My mom is Slovak, and we grew up enjoying some tasty Slovak dishes that she and Grandma, our Dushinka, cooked for us. I know I won’t get all the spelling and accents correct as I write, but I do want to document what I remember. At least three of the sweet treats I remember involved plums. The plums or slivkove of Slovakia are small, oblong, and deep purple with green flesh — sometimes called blue Damson — and very similar to Italian prune plums. Imagine my delight when we first moved into Coppertop, and I saw that one of the youngest trees in our orchard was tagged “Italian Prune, semi-dwarf, Marianna 2624 rootstock”.
This week the young plum tree is blooming for the first time! I had waited for blooms patiently last year to no avail. The bees are all a-buzz around this tree, doing the lovely pollination dance.
The forthcoming plums will make for wonderful fresh plum dumplings, or knedle (knedliky plural). Since I’ve become comfortable with making jams and jellies in the past year, I hope to eventually have a large enough harvest to make lekvár, a plum jam we always called prune jelly. I have a dear picture in my memory of Dushinka in her babushka or kerchief stirring the lekvár atop the stove for hours each time she’d visit us in California. Almost black when fully simmered, tangy-sweet lekvár is tasty spread on almost any bread. It’s also used as a filling for palacinky (crepes) and kolache (sweet, rolled bread), Another yummy treat I remember is štrúdľa, strudel made from dough pulled tissue-thin on our kitchen table and rolled up with different fillings. It’s been said that the dough for strudel is pulled thin enough if you can read a love letter through it! Here’s Dushinka doing what she did best, circa 1960s. In the second photo she’s being watched by her loving husband, Libor.
Now I just need to convince my dear sister, Meg, who is the one wearing yellow above and the one who has been faithful in continuing to occasionally make these treats, to visit and help re-create our Slovak heritage. I’ll provide the plums!