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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » July 30, 2012
Regional and Traditional Products
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¦liwka szydłowska—Szydłów Prunes
July 30, 2012   
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Szydłów prunes are the first Polish dried fruit to be registered by the European Commission as a protected geographical indication.

Szydłów prunes are pitted or unpitted prunes that have been dried and smoked and are made in the district of Szydłów, in Staszów county, ¦więtokrzyskie province. The fruit has uniform, elastic flesh and a pure, intense taste and smoky aroma. The prunes also have wrinkly but shiny skin with a dark blue sheen. The shape depends on the plum variety and can range from flattened-spherical to elongated.

Szydłów prunes are made from plum varieties such as Węgierka Zwykła, Stanley, Amers, Węgierka D±browicka, Empres, Damacha, Oneida, Jojo, Top and Valjevka. The fruit is harvested when properly ripe, guaranteeing the quality of the processed product. The harvest takes place from August to October depending on the plum variety, and the right time is determined by plum growers thanks to their special skills and experience gained through long years of practice.

The harvested fruit is sorted by hand and then dried and smoked in special traditional Szydłów drying units. The process involves hot air and smoke from the combustion of hard wood from deciduous trees in a furnace underneath latticed wooden trays on which the fruit is placed.

Szydłów prunes were famous even before World War II and were sold in many regions around Poland. In the olden days the fruit was put in pits in the ground where the wood was burned, but these were later replaced with “drawer” drying units. In these, the plums are laid out on special trays and undergo a complicated process of drying combined with smoking. You can watch this near the end of August at the annual Prune Festival in Szydłów. The trays look a little different these days, but the smoking process itself is unchanged. Smoked prunes taste delicious, they are sweet with a smoky aroma and an excellent addition to many dishes, including kasha with prunes and compote.

The producers say the quality of the prunes is due to traditional recipes and experience. There are about 400 prune drying units in Szydłów commune and the oldest is 60 years old. Prunes are not smoked this way anywhere else.

The producers who applied for the registration of Szydłów prunes were the Farmers’ Association in Szydłów, the Dobrysad Fruit Growers’ cooperative in Szydłów, and the Fruit Growers’ Association in Szydłów.
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