water and left to rise could break the rabbinic law.
The Polish Passover slivovitz is produced from the old variety of ‘węgierka zwykła’ (Prunus domestica L. subsp. italica (Borckh.) Hegi var. Claudiana), just as the traditional slivovitz of the Christian peasants. It is however matured in oak casks that let it acquire additional aromas and its distinctive yellow color. Of course, it has to be kosher too, and accordingly some distilleries which continue the tradition, collaborate with local Jewish communities. However, there is also non-kosher Passover slivovitz, which sounds like a contradiction in itself, but in this case the name refers to the old recipes, even though the production is not controlled and certified by any rabbi. Śliwowica paschalna contains over 70% alcohol.