It 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.
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.
I 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
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.