Ellen Silverman

Although we’ve mostly exempted ourselves from the gift buying frenzy – we give money to a charity in our friends’ names and send out custom-designed e-cards to the giftees – we DO like to give something extra that will afford more tangible – even hedonistic – pleasures, that they can’t get anywhere else. That means, something homemade, and the easiest, most bang-for-the-buck d-i-y gifts we know of are food gifts. We have developed quite a repertoire over the years, from homemade chocolates to jars of Apricots in Cardamom-Scented Syrup. (December 17 on public radio’s The Splendid Table, we’ll introduce three new ones)

These boozy prunes are among our favorites. A classic of southwest France, land of confit, pâté, and foie gras, they are steeped in a syrup spiked with Armagnac, the region’s delicious brandy. Since the prunes are pitted, they release some of their sweet juices to make a thick syrup, making little sugar necessary. The prunes are so intensely flavored they can be eaten almost as a candy, to finish off a meal. The Armagnac in the syrup tends to sneak up on people, and acts as instant stress reliever.

The prunes are sublime as is or with a little creme fraiche…served over vanilla and coffee ice cream…and as an ingredient in pear, apple, or quince tarts. Since they last indefinitely, you can keep them on hand for impromtu desserts. We make them in big batches, keeping some for ourselves and packing the rest as gifts in canning jars. (Weck jars are our favorites, though Amazon offers great deals on some nice-looking Italian ones ). We always attach a tag suggesting ways to use the prunes, and to keep them refrigerated.

Prepare at least 1 week before serving to allow the prunes to mellow.

Ellen Silverman

Recipe: Prunes in Armagnac

Makes about 3 cups; the recipe can be scaled up indefinitely.

1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
12 ounces large pitted prunes
About 3/4 cup Armagnac or Bas Armagnac, or more to taste (the flavor will mellow as the prunes sit)

In a small, non-reactive saucepan, combine the water and sugar. With a thin sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and bean to the pan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Place the prunes in a clean dry jar and pour the syrup over them. Allow to cool completely, then stir in the Armagnac. Refrigerate for at least 1 week before serving. Taste the syrup and add more Armagnac as necessary (it will mellow as the prunes sit).

Refrigerated, the prunes will keep indefinitely.

Related posts:
design (or hack) your own holiday e-cards
double-duty gifts with heart (and a card)
food gifts: homemade chocolates for improvising (recipe)
our homemade food gifts on ‘the splendid table’
homemade food gift: alt-malted milk balls

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7 replies on “d-i-y food gift: prunes in armagnac (recipe)

  1. Hi Tricia, There is a very special flavor that comes with the marriage of prunes and Armagnac (or Bas Armagnac), and it’s really worth trying. I haven’t tried the prunes with French Cognac but it is a close relative, and I’m sure it would do. Basically, you are flavoring the syrup with the alcohol so you can do it to taste, adding more as needed (as the prunes sit, the alcohol balance will change). Neither are cheap, but a bottle will flavor a lot of prunes…

  2. Thanks for the inspiration. I want to make your nicoise olives in rosemary oil as Christmas treats. I can’t find nicoise olives here in Honolulu, but I am growing rosemary in my container garden. I purchased Kalamata olives instead. Were your olives pitted or unpitted? I purchased pitted.

  3. Yeah, for some reason, nicoise olives go through periods of being tricky to find in some places. The method would work find with Kalamata’s or just about any other black olive. I prefer olives WITH pits, since pits are like bones: they give a lot of flavor. Pitted ones tend to lose some of their juices. It also depends what the eater’s are comfortable with.

  4. Wowza. These prunes and apricots are delicious. Luscious. Sexy. Perfect right off a spoon or over small bit of vanilla ice cream. Sally, thank you for sharing your talents.

    Everyone, anyone, who reads these recipes.…be tempted. Make them as a gift for yourself or someone you want to give a treat to.


  5. I’m so glad you like them Fern. They are tried and true. I’ve been making, using, and giving them for years. The method is in my head…so I just throw them together at this point.

  6. Sally, other than over ice cream as Fern mentioned, how do you use these? Just to nibble? With cheese?

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