Saturday, March 8, 2008

Pruneaux au vin blanc (Prunes cooked in white wine)

This is another “boozy” fruit recipe, and it can be served as a dessert (as shown in the picture with the Poached Pears) or as an accompaniment with roast meats (such as pork or even rabbit). Now that’s versatility for the lowly prune!

I’m not a prunophobe. In fact, I love the oozy, squishy, squirt of sweetness in every bite. Unlike Weird Al Yankovic’s song, “Won't Eat Prunes Again”, I will eat prunes again. I often have them for a snack, and have been known to sneak them into chocolate cake for my kids!

The prune
Prunes, or dried plums as they’ve been marketed in the United States since 2000, are a type of plum grown with the intent to dry. The word prune comes from the old French pronne, which simply means plum. In French, prune means plum and pruneau means prune.

Plums are ripened on the tree, and when they’re ready, farmers use a mechanical shaker to grab the tree’s trunk and shake the fruit onto a catching frame. Then they’re taken to be dehydrated. Three pounds of fresh plums become one pound of prunes.

[Picture published with permission from Tracey Smith, Writer and Broadcaster with Downshifting & Sustainable Living — great ideas for “slowing down your pace, finding a better work/life balance, consequently embracing living with less and leading a simpler, greener and happier life”'. Check it out.]

In France, plums are grown in the Lot et Garonne department in the Aquitaine region in the South-West. In this region, you can follow the one-hundred-kilometre “Prune Route” and even visit a Gourmet Prune Museum. A good time to visit would be September, during the harvest. (I found this wonderful article about “The Way of the Prune” that talks fondly of such a trip to this region.)

map from Wikipedia

In the United States, most of the prunes are grown in California. There’s a funny story that in 1905 in the Santa Clara Valley, one farmer brought 500 monkeys from Panama to help with the harvesting of plums. Although the monkeys made light work of getting the plums off the trees, they also ate them up as fast as they could too.

Pruneaux à l'Armagnac
The pruneau d'Agen is the queen of all prunes. Agen is a town in this region that is known as the capital of the prune. The Ente plums from this region are the only variety that can be used to make prunes entitled to the "Agen" designation.

Prunes soaked in Armagnac, a brandy of this region, are an after-dinner delight often given as hostess gifts and traditionally served with foie gras. A tin of Pruneaux à l'Armagnac has been called the “most expensive prunes in the world” according to this link. I'd love to taste a prune from this tin someday. A company in France called Comtesse du Barry will ship their products internationally, including the “Stuffed Agen Prunes” (which are "stuffed with a creamed filling of prunes, apples, sugar, vanilla and Armagnac, and delicately glazed"). So, for 18.50 euros plus 45 euros for shipping , I could have an authentic 450 gram tin of Pruneaux à l'Armagnac for $96.86 Canadian in my mailbox 20 days later. That’s pretty cool.

Or, I could find a great recipe for Pruneaux à l'Armagnac and save the authentic tin for a holiday to France, which might be worth a trip in itself. During my research, I found such a recipe at Chez Pim, another great food blogger. I'll have to give it a try someday.

The wine
For Pruneaux au vin blanc, the prunes are poached in wine. If you’ve read the blog entry about Poires au vin rouge, you’ll see that I poached the prunes in a wine from the Burgundy region of France. I used both a white and a red wine, but the color doesn’t change in the prunes as it did for the pears.

See Poires au vin rouge.

Tasting Notes
I’ve always liked prunes, and poaching them in wine makes them even more tasty.

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Running total: No change: $219.13

Butter used so far: No change: 4 pounds, 19.5 tablespoons

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Remember to check out my March give-away. See Whisk-ing you a GIVE-AWAY.


Anonymous said...

This Blog gives prunes a whole new status. I loved the idea of sneaking them into chocolate cake! Sounds like a lovely side accompaniment to a meat dish.