Strangely, compared to many Italian-American families, the adults rarely drank at Sunday dinner when my cousins and I were little. Maybe my Nani disallowed more than a glass of wine, served in juice glasses, wanting to set a good example for the kids. Sadly, she is not here to explain that anomaly, and how useful that lesson was to my cousins and me is of some debate, seeing that we regularly go through bottles of red wine during present-day family events. According to my mother, this was more akin to how she grew up – with aunts and uncles and her Nana and Nanu quaffing homemade vino openly, Uncle Tony sometimes sneaking my mother sips when my Nani wasn’t looking. The only time I recall illicit sips of alcohol was during the holidays or other special occassion when Nani would serve her homemade plum brandy in tiny aparatif glasses, my cousins and I finishing the last shallow pool of liquid in the bottom of the glasses when we helped clear the table at the end of the meal.
Those stolen sips were the only I ever had of Nani’s brandy – the jars found in the basement years after her death deemed too old to consume by the time they were discovered. So, inspired by the beautiful pints of tiny purple plums that reminded me of those weighing down my Papa’s trees when I was small, I thought I would try my own batch of plum brandy. I made a batch of plum brandy in the manner described below, hopefully in time to toast my Nani and the holidays of my childhood in three months.
For one quart of plum brandy
I mixed 1/2 cup sugar into 2 cups of vodka and let it set. Then I pierced the small plums with the tips of my knife a number of times before slicing it and putting the pieces into a quart jar, filling it until the fruit reached about two inches from the top. (About a pint and a half of plums.) I covered the plums with the vodka mixture, ensuring that all fruit was submerged, and securely capped the jar. I put this in a cool, dark corner and plan to open it in three months.