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The Long Road To Powidl

October 31, 2010 · 24 comments

in Austria,Autumn,Preserves

powidl pictureIt took me a long time to make this Powidl (pronounced: po-viddle), a  thick Austro-Hungarian plum butter. I don’t mean that it’s an especially time-consuming process (it is, but the hands-on time is negligible) or that it’s difficult (it’s laughably easy). It’s more that sometimes (ok, constantly) I ramp up the difficulty factor of things in my head far more than necessary. It was this: the idea of preserving stuff scared me a little.

I tend to only make things I know the basic methods for because I’ve spent time absorbing the rules at home or at work , ie: Japanese, Mediterranean, French, Austrian and Thai food, and baking. That’s why even though I love Korean food I’ve only ever made Bibimbap and Jap Chae and why, though I love me some good jam, I’d never preserved anything before – no preserve-makers in my family.

powidl image

I first ate Powidl in a Germknödel, a vast Austrian dumpling  – somewhat akin to a red bean bao in both texture and acquired taste-ability – which is smothered in butter, sugar and poppy seeds or custard sauce – last year when I went skiing and felt rather delighted; Austrians think it’s perfectly acceptable to consume a sweet thing as a main course. You can spread it on toast as well though, naturally. It’s kind of spicy and sweet and viscous and nothing like any other kind of jam I’ve ever had.

Then I read comments in Luisa’s post about German groceries about whether Pflaumenmousse is the same thing as Powidl (jury’s still out on that). I thought it might be difficult to make. It was hard to find a recipe from a source I trusted. It wasn’t the season for plums. I ate Greek salad in Greece. I fried beignets outdoors while camping in Italy. I hemmed. I hawed. I bought some Weck jars. I admired my Weck jars. If you had some, you’d admire them too.

powidl photoI plunged forth to meet my plum-butter making destiny though, when F.’s dad came over with a couple of kilos of “good personality” plums at the end of summer; you know the sort – kinda banged up but tasty.

I washed and pitted them, I boiled them for a few hours with some cinnamon sticks and cloves, I strained it and preserved it and wondered what the hell I’d been waiting for. Next up: the dumplings I stuffed the Powidl into.

Do you work yourself into a state about nothing?


This isn’t hard to make, it just takes ages so a rainy day would be best. I looked at about 20 recipes online in German and English (hemming, hawing!) and asked various friend’s mothers about what they’d do and finally decided to keep it simple. I got about 350 ml of Powidl.

Update: In the comments, Alessandra has brought up the fact that usually the sugar to fruit ratio is higher or ascorbic acid (lemon juice will do it) is used in preserves. The sugar helps the jam to set (which you don’t need here) and preserve it. If you’re worried about spoilage, you can use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in the water. Since there is not much sugar, Powidl will spoil more quickly than regular jam once opened and like other low-sugar preserves, is best made in small quantities.

1.5 – 2 kg firm red plums

1 cinnamon stick

8 cloves

100 ml water (plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice if wanted)

100 grams (scant 1/2 cup) sugar

Wash, halve and pit the plums.

Put them in a large saucepan with the cinnamon stick, cloves and water and over medium high heat, bring to the boil.

Lower to a simmer and allow to cook for about two hours or until the moisture has evaporated thoroughly, stirring at first occasionally, then frequently as it thickens.

Arrange a sieve over another pot and pour the plum mixture into it. Push the jam through the sieve into the pot with a spatula and discard the skins, cloves and cinnamon stick.

Put the pot onto medium heat and cook until sticky and as thick as apple butter, another 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Keep refrigerated for up to about 2 weeks or preserve in jars using the water bath method. If you do use the water bath method, you will need to leave them an extra 5 minutes in the water as there is so little sugar.

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diva October 31, 2010 at 12:18 pm

That dumpling I bet is so yum! the Austrians are cool with sweet for their main? I’m liking that very much! Although maybe not completely sweet. I’m a big fan of sweet + savoury together though that’s a big turn-off for many of my friends. You’re one preserver now Sasa! I need to get my act together and start making some jams too. x

Foodie in Berlin October 31, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I love those Austrian dumplings. Waiting with bated breath for that post! I think Austrians beat the Germans in desserts hands down!
Your jars are very pretty indeed!

su October 31, 2010 at 8:49 pm

what an odd name for such a beautiful spread! will try the recipe out.

i have never made panna cotta being afraid of unmolding it… and serving it in the ramekin / glass is just no way for an old school type of gal :)

Sasa November 1, 2010 at 10:23 am

If you put the ramekin in warm water for a few seconds it should unmould no problem ^_^

su October 31, 2010 at 8:54 pm

whereas it’s right to be afraid of bibimpap and japchae: the components aren’t difficult but it takes HOURS until you ready with the whole dish. in other other words no instant remedy against hangrrr ;)

Couscous & Consciousness November 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

I don’t mind a bit of preserve-making, so I’d definitely give this a go, when we get plums here. It’s a gorgeous colour, and I adore your wee Weck jars – yes I would definitely admire those! The dumplings sound great, so I can’t wait to hear more.
Sue :-)

Alessandra November 1, 2010 at 4:14 am

No sugar??? Will they last? I thought that you need at least a 40% sugar ratio to preserve fruit (unless you use citric acid or a bit of alcohol). It would be great if no sugar was needed!

