German Hausfrauen tell their busybody husbands “Viele Köche verderben den Brei” while wives in the United States remind theirs that “Too many cooks spoil the broth” or depending on what their mothers taught them, they might say “the soup” or “the pudding.” All these words refer to something good to eat if made by a cook who can concentrate on the recipe.
Change the genders if you will, but I learned this proverb from my mother who shooed me out of the kitchen with it if I was in her way, so I think of it as something women say to men. “Brei” is the standard or High German word for this kind of food, but in Low German, people say “Prei” or use an entirely different word, “Mus,” which is often translated as mush, but which also describes foods that we would call soups, though probably not broths.
“Pflaume” is easier, since the same word is used in both High and Low German for the purple fruit we call a plum. Thus, “Pflaume Brei,” “Pflaume Prei” and “Pflaume Mus” mean the same thing: Plum Soup. This is a German version of a sweet soup that is very popular in the Scandinavian countries. Anyone living in northern Wisconsin or Minnesota must have tasted or at least been offered Swedish “Fruktsoppa,” Norwegian “Sot suppe” or Finnish “Hedelmäkeitto.” In the United States fruit soups are usually served as desserts, but in Europe you will also find them on breakfast buffets in good restaurants.
Since Jerri’s Mennonite grandparents came to the United States from the Ukraine but spoke a dialect of High German, Jerri’s mother, Esther, made Pflaume Brei. Jerri’s versions of Pflaume Brei varied from time to time because she never wrote down the recipe. However, her sister-in-law Joyce gave us a copy of Esther’s recipe that Jerri found in one of her recipe boxes, so we can share it with you.
Think of Pflaume Brei as a Mennonite comfort food. Esther’s grandchildren loved it. Tricia, one of her granddaughters, once told Jerri that it was her favorite food. Fruit and dairy are both good for you, so here is how to make something that tastes good and is also good for you.
1 30 oz. can whole purple plums in heavy syrup
1 cup water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar
Enough sour cream to make a pourable liquid
Drain the plums into a three quart saucepan. Remove the seeds and mash the fruit. Stir the mashed plums into the syrup and add one cup of water. Bring the pan to a boil over moderate heat while you make the thickening.
Use a fork to blend the flour, corn starch and a half cup plus one tablespoon of sugar together in a small bowl. Stir a quarter cup of sour cream into the dry ingh redients, then add more sour cream by heaping tablespoonfuls until you have a thick mixture but one that you can pour into the plums.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool for about a minute, then stir in the thickening. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring the Pflaume Brei back to a boil, stirring continuously with a fork.
Continue cooking and stirring for about three minutes to make sure that the corn starch is thoroughly cooked. Taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.
Serve warm or cold.
NOTES: Add sugar to suit your taste. Kids like it sweeter than we do.J