A Zwetschge is no plum, a Powidl is no jam!
German Zwetschgen are a subspecies of plums, they are smaller, darker, pack more flavor and are shaped like eggs. If you can’t get ahold of Zwetschgen (Prunus domestica subsp. domestica), try to find Italian prunes. You can buy fresh Zwetschgen only in season from late summer to early fall and it’s best to buy Zwetschgen after the first night with a light frost – it will make them even sweeter!!! However, meanwhile you can buy frozen Zwetschgen all year round in Germany but they definitely won’t be as sweet and delicious, as real high-season-Zwetschgen!
Plum Butter, Plum Puree, Zwetschgenmus, Pflaumenmus, Powidl, Latwerge
– there are as many names for this thick jam made of Zwetschgen, as there are different recipes. Some wouldn’t use spices and sugar at all – but the majority of traditional recipes use some sugar and spices like cinnamon, cloves star anise or cardamom. You should use as little sugar as possible for a Powidl. The maximum is about 1/4 of sugar. At the end of the season you won’t even need any sugar at all! The long roast will concentrate the sugar in the Powidl and preserve it for years, if filled into sterile jars with a screw cap.
A Powidl or Plum Butter is typically cooked in a pot for a few hours until thickened and then pureed. I tried many different versions until now and I have to say, the oven roasting method definitely comes out on top! This is the best Plum Butter! Its outcome is extremely dense in flavor, sticky, dark and caramelized. You won’t be able to buy anything like that in a shop.
It will take a very long time but requires very little attention. If you don’t have 8 hours to watch the oven you can just split the roasting time into 2 parts – no problem.
I like to have some bite left in the finished Powidl so I skip the standard puree step. If you prefer a very smooth, jam-like consistency you should cook the Zwetschgen on low heat for about ½ hour in a pot until very soft, then puree everything or pass through a sieve and pop the puree in the oven as described in the recipe.
I sterilize the jars in the oven together with the Powidl at the end of the baking time and cook the screw caps in my electric water kettle. This is a very safe and easy method!
- 3,5 kg Zwetschgen or Italian prunes, stones removed, cut in halve
- 250 g sugar
- 2 whole star anise, grounded with a mortar or blender = 1 ½ tsp powder
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- ½ tsp salt
- 30 - 100 ml dark rum or Slivovitz
Mix the Zwetschgen in a big ovenproof casserole with sugar, salt and spices. Let it rest for at least 4 hours, best overnight. The sugar will extract loads of juice from the plums, the more the better, because this will shorten the time your Zwetschgen have to spend in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F and bake the Zwetschgen for about 8 hours or until very sticky and dark. (The Zwetschgen will break down and form a gooey, thick spread.) Don’t forget to stir this through about once every hour - especially at the end of the baking-time, otherwise it will be burnt on the surface!
Sterilize about 5 standard jam jars by boiling the screw caps and adding the jars to the oven 10 min before the baking is finished (the jars have to be hot when you fill in the puree!).
Take the Zwetschgen-puree from the oven and stir in 30 ml of rum or Slivovitz (you can use up to 150 ml if you like it slightly boozy). You have to work very fast at this point, the puree should be still piping hot when you funnel it into the jars. (If you worked very fast here - this is it, if not - place the filled jars without cap in the oven or sterilize them in a waterbath for 5-10 min.)
Wipe the glass rims and close the jars. Turn the jars upside down for at least 10 min to sterilize the whole jar – finished!