Plum Jam from Romanian Mountains
Fruit or Vegetable Preserves - Romania
Silvoiţă or Povidla
This plum jam is an exemplary illustration of the multicultural layers of Romanian heritage: the product is named silvoiţă in northwestern Romania, stemming from the Hungarian szilva (plum). It is known as povidla in Moldavia (eastern Romania), inherited from the Polish word for plum spread.
Silvoiţă/povidla is traditionally associated with the same hilly or mountainous production areas as plum brandy. It is one of the most natural vegetable preserves, as its preservation is entirely based on the fruit's properties, with no added sugar. It is remarkable for its delicate preparation process, which takes place during a ritualistic seasonal time, beginning after St. Mary's day (August 15), and after the first overnight frost.
The local plums chosen for jam need to be of a sweet variety (such as arjan si anaspat in southern Romania or bistrita in Transylvania) and should have been subjected to a night frost before picking. The jam is usually prepared outside, in a cauldron over an open fire, which needs to be stirred regularly for up to 8-9 hours. The preparation, due to its lengthy boiling time, is a deeply social event. Locals in southern Sub-Carpathians say that patience is the second ingredient, after the plums, in this preserve. The end result is a thick, intensely textured, blood-purple paste with a bittersweet flavor and a slightly smoky aftertaste.
While some commercial brands are found for sale, the product is mainly produced for home consumption. However, this jam is endangered because the non-industrial versions, obeying the traditional preparation process, fall outside the standardized hygiene regulations, thus cannot be commercialized. However, it is the use of an iron cauldron over an open fire that makes this jam unique. In addition, the production requires much effort to ensure that the product is stirred regular over 8-9 hours to avoid burning.