Sasa November 1, 2010 at 9:36 am

I did use a tiny bit of sugar but if you use the water bath method for a bit longer than usual, you don’t need to – I’ll make that clearer in the recipe, thanks ^_^
Most of the recipes I looked at didn’t use ascorbic acid but some had lemon zest – I’ll suggest the juice if anyone is worried but I think the fact that it is cooked for so long makes it different from your average jam.
See the part about preserving jams and jellies – it does say to use ascorbic acid if you use light coloured fruit but plums are dark so they should be ok though once opened it won’t keep very long.

Alli November 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

I forgot all about Germknoedel, boo hoo now I want one! I used to love that you could eat dessert as a main in Austria, very civilized!

Sasa November 2, 2010 at 8:09 am

Coming right up!

AML November 2, 2010 at 7:11 am

Two things in the kitchen I am completely terrified of-canning and pressure cookers. Scared to death. Pressure cookers just scare me cause I think they’re gonna explode or something. Causing ME horrible pain and disfigurement. Canning on the other hand… I’m afraid of killing SOMEONE ELSE, with botulism. You know, everyone gives canned stuff away as a gift. Anyway, props to you. It’s pretty. Nice colour. A tasty accoutrement for foie gras, I’m sure…

Yuliya November 1, 2010 at 10:53 pm

We call it “povidlo” in Russian! BTW, it doesn’t have to be plum. Yummmm!

Lana November 2, 2010 at 12:46 am

How interesting! I have never heard of “powidl”, and my mother is from the north of Serbia which was under Austro-Hungarian rule. She cooked many dishes influenced by A.H. cooking. The dumplings she made were made of potato dough, rolled around a pitted fresh prune-plum, made into a ball, boiled for a couple of minutes and rolled into a mix of fried breadcrumbs and sugar. And yes, it was the main meal, preceded by soup:)
I love your Weck jars!

Sasa November 2, 2010 at 8:10 am

That sounds like Marillen Knoedel they make here but made with plums…I’d like to try making those – I did it with F.’s mum once.

Mary-Laure November 2, 2010 at 1:54 am

That plum butter sounds like the best, ideal autumn delight… I am eager to see the dumplings.

Anna Johnston November 2, 2010 at 10:45 am

I don’t like mandolins…, I know they save so much time, but I’ve seen too many accidents in kitchens :)
The Powidl sounds awesome, love the sound of it, I could imagine so many things it’d go with.

shaz November 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I came, I admired your Weck jars, I am equally delighted at the thought of a sweet main, and I am impressed by your preserving prowess. Must admit I am scared of doing that water bath thing.

Thanks for visiting my blog and glad to meet you!

catty November 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Are you kidding me? I work myself into a state about EVERYTHING. Like my current crisis which you know all about. Nice autumnal leaves by the way!

Jamie November 2, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I am the Queen of working myself up into a crazy state over everything and to tell you the truth I have been putting off making anything remotely jam like forever because it seems so complicated! Thanks for telling me it isn’t. And as much as I love plums I would so make this (when plum season rolls around again). Simply luscious and perfect! And I do love your Weck jars.

Vanessa November 3, 2010 at 8:41 am

I’m a huge fan of Germknödel and have always wanted to make them. Funnily, I just bought some Pflaumenmus for Grießbrei and was wondering if it was difficult to make so it’s nice to read your post. Love the autumn colours and textures in your photos; those pots look so pretty. Like you, I’m not into preserves and the only thing I’ve every stored in a jar was lemon curd which you probably know is dead easy to make. Funnily, i’ve already made puff pastry once and it was a success but the idea of all that time and effort puts me off doing it again, even though I’m dying for a tarte tatin.

Luc November 4, 2010 at 8:55 am

I keep coming across fruits made into dairy products; first quince cheese, now plum butter… Looks great anyway :-)

Janae November 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I, too, have always been terrified of jam and therefore have never made any. But this looks very non-threatening, so I’ll give it a try if I can find some plums. Envious of the whole dessert for dinner idea, as well as those jars :)

The Grubworm November 4, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Oh man – I love Germknödel – or germ-ker-nerdle as called them as a yoof. The family holiday was always skiing to Obergurgel in the Austrian Alps, every year from age six to sixteen. And every one of those ten or so years I would have a head-sized dumpling with poppyseed paste and custard. Heaven.

Preservin’ seems to be fairly straight forward – and that there’s a lovely looking recipe. I have done a little but am always a little put off by the worry of unsterilised jars. That and sausage making – it sounds like it should be so easy, but i have never quite got around to trying it…

azélias kitchen November 6, 2010 at 11:07 am

Hi Sasa – it’s obviously fruit butter making season! This weekend it’s time for pear butter & apple butter, traditionally right now my Gran would be making quince cheese in Portugal, but asking her for a recipe is complicated :) no measurements no timings! I made couple of weekends ago a whole batch of pear chutney to last throughout the year for husband’s sandwiches!

Things I’m avoiding right now and have been for a while are: re-visiting pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) ’cause I love them so much and they are difficult little buggers to get right in a domestic oven.

Making baguettes – the stories you hear about them make you afraid of walking into that very possible disaster zone!

Re-visiting croissants – puff pastry just has an aura about it don’t you think?

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