MCC: A Tarte of Proines (aka Spiced Plum Spread)

Medieval Cooking Challenge buttonIt’s the second month of the Medieval Cooking Challenge, an experiment where we take real Medieval recipes and prepare them in our modern kitchens, bringing the past into the present.

Spiced Plum Spread on Olive Oil Toast, garnished with Lemon Zest
Spiced Plum Spread on Olive-Oiled Toast, garnished with Lemon Zest

After last month’s Andalusian Lamb (which was a little complex), we’re going later within the Medieval period and a bit simpler in method of preparation. This recipe for a dried plum (aka prune–but don’t let the connotations of the word scare you off!) spread that is great on slices of baguette as an appetizer or an afternoon snack or used, as the name would suggest, as a tart filling or topping.

 

The original recipe is from 1587 England, from a book known as The Good Huswifes Jewell, 1587

To make a Tarte of Prunes [alternately spelled Proines]

Put your Prunes into a pot, and put in red wine or claret wine, and a little faire water, and stirre them now and then, and when they be boyled enough, put them into a bowle, and straine them with sugar, synamon and ginger.

Gotta love that creative spelling from back then!

The redacted recipe quantities I’ve taken (and adjusted ever so slightly) from a fabulous modern book: Shakespeare’s Kitchenby Francine Segan. Not all of the recipes in this book reference their original Italian or English inspirations but some do, and it was indispensable as I planned my first Medieval feast for 60-80 people.

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Spiced Plum Spread

1.5 cups Red Wine
9 oz Pitted Dried Plums (aka prunes, about 30)
3 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp minced Ginger
2 Cinnamon Stick (2 inches or so)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer until most of the liquid has either been absorbed or evaporated and what’s left is very thick. Remove the mixture from the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Mash the cooked mixture until a fairly smooth consistency is reached.

Step-by-Step Spiced Plum Spread

Makes approximately 1 cup.

Originally I’d suggested using crystallized ginger and adding it to the mixture between the cooking and mashing stages but decided to go with the minced ginger since I had it on hand. (I buy it in the tubes from the produce section–comes in very handy and keeps wonderfully!) You can use more or less of the ginger and cinnamon to suit your own preferences.

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At this point what you do with it is up to you. You could go old-school and fill a single large or several small tarts shells with the mixture and serve it as is. Or you can serve it, warm, in a small crock with fresh bread and soft butter like you would a marmalade or jelly. Based on the rich flavor this dish provides, I’m thinking a topping for a cream cheese tart would be fabulous–the cream cheese only slightly sweetened so as to cut the richness of the plum topping the way vanilla ice cream can cut through the richness of a double-chocolate cake.

If you have fresh plums available (I know we have a few left over from a recent farmers’ market trip) you can use them in addition to or instead of the dried variety but you’ll need to use more of them to start with as well as more sugar (drying concentrates the fruit’s flavor and sweetness) and it will probably need to cook longer to give it enough time to thicken properly.

I’ve got a party coming up next month so I’ve stashed mine in the freezer to save until then–it’ll be a nice addition to the menu I’ve got planned.

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Did you try this month’s Medieval Cooking Challenge? Make sure to leave you link in the comments!

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