Prunes that really schmeck

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I’m not one for marmalade making (all that fine chopping and boiling doesn’t seem worth it to me), but I do love a spicy prune, and this is the time of year I get down to making some. My appetite has been whet so to speak from my normal Christmas time indulgence of pruneaux d’agen fourrés (prunes stuffed with a sweet pruney filling). I first had these when I lived in France, but Fortnum and Mason sell a wonderful version that is just the right amount of indulgence with enough to share. And when I’m F&M prune gathering, I try to also buy one pound of a good variety of pitted prunes with some Lapsang Souchong to soak them in (make the tea – not too strong- let it cool- and then soak them with the tea to cover overnight). The next morning I’m ready to make Constance Spry’s simple recipe for Spiced Prunes.

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I cook the prunes in their tea and juices until soft (about 10 mins), reserving 300ml of the tea/pruney liquid when I drain them. Whilst they’re cooking, I boil 400ml of red wine vinegar together with 225 grams of granulated sugar with some mixed spice held in a  little muslin/cheesecloth bag I’ve secured to the saucepan handle tie. Once it has boiled enough for the sugar to dissolve I take it off the heat, discard the bag and add the 300 ml of tea juices. Divide the prunes up into your sterilized hot jars pour on the liquor plus one tablespoon of armagnac or cognac per jar poured in the top. Seal and leave for 24 hours (longer is of course good as well) then enjoy with any cold meats, mature cheeses etc. I’m especially fond of them with slices of the good smoked chicken and duck I can find in a local deli. With a crusty baguette spread with softened Brittany butter and some slightly bitter lettuce leaves, it all makes for winter food that really schmecks!

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