Povidla is a fruit spread made traditionally from plums (prunes) made in a very slow process and without any added sugar. It’s a traditional filling for Czech desserts and pastries.
What is Povidla
Povidla are sometimes described as plum marmalade but this is not accurate. Unlike jams and marmalades, povidla is made without added sugar and gelling agents and very very slowly. This spread is most often made with plums but sometimes also with apples, cherries, pears and other fruit.
History of Povidla
This traditional pastry filling comes from the central-European region. The Czech word povidla or Polish word powidła was adapted to Austrian German as Powidl. According to the Czech Language Atlas, the regional alternatives of the word are: povidlí, povidle, smažené/vařené/kotłové švestky/trnky/slivy, kotłoviny, kotłovice, lekvar, krédlich, kredlech or kolisarka.
The term povidla has been documented in the region of the modern Czech Republic since the 14th century (Klaret’s Glossary).
Povidla used to be made in large cauldrons and the whole process was a social event. Not every household had such a cauldron and so neighbors came together to prepare the plums (the stones had to be removed) and make the final product. And since it was a plum-related events, people drank slivovice and took turns stirring and watching the delicious mixture. Plums were added little by little because of the necessity of constant stirring to prevent burning. After the first batch was cooked soft, more plums were added.
Especially the children liked tasting the mixture during the process (half-made povidla was called lízačka – from the word lízat, to lick). And when was it done? When the cauldron was full of overcooked black plum mixture. The finished povidla was kept in large containers.
Here’s a short video that illustrates the original process:
If you’d like to prepare povidla at home, you don’t need a huge cauldron or a whole crowd of people to help. Literally the only thing you need is ripe prune plums and a jar to store it. The plums should be as ripe as possible because you want their sugar content to be as high as possible. Nowadays, some people add sugar to increase sweetness and vinegar to prevent burning but real povidla should be cooked without adding sugar.
Remove the stones and place the plums on a baking tray or in a large pot. Whether you opt for the stove or choose the oven, povidla should be cooked very slowly. With the stove, you have to see yourself what heat works for you, start at a low heat and increase it a little of you see nothing happening after half an hour. As for the oven, you can start at 100°C/212°F. The process takes around 5 hours or more. Watch the batch carefully, if you cook it in a pot, stir very often (you can add a little water if you’re afraid your plums might burn from the very beginning), if you bake it, stir in a while. The plums will start to disintegrate and turn mushy.
Povidla is not supposed to be processed with a blender although you can reach different density and texture by cooking it more or less. The one you see in the picture still has large chunks of fruit and it’s very dense, it’s perfect for filling buchty. If I wanted to make koláče, I would go for a batch that’s more overcooked.
You can use povidla right after you finish making them although they taste even better rested. The povidla you see in the photos had rested for a year and they are very fragrant and full of flavor. Rinse the jars with boiling water and fill them with povidla immediately. Turn the jars upside down and let the fruit spread cool down completely, then you can turn the jars back. If you hesitate whether this is enough to keep the contents of the jar from spoiling, place the jars into a large pot with water (the jars have to be completely submerged) and sterilize them for 20 minutes on 80°C/176°F.