Ark of taste
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Śliwowica is a traditional plum brandy like home made distillated spirit. It is a traditional plum brandy from villages of South Poland’s mountain range, stretching along the border to Slovakia. It’s been made since ages mainly in two Polish mountain regions: Beskidy and Podhale. This spirit drink is strongly linked to Polish highlander indigenous people: Górale Żywieccy (Beskid highlanders) and Górale Podhalańscy (Podhale highlanders). In most cases it is only home made, traditionally produced in private households.

It is believed that Śliwowica was produced by peasants since the 17th or 18th century. Its documented history reaches the 19thcentury. At this time the production became industrialized. The origin of plum variety is unknown. Some researchers point to Asia Minor. The Polish plum name ‘Węgierka’ is linked to the political invasion of South part of Poland by the Kingdom of Austria-Hungary startong in the 18th century. Since then the countries have shared the culinary traditions.
The highlanders of Beskid are called Górale Żywieccy. It is an ethnographic group inhabiting the Polish Carpathians. They have been cultivating the tradition since probably the 16th century. They transported this knowledge during their migrations from the further South. Górale Żywieccy were Slavonic pastoral people who applied the ‘Vlach law’ into their settlements and culture in order to continue the lifestyle and virtues of Vlach shepherds.
There is famous Polish saying “Daje krzepę, krasi lica, nasza łącka Śliwowica” – “Our Łącko Śliwowica brings strength and makes your face red”, which means it brings health and power. It is not a public drink, but is highly appreciated and tightly connected to local culture. Therefore, in 2005, the local conservatory services registered it as an element of the intengible cultural heritage of the national culture. The same year in Minnesota the Śliwowica from Łącko won the prize of “the Best Śliwowica of the World”.

Śliwowica is produced from fruits of the old plum variety ‘Węgierka Zwykła’ (Prunus domestica L. subsp. italica (Borckh.) Hegi var. Claudiana). The plum variety is a late one, of dark brown-violet fruits, around 20-25g each, sweet and good for direct raw consumption. It is susceptible to the plum pox. The Śliwowica production area is cultivated in the southern region of Poland. Many fruit brandies have been made here since ages. Plums were taken from lower parts of these regions which were called “the orchard land” due to huge amount of plum trees. The major area of this production has its cultural centre in the village of Łącko. The version of Śliwowica from this village and area is registered and protected. The Śliwowica production was however continued in many villages, also in high mountains of Tatra and Beskidy.

Śliwowica is a very aromatic spirit. Traditionally it is 70% alcohol. Its strength invites to a careful consumption. Usually, as a spirit, it is taken pure, without any additives. The spirit was considered as medicinal drink.

It’s being mistaken with plum liquor. The name Śliwowica is registered. It should be underlined the authentic Śliwowica is a very strong spirit, not liquor. There are many cases of so called Śliwowica in public food trade, but this produce is not made according to the traditional rules and not always from the proper fruits. The biggest threat is however the contemporary legislation which makes this spirit still illegal. Therefore the highlanders – the original home makers – cannot protect it via European law and sell it legally.

Śliwowica made by local farmers is often served during the traditional harvest festivals called ‘Dożynki’. Cultural anthropologists proved the presence of strong alcoholic beverages at these festivities derived from the ancient beliefs around alcohol, as a medium between two worlds: sacrum and prophanum, which helped to connect with gods better.

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Production area:Beskidy Mountains, Podhale region