Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Ultimate Condiment

pickled prunes

When I first started looking through Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of South-West France (one of my absolute favorite cookbook purchases of 2005), the thing that jumped out at me, and that I decided I had to make first, was her recipe for pickled prunes. Call me crazy (especially given all the other tempting recipes collected by Wolfert therein), but I had to have them. Something told me that they would be amazing. I imagined them served with charcuterie and cheeses, along with my pickled sour cherries--a perfect combination for the holidays.

They were very quick to whip up, but they have to age at least 6 weeks before you can eat them. This aging mellows out the vinegar, and allows the prunes to release their heady aroma into the syrup. What you're left with is far greater than the sum of its parts: a sweet and sour prune which will inspire your guests to covet them right down to the last one left in the serving dish (be careful, though--they might also be inspired to make a grab for it).

The method is simple. It takes virtually no skill and barely any time. In fact, there's no reason why you couldn't run out to the store, grab the necessary ingredients, and make them right now. Here's what you need:

12 oz. large prunes with pits
linden tea
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 c. tarragon vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves

Now simmer the prunes in the linden tea 2-3 hours. Cook the sugar and vinegar in a separate pan until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cinnamon and cloves, simmer 10 min. Remove from heat and let stand until cool. Drain prunes and pat with paper towels. Prick each prune a few times with a needle. Place in a bowl and pour the vinegar solution over them. Let stand 24 hours. Strain the vinegar into a pot, bring to a boil. Simmer 10 min. Let cool. Place prunes in a 500 ml glass jar and pour the vinegar over them. Add enough vodka to cover the prunes, close the jar and it let sit in a cool dark place 6 weeks. Refrigerate after opening.

They go very well with all kinds of charcuterie and cheeses, but they went particularly well with pâté. Enjoy.



Brett said...

Those pickled prunes caught my eye as well, but I haven't made them yet. Glad to hear they're so scrumptious. I share your enthusiasm for Wolfert's updated book. It's spectacular.

aj kinik said...

Yeah, not only do you want to go to South-West France after reading Wolfert's book, you want to move there.

Thanks for reading and nice work on "in praise of sardines" (I've been enjoying the gastro tours).


Jesper said...

Never made the prunes, but I have used the thorough'n'marvellous recipe for duck confit in this book a few times over the years. same thing here, not much skill needed, but patience is a virtue, and you will need a few pinches of that for sure. But the payoff is awesome.