Dried cranberries, dried apricots, dried mango, dried plums. One of these things is an impostor.
The stigma, the misconceptions and rumors have caused this misunderstood fruit to repair its image with new marketing tricks.
The dried plum is, in reality, a prune. Did she just say “prune,” you ask yourself as you recoil in foodie horror? Yes, she did.
Any cultivar of plum can be used to make a prune, but European plums offer the most sweetness, flavor and firmness. They too, are now being marketed as dried plums. The stigma is international.
I invite you to sit back, decompress and permit me to reshape your thoughts about this most maligned fruit, the prune.
Label it a dried plum and it becomes a sweet and nutritional snack, but use the word prune and it becomes the unhip joke fruit for reasons known to most of us. A fruit for only the elderly or unhealthy.
I will clear up a rumor that goes back to the 1930s. Dr. Pepper is not made with prune juice. The company shares that “Dr. Pepper is a unique blend of natural and artificial flavors; it does not contain prune juice.”
A bit of history. Coming from China along the Silk Road, plum trees thrived throughout the Mediterranean basin under the protection of the Greeks and Romans. The fruits were dried in the sun, transforming them into prunes. With an extended shelf life, these were nourishment during times of a poor harvest or for long journeys by land or sea. Prunes have been appreciated for thousands of years for their nutritional, dietary and medicinal qualities, and were prescribed by Greek, Roman and Egyptian medical practitioners.
I just have to ask, have you ever had a prune?
Now I must tell you that I did not always have sympathy for these tender, sweet and profoundly flavorful nuggets.
My 5-year-old self would sit at the breakfast table just staring in dismay as a bowl of these warm stewed mushy things stared back at me. Of course, they were sitting right next to a plate with some poached eggs, again not a favorite of many 5-year-olds. In those days, one would be required to sit at the table until the plate was cleaned. So there I was at lunch time still staring. What was my mother thinking? She was thinking, of course, that this was a healthy breakfast, but 5-year-olds don’t get that. She’s since been forgiven, of course. It’s one of our fun family stories about how she tortured me with prunes.
Prunes are a food with great diversity. Sweet or savory, you choose. Prunes stewed in port wine and spooned over pound cake or prunes and melty dark, rich chocolate in an oversized cookie. Prunes and peppercorns combine to make a popular rub for beef. Lamb with black pepper, prunes and lemon is a mouthful of fun flavor pairing.
Maybe now you are just little prune speculative.
This fruit is not particularly provocative and some may consider it unexciting, but without it one of my favorite and most requested recipes would not exist. So, for this reason alone, I give you the humble prune.
Pork Loin Stuffed With Prunes and Apples in Red Current Wine Sauce
5 pound boned center cut pork loin
12 pitted prunes
1 large green tart apple (Granny Smith, Gravenstein or Pippen)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
6 heaping tablespoons red current jelly
If you use moisture-packed pitted prunes you can skip the next step. If you are using the more dehydrated style of prunes (they may still contain pits), you need to do the following: Place prunes in a sauce pan with cold water enough to cover the prunes. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and allow prunes to soak 30 minutes. Drain, pat dry and pit prunes. Set aside.
Peel, core and cut apple into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
Using a strong, sharp knife create a pocket in the pork by cutting a deep slit down the length of the loin to within 1 inch of the end.
Season the pocket with salt and pepper to taste. Mix whole prunes and chopped apples together by hand and stuff the pocket completely. To keep the shape of the loin, tie the stuffed loin at 1” intervals with strong kitchen string.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large roasting pan or casserole dish (with cover) melt butter with olive oil. Add the loin and brown evenly on all sides. About 20 minutes. Skim off the fat and reserve.
Cover loin and place pan in center of oven for 1 1/2 hours or until meat shows no resistance when pierced with fork. Keep loin covered tightly and allow to set while you prepare your sauce. About 15 minutes.
Reserve meat juices and add to fat in medium sauce pan.
Pour wine and heavy cream into medium sauce pan with fat and juices. Bring liquid to a rapid boil. Stir and deglaze the pan as the sauce bubbles. Reduce liquid to 1 1/2 cups and stir in jelly. Reduce heat and simmer a few minutes until sauce is smooth.
Slice loin and place stuffed sliced onto warmed platter. Drizzle with sauce and serve.
