Disgracefully Drunken Prunes
This preserve is a disgrace…
Prunes are already preserved perfectly well by the ancient method of drying. Sometimes, to be fair, they also benefit from the addition of modern preservatives, but that just proves my point – they are doubly well preserved. So there is no need to add further preservation in the form of alcohol and sugar – never mind both. No need.
The thing is, though, that disgracefully over-preserved prunes, steeped in wine like fruity little Falstaffs, are delicious. Drunkenly, decadently delicious. A prune on its own is wholesome but unlikely to have you reaching for more. Disgracefully drunken prunes like these are sweet, silky, mildly spicy and very boozy – perfect with ice-cream, spooned over greek yoghurt or baked in puddings. They lead a double life as a savoury preserve too – lovely with ham or cheese and especially good spooned over the top of a melted camembert or brie. They are also a handy ingredient to have in your cupboard – they make beef or lamb gravy really special, add depth to Chocolate And Prune Mug Cake and My Big Fat Chocolate Ginger And Prune Cookies and turn a pork stew into a winter-warming wow.
Disgracefully Drunken Prunes definitely make the cut in my fantasy Thrifty Deli. Prunes are dirt cheap to start with and cheap alcohol from Aldi or Lidl is fine because the spices, sugar and fruit smooth over any rough edges. Here’s how to make them. As a bonus, this also makes you a little liqueur to enjoy in November. Or, you know, whenever the notion strikes.
How To Make Disgracefully Drunken Prunes
- dried or ready-to-eat stoned prunes
- granulated sugar
- whole cloves
- cinnamon sticks
- one star anise per jar
- a bottle of cheap port or other fortified wine
I usually make these with port but I have used Aldi’s British Fortified Wine here which costs less than £4 a litre as an experiment. I ate a few of the finished prunes and drank a glass of the liquor purely in the interests of research and – so far – the cheap fortified wine tastes lovely.
The method is the same whatever quantities you are working with – so if you have a little port or fortified wine left over and a few prunes, make a little jar; if you have loads of both (lucky you) just scale it up. A word about spices – whole spices are better but dried and ground spices are fine if that’s what you happen to have in. Allow 1ml ground cloves to replace a single clove and 5ml to replace one stick of cinnamon. The star anise is not a deal breaker if you don’t have any in, although it adds a lovely deep, rich note to the finished preserve.
- Put stoned and ready to eat prunes in a bowl and barely cover with boiled water. Leave for 45 minutes. If you have proper, old-school dried prunes do the same but use a pot and bring them to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Or put them in a wide-necked flask, cover with boiled water, screw on the lid and leave over night.
- Drain your prunes and measure the liquid. Now put the liquid in a pan with 2 cloves and half a cinnamon stick for every 200ml. Bring it to the boil and turn down the heat. Leave it to bubble until the volume has halved.
- In the meantime, pack your drained prunes into jars. Add cinnamon sticks and a single star anise to your jars, pressed into the side before you pack in the prunes.
- Measure the prune juice again to make sure you now have roughly half as much liquid.
- Return it to the pan with the same volume of granulated sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (So, if you had 100ml of liquid you would add 100ml of sugar.)
- Add twice as much fortified wine or port as you had of the reduced prune juice. (So if you had 100ml of juice you would add 200ml of wine.) Bring it all just to boiling point and turn off the heat. Strain into a jug to remove the spices.
- Carefully pour it over the prunes, filling your jar(s) up to about 1cm from the top. Use a fork to carefully release air pockets without mashing up your prunes. Put on your lid(s). When it has cooled, clean off any drips with warm soapy water and then pack it away for at least two months. It will keep for a year though.
You will almost certainly have left-over liquor so here’s what to do with it.
- Measure the liquid.
- Add the same volume of port or fortified wine.
- Pour into a bottle or large jar and put into a dark cupboard until next winter.
- You now have a delicious liqueur to enjoy – or to bottle up and give away.
Making A Label With The Jam Labelizer
I have made two labels for my Disgracefully Drunken Prunes using the excellent Jam Labelizer and love them both – which would you choose?