Tengrain’s Little Cooking School: the dried fruit challenge

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

Well, it has been a fun, full-year, a deep-dive into learning about canning and preserving food, and this is the last of the challenges from The Tigress. She saved a real challenge for last: Dried Fruits.

I love dried fruits in all their guises; I use dried blueberries in my scones (try it, you’ll probably never go back to fresh), and I won a dessert contest for a tart with dried fruits in a custard that is spiked with Grand Marnier, and sold the recipe to a restaurant (now defunct) in Oakland. I know how to work with the intense flavor of dried fruit in the realm of baking, but not so much in this new realm of canning.

When I was a little boy, my mother needed to have surgery, and my father was not exactly able to look after us kiddies while my mother was in the hospital for a week or two, and so we were dutifully packed up and sent off to my grandmother’s house in southern California. Madame sent me over to her aunts’ house in a nearby town for the duration (I told you she didn’t like me), and thus I experienced stewed fruit for the first time. And not just any fruit, stewed prunes. And they stuffed them with nuts (almonds I think), and served them for breakfast. It really was wonderful. And for the record, I loved being with mesdames instead of Madame. They let me play in the mud and gave me a new Matchbox Car each day. And they had a TV with a remote control and a very loose policy on watching cartoons. It really was bliss.

Stewed Stuffed Prunes

As you may recall, I don’t like the bitterness of the pith from citrus fruits, so in this recipe I supreme the fruit. If you do like that bitter sort of background flavor (or don’t care), then just slice the fruit up. You will be removing it before canning, so you don’t need to be too fussy about it.

This recipe calls for rum. If you are in recovery skip the booze, it is not essential.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 Cup granulated white sugar (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 Cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 10 Cloves
  • 1 Star Anise, whole
  • 1 Orange, supremed
  • 1 Lemon, supremed
  • 1 pound of pitted, dried prunes (I use Trader Joe’s California prunes)
  • Almonds (as many as you have prunes) blanched
  • Rum – because everything is better with booze, and prunes and rum are a wonderful combo.

Make it:

  1. Combine the sugars, vinegar, water, spices (put them in a sturdy tea ball or wrap them in a bundle of gauze, as you will be removing them later), and bring to a boil until it makes a syrup.
  2. Add the oranges and lemon slices, and the prunes. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover until the prunes plump up. It was about 20 minutes for me.
  3. Transfer the prunes to a plate using a slotted spoon.
  4. Reduce the syrup – you want about 1 1/2 Cups. You can use the chopstick trick I mentioned in this post.
  5. Remove the spices and the orange and lemon slices and discard.
  6. Using a paring knife, make a small incision in each prune and stuff an almond inside. Put the stuffed prunes into the sterilized jars and pour the hot syrup on top.
  7. Top off the jars with the rum – about 1 or 2 Tablespoons.
  8. Process following the Tigress’ instructions on canning. I processed for about 10 minutes, and it made about 4 pint jars.

Bonus Tracks

  • I didn’t have enough time to really refine this recipe, but I think I might try it again but use Allspice instead of Star Anise. I had the Star Anise from an earlier canning project and thought it would be good to use it. I think that any combination of the warm Renaissance spices would work well.
  • I’m almost positive that mes auntes used almonds, but you might want to experiment with different nuts. I would NOT use walnuts, they have too much tannin and I think would make it very bitter.
  • I would serve this with any roasted game or pork; I think that they would make great appetizers with whiskey or bourbon based drinks.
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0 Responses to Tengrain’s Little Cooking School: the dried fruit challenge

  1. I’m sure she saw something of herself in you. See, it was self-loathing!

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    • Tengrain says:

      Pissed –

      The older I get, the more I appreciate her, though I didn’t like her much as the time. My grandfather, however, was the best, most-spoiling man alive, so he made up for it. I associate the smell of really good tobacco with him (cigar smoker, but not the cheap stuff; his came in individual aluminum tubes we think from Cuba). I miss him to this day.

      Rgds,

      TG

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