My absolute favorite wine to serve with this dish for a perfect pairing is Ilsley Vineyards Ses Primas. The perfect food and wine marriage.
Pollo arrosto con Prugne e Cognac
(Roasted Chicken with Prunes and Cognac)
This recipe is slightly sweet and nicely savory. The bacon and prunes together with the mild sweetness of shallots and the pleasant bite of Cognac.
1 4-5 pound chicken
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Cognac
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
20 medium peeled shallots (about 3 cups)
1 cup chicken stock (plus more if necessary for gravy)
4 or 5 slices hickory smoked bacon
2 tablespoon unsalted butter—softened
2 tablespoon flour
1 small pinch fennel seed
Place prunes in small bowl and cover with Cognac. Let soak for at least one hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse and dry chicken. Salt cavity liberally. Place a few shallots inside bird and remainder surrounding the bird.
You have free articles remaining.
Drizzle shallots with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Tuck a few prunes inside bird and place the remainder between the shallots.
Pour Cognac and chicken stock over shallots and prunes. Generously pepper breast and legs of chicken.
Fit the bacon over the breast and legs. Cut to correct size if needed. Tent with foil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for one hour, basting halfway through and tossing shallots and prunes with the juices so they do not dry out.
Remove foil and increase heat to 425 degrees. Generously baste again. Roast for about 25-30 minutes more until bacon is crisp and breast is browned. Baste often during this process to keep breast moist.
Mix flour, butter and fennel seed to create a smooth paste.
Remove chicken and shallots to warmed serving platter.
Place roasting pan on top of stove over medium high heat and bring to simmer.
You should have about a cup and half of stock (add additional chicken stock if necessary).
Whisk in butter and flour mixture a little at a time, adding more stock if necessary to create desired amount. Halfway through whisking in mixture add final tablespoon of Cognac. Whisk and cook until thickened. About 5-7 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper.
Pour into gravy boat or serving dish. Carve meat at table. Spoon warm gravy over top.
Prugne ripiene di Salvia Salata Antipasti
(Ricotta Sage Stuffed Prunes Appetizers)
If you think your guests will freak out, tell them it’s stuffed plums, and then after they devour them you can tell them the truth.
8 ounces ricotta
4-6 leaves fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I suggest Grove 45)
20-25 honey roasted almonds, crushed
Honey for drizzling
Combine ricotta, sage, salt and pepper in a food processor. Process for 20 seconds until fluffy.
With the processor running, slowly pour in olive oil and continue processing until well blended.
Spoon the ricotta mixture into the prunes. Top with crushed almonds. Drizzle the stuffed prunes with honey.
Risotto di Salsiccia e Prugne
(Sausage and Prune Risotto)
2 1/4 cups Arborio rice—uncooked
3 lg. spicy sausages -skinned and diced
½ cup prunes—diced
3 slices Pancetta or bacon—diced
1 Large onion—finely chopped
3 tsp. brown mustard
2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs. butter
5 1/4 cups chicken stock
I cup white wine
1 cup peas—canned or frozen
4 heaping Tbs. Parmesan cheese and more for serving
Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a pan and fry the sausage for a couple of minutes, together with a small handful of the finely chopped onion.
Add pancetta/bacon and continue frying until pancetta/bacon is nicely browned.
Add white wine and prunes. Stir often and deglaze the pan.
Add half the mustard and reserve the rest. Stir until mustard is blended in. Remove pan from heat.
Keep chicken stock warm over low heat.
In a separate pan, heat butter and remaining olive oil. Add the remaining onions.
Saute onion until just translucent.
Turn heat up to high and add the rice. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir continuously until rice is coated with the oil- butter mixture.
Turn heat to low and add ½ cup of wine. Stir continuously until it is almost all absorbed.
Add the remainder of wine until it has all been absorbed.
Start adding the stock ½ cup at a time, stirring continuously until it is absorbed. Do not add the next cup of stock until previous addition has been absorbed.
When approximately 1/3 of the stock remains, add the sausage and prune mixture to the rice.
Once all stock has been added, taste rice to ensure that it’s properly cooked. It should still have a little bite but should not be crunchy. You don’t want it to become mushy and overcooked either.
Add peas and remainder of mustard. Stir well until mixed. Remove risotto from heat and stir in Parmesan.
Risotto must be served immediately to maintain the correct consistency. Dust with a little more Parmesan.