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Powidl, also written as powidel, is pronounced as "po-viddle" and is known as povidla in Czech. It is a prune butter or a plum stew that is eaten as a spread or used as a filling to make other dishes. It is very popular in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other parts of eastern Europe. The process of making powidl is quite long-winded, although not particularly complicated.
This is a traditional dish that, in the earlier days, was prepared mainly in the winter. Winter was the only period when most people had time to spare for the long cooking and the constant stirring needed to make this prune butter. Often, women would gather together to do the cooking and they would take turns to stir the simmering plum stew, and while away the time telling each other stories. The Czech word for story-telling is povidat, and the name for this food has originated from it.
The main ingredients used to make this prune butter are late-harvested plums, cinnamon and cloves. The plums are cut up, added to cinnamon, cloves and water, and the mix is first brought to a boil and then cooked on a simmer for many hours. It is necessary to stir the mix at regular intervals as it cooks to prevent the plums from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The powidl is considered done when the water has evaporated to a good degree and the mix has achieved a thick consistency. The mix is then strained through a sieve to remove the skins and the spices, and to get a smooth prune butter.
In most jams, sugar and lemon juice are generally added to the jam as preservatives. Sugar is generally not added when making powidl, but a little lemon juice may be added to the mix as it is cooking. The mixture is then filled into jars and kept in a refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Without this, the prune butter is not likely to last long after a jar has been opened. Many chefs these days prefer to prepare powidl in small amounts as needed, so there is no question of the plum stew spoiling.
This prune butter may be used in spreads for sandwiches or cakes, or as a filling in pastries, cakes and dumplings. A popular Austrian dish that makes use of plum stew filling is a dumpling known as Germknödel. Powidl is also used to make a special powidl cake and to make a Bohemian pastry called Buchteln.
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