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Nothing better than a slice of freshly baked bread with butter and jam, especially with Pflaumenmus – spiced German plum butter – one of my favorites. Pflaumenmus is made from Italian plums, cooked for many hours to a dark mush, and seasoned with cinnamon and a hint of cloves.

Plum butter tastes similar to apple butter, but noticeably tarter and more intense. Pflaumenmus – or Powidl in Austria – is not only a tasty spread for sandwiches, but, also, often used as sweet filling in dumplings or pastry, especially in Austria and neighboring countries of the old Hapsburg empire.

Bohemian Hazelnut Torte with plum butter (the dark layer)

Married to a Vietnam vet, I can get plum butter and other German delicacies at the commissary in Bangor. But if you have neither access to a military base, nor to a German deli shop, and don’t want to go through the lengthy process of making the real thing from scratch – there is an easy way out: DIY-Pflaumenmus-Ersatz!

When I wrote my blog post for Bohemian Hazelnut Torte I was wondering what kind of substitute could be used for plum butter. The best of all husbands suggested apple butter, and it comes fairly close, but is somewhat milder. Then I thought of the dried prunes I like snacking on, looked at ingredients in some Pflaumenmus (from the scratch) recipes, and got to work.

Ingredients for Pflaumenmus-Ersatz

This is what I came up with: a combination of the mellow acidity of balsamic vinegar and the fresh zing of lemon juice for tartness, brown sugar and maple syrup (or only brown sugar) for sweetness, and cinnamon and a hint of cloves for spices.

The prunes have to be soaked for several hours (or overnight), so that they can be easily pureed, using either a food processor or an immersion blender. The plum butter substitute tastes better the day after it’s made, so give it a 12-hour rest in the fridge to allow the flavors to blend.

Not only good for baking – we had Pflaumenmus-Ersatz with pancakes and maple syrup for brunch: delicious!

200 g dried prunes
3/4 cup/180 g water, boiling
40 g/5 tsp. balsamic vinegar
4 tsp. lemon juice
4 tsp. dark brown sugar (or 1 tbsp. brown sugar and 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup)
1/8-1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (to taste)
pinch ground cloves

In a small bowl, pour boiling water over prunes. Cover, and let sit for several hours (or overnight) to soften.

Place softened prunes with soaking liquid in bowl of food processor (or blender). Add balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, maple syrup (if using), cinnamon and cloves, and process until mixture is smooth.

Season with more lemon juice, brown sugar (or maple syrup) and cinnamon to taste. Transfer plum butter to a jar or bowl, cover, and allow to rest for 12 hours, until flavors have blended.


  1. As a child in Croatia…I remember my grandmother cooking Lekvar from plums…in a big Kettle over a fire… in the back yard…she had a maid standing and stirring it for hours…periodically grandmother would come with a spoon and check on the thickness of the Lekvar….I think the word Lekvar is Hungrian….my grandmother was from German heritage…but was born in Budapest during the Kaisar Franz Josef Empire….Once the Lekvar was thick enough it was transferred into a box kind of container…I do not know exactly what it was…but I know it was the size of a brick…and when it cooled it became hard…when she cut a slice off that “brick” it was the best taste in my mouth…..She also made “Maultaschen” with it…and I loved those as well…


  2. Therefore I was never really tempted to make Pflaumenmus from the scratch, though I have a recipe how to bake it in the oven that I might try one day. The whole procedure is pretty daunting, much as I love Pflaumenmus.
    But this prune mixture comes pretty close to it, so I'm quite happy with the result of my experiment.


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