On our honeymoon, Chris and I bought a bottle of Pickled French Plums in Washington State. We ate them with smoked oysters and aged gouda cheese. The ingredient list was short so I thought that I would try to reproduce them at home. How hard could it be?
Well I made something, and it was yummy, but the plums were not have the same velvety texture as the original. So, I decided to do a bit of research into dried plums (also known as prunes). First of all, no one calls them prunes anymore because in this country people think of prunes as medicinal and they don’t even know that they are plums. So, in an attempt to elevate prunes to the gourmet food status that they enjoy in Europe, they are now sold as dried plums. I love prunes…dried plums…whatever…When you stew them with meats they become silky and they have the most amazing caramel flavour. In my research however, I learned that most of these decadent prune and meat recipes that I love call for Mi-cuit (or half-dried) plums.
I could probably find these fancy French half-dried plums…I do live in NYC after all…but I suspect that they would be pretty expensive. Also, the particular, dark, dusty, Italian plums from which prunes are typically made happen to be in season in New York right now, so I decided instead to make Mi-cuit plums myself.
Making Mi-cuit Plums requires almost no effort or attention, just the right sort of plums and a having your oven turned on at a very low temperature for long, long time. I plan to make these plums as often as I can when they are in season. They would be AMAZING in a clafouti or tart. They could be thrown into any kind of meat dish involving chicken, duck or pork. You could eat them with plain greek style yogurt for breakfast! You can make them into pickles (recipe below) and eat them with good cheese and smoked oysters or smoked duck or pate! I am in love with fancy French half-dried plums!
FANCY FRENCH HALF-DRIED PLUMS (also known as Mi-Cuit Plums)
Preheat the oven to 200 degree. Wash, half and pit your Italian Prune plums. Lay the plum halves out in a single layer in a baking dish. Sprinkle the plums with some sugar (I used Demerara sugar) and vanilla extract. I used about 1/3 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla for about 30 plums. Bake the plums for a long time. The amount of time will vary depending on how juicy your plums are. I gave mine a stir about once an hour. You do not want them to dry out totally. The juice should thicken and glaze the fruit.
- 1 cup Apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup cane sugar
- ½ tablespoon Coriander seed
- ½ tablespoon Mustard seed
- 2 dried Arbol chili pepper
- 2 Bay leaves
- The peel of one orange (be sure to trim off all of the white pith with a very shard paring knife)
- 30 mi-cuit plums or 12 oz of store-bought prunes
- Juice of half an orange (only if you are using dry prunes)
- Combine the sugar, vinegar, coriander and mustard seeds, bay leaves and orange peel in a small non reactive saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a low boil and stir it until the sugar dissolves
- Add the dried plums or prunes and bring it back to a boil.
- Continue stirring on a low boil until the pickling liquid just begins to thicken.
- If you are using half-dried plums, allow the pickles to cool before storing them in a sealed container in the fridge.
- If you using fully dried prunes, add the orange juice and continue cooking the mixture until it begins to thicken again. Cool and store in a sealed container int he fridge.