Every year, come the fall season, my mother would make great batches of thick plum jam that she called powidło for sandwiches and for making her special spiral sweet bread with jam at Christmas and Easter. Her plum of choice for making the jam was węgierki, that is, Hungarian plums (Prunus domestica-photo).
This variety of plum, known in Poland for over 700 years, is believed to have come to Poland from Hungary (Węgry)via Asia Minor. According to Polish etymologists, the word “powidło,” meaning jam, appearing in the Polish language at the end of the 15th century, comes from the tool used to stir the fruit mass during the slow cooking. Another name for the “Hungarian” plum is śliwka domowa or home plum. Many a Polish manor house had its own orchard, including the plum tree whose fruit could be eaten raw, baked, fried or stewed and gained wide use in the kitchen in making compote, sweet breads, dumplings called knedle, preserves and liqueurs and, of course, plum jam.
Here is an excerpt from the diary of Marianna Malinowska Jasiecka at a time when Poland was partitioned by Prussia, Russia and Austria and Poland as a country ceased to exist on the maps of Europe. Marianna was considered gentry, married to a man of considerable property, had servants and enough free time to keep a diary. She lived in a manor house in Polwica in Wielkopolska(Greater Poland) that was under Prussian rule at the time of her writing.
Polwica, September 1892
“Plum jam is cooked in large white enamel kettles, not in the kitchen but out in the open air, in the orchard. The three-legged trivets I have from Pakosław(where she used to live) and I can still use them. The caretaker will be responsible for the fire beneath the kettles and the jam will cook under a slow fire. One of the kettles can hold up to 60 pounds of plums with the pits having been removed earlier. Cooking the plums takes three days and is fairly tiring work. But this year I have the cook, the parlor maids…three women over three kettles have to continuously stir the fruit with large wooden paddles being careful not to let the plums burn over the fire. I don’t use any sugar at all in the jam. When the jam is ready, it is poured into crocks, placed in a bread oven to bake in order for it to completely dry, then covered with parchment paper and placed in a cool dry pantry. Well-cooked plum jam keeps its splendid flavor until the next year.”
From the book titled Marianna i Róże (Marianna and Roses).
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.