The sheer amount and variety of fresh fruits and berries at this time of the year is so overwhelming! Each year anew it gets me buzzing with excitement trying to cope with it and store as much summer in jars and bottles as possible – I feel like Frederick from this lovely children’s book, who is collecting sunshine and storing it up for cold and dark winter days. I’ve already filled some jars of my version of Nicoles tomato-peach jam. Yummy!
When I – in a rush of busy orderliness – flipped trough the growing stack of my magazines and sorted them out, I found the recipe I absolutely wanted to give a try: a gently and looooong oven-cooked plum butter. The main ingredients – plums, obviously – led me first of all to some investigations about the relations of plums/Pflaumen and damsons/Zwetschgen, their different names and spellings in German and English, regional differences and so on. If you are interested in this discussions you can follow it for example at the online dictionary LEO here. Important here: I used damson plums, which are apparently mainly grown (and eaten) in southern Germany and Austria. They have an oval shape, are smaller than plums and have a darker, more acidic tasting skin.
A little, but not unimportant side note on culinary history: Plum butter is an important ingredient in Austrian cuisine, notably in their famous Mehlspeisen (sweet dishes based on flour), which also left their traces in the southwest of Germany, because parts of it were under Habsburg rule from the 14th to 19th century. Traditionally Austrian plum butter is made without adding sugar, using only the sugar of the fruits themselves. It is called Powidl, which comes from the Czech povidla, since originally this is a tradition of Bohemian cuisine which made its way to the menus of the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire through the centurys. Powidl is often used to fill different kinds of dumplings or pastries, above all the Powidlbuchteln or Powidlknödel/povidlové buchty or povidlové knedlíky…my next projects!
And one more side note/fun fact, you can find on (german) Wikipedia: If you are in Vienna and you want to say “I don’t care!”, you can paraphrase this by saying “That`s Powidl to me!”
Anyway, back to the plum butter recipe I adapted from the German cooking magazine “LECKER”: It said to use 3,5 kg damsons. I halvened the amount, and it got me two jars of a viscous, creamy butter. Two jars out of about 1,5 kg damsons – can you imagine the intense flavour packed into them?! The method of cooking contributes its part to this intense taste that keeps the sweetness and the tartness of the original fruit: Over about nine hours (I had to stop in the middle, go to sleep, start again in the morning) the damsons are simmering slowly in the oven at 150°C, while, during the first 4 hours, sugar is added step by step. That’s about all the secret of this miraculous transformation.
Ingredients and preparation in short:
1,5 kg damsons
300 g sugar (60 g added from the beginning, 30 g every further 1/2 hour during the first 4 hours)
5 cloves, 2 cinammon sticks or 1/2 teaspoon grounded cinammon
4 damson cores ( for a slight almond flavour)
Don’t forget to stir regularly when you are adding sugar, but also later, when your mixture begins to thicken.
Like with every kind of handmade jam or the like it is important to sterilize the jars with boiling water and to fill them with jam as hot as possible. As it took me a few minutes to press the cooked damsons through the collander, I shortly reheated the butter once again before filling it into the jars. Following this, I turned them upside down for about ten minutes allowing them to seal really good and let them cool out right side up.