Poached Prunes and Kumquats

prunes and kumquats

Prunes are serious business in France and unlike Americans, it doesn’t take any name-changing to get the French to eat them. Prune fans, like me, are partial to those from Agen, in Gascony, which are mi-cuit; partially-dried. Their flavor is as beguiling and complex as a square of the finest chocolate.

kumquats prunes in pot

Interestingly, the prunes cultivated in California are grafted from the same prunes grown in the southwest of France.

Recently someone brought me a care package of heirloom dried beans from Rancho Gordo. Every time I go back to the states, I put in my order, and bring six or eight packages of the vividly-colored beans back to France with me. When a friend of Steve Sando, the head honcho of Rancho Gordo, came to Paris recently, he gave her some beans to pass off to me, and she also kindly included a bag of California dried prunes direct from her neighbor’s orchard.

sliced kumquats blog

The small zip-top bag had about twenty or so prunes in it, and they were tiny and hard, and a bit dusty. But once washed and poached, each little nugget blossomed into something tender and spicy-sweet. I had a hard time not eating all of them right from the pot the moment they were cool enough to handle.

prunes on spoon

Prunes pair very well with tart circles of bright kumquats which I had a hard time explaining to Salim, who runs one of the best produce stands in Paris in the covered Marche Beauvau in the Marche d’Aligre. No matter how obscure something is that I’m looking for, Salim will have it. And because it follows suit that if I’m looking for one thing in particular, everyone will be sure to have everything but the one thing I’m looking for. Many times I’ll just head there first and save myself a few steps.

prunes & kumquats

It’s surprising how well the perky kumquats go with the silky prunes. Which, of course, Salim had. But if you can’t find them, you can just serve the prunes with orange segments to provide the same tangy counterpoint to the poached prunes. The French rarely pit prunes before they serve them, but feel free to use pitted prunes.

Poached Prunes and Kumquats
Six servings

I like to add ruby port wine to the prune poaching liquid, but you can use red wine, or simply water, if you prefer. As mentioned above, you’re welcome to use pitted or unpitted prunes. If using unpitted prunes, you should alert guests to be aware of the presence of pits.

For the poached prunes

  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) port wine
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • 20-25 prunes (dried plums)

For the kumquats

1 cup (250 ml) water
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
15-20 kumquats, sliced and seeded

1. To poach the prunes, heat the water, port, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon slice together in a medium saucepan.

2. Add the prunes and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes, until the prunes are tender. If your prunes are large or quite dry, they make take longer.

3. Once the prunes are tender, remove the prunes from the heat.

4. To glaze the kumquats, bring the water, sugar, and kumquats to a boil in a small saucepan.

5. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil and cook for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them during the last few minutes, by the end of which time, the liquid will be reduced and syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Serving: Serve the prunes with a bit of their liquid in assiettes à soupe, deep-soup plates, with some of their liquid and kumquats strewn over the top. If you’d like, add a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Storage: The prunes and kumquats can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week before serving. The prunes actually benefit from being cooked in advance, so feel free to prepare them a day or so before serving.

Related Recipes and Links

Duck with Prunes

Chocolate-Prune Macarons

Prune Kernel Oil Ice Cream

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Dates



73 comments

  • Cool recipe. Thanks! I might have to work this into my Passover menu.

    Also, here is something else I like to do with kumquats: http://www.whatssheeatingnow.com/2010/03/kumquats-preserved.html

  • I am a pretty big prune fan too… and you are right, the ones from Agen are particularly delicious!

    At culinary school we did a lovely rice pudding dish that had been set with gelatin and had a little whipped cream mixed through just before it set…. accompanied by some poached Agen prunes and their accompanying cooking liquor that had been reduced to a syrup…. delicious is only one of many words to describe it!

    Dylan

    (i am currently trying to find the ULTIMATE cheesecake base recipe and the ULTIMATE crumble topping recipe to use in an exam, if you have any interesting and quirky ideas please head to my blog and let me know!)

  • David, what a unique pairing. I first stewed prunes when I read about how delicious they can be atop oatmeal on Molly’s blog (orangette). Adding kumquats and port sounds like it could really elevate them to the next level (dessert!)

  • wow. gorgeous photos and boy does this look tasty.

  • david, this sounds and looks (gorgeous colours) delectable! i’m sending a link to my father in hopes he’ll deviate from his usual dried fruit compote for Passover and make this instead.

  • Thanks, David – I’ve never known what to do with a kumquat

  • I can’t find kumquats anywhere. I am dying for some.

  • I never would have thought about kumquats with prunes, but now that I read it (and see it on your gorgeous pics !), it seems obvious.
    I must say that I’m not as fond at prunes as I am at kumquats, and I may end with a batch composed with 75% glazed kumquats, sans le faire exprès ou presque… :D, but I’ll certainly give a try.

    Now I’m thinking about disguised fruits with prune first, then sugared kumquat inside, then almond paste…

  • I always think of Prunes as one of those boring foods. Never heard of kumquats- must go and have a look for them. Not sure if they’ll even be available in New Zealand.

  • I spent several years near Agen, and do dearly miss being picky about how “cuits” you would like your “pruneaux” at the market. Not as much as I miss the pruneaux en Armagnac, though. :-) Now, I’ll stick ‘em in a far breton and call it good.

    Merci pour les photos supers !

  • There are lots of kumquats here too. Do you have any other recipes you like them in? Also, good timing for Passover.

  • When I was living in Paris, a friend introduced me to what is now a favorite desert: prunes soaked in Armagnac (for a few hours or days) over high quality vanilla ice cream. Heaven.

  • There are a couple of chocolatiers in the Agen region who sell pruneaux d’Agen dipped in dark chocolate. Oh, be still my beating heart — they are to DIE for.

    Kids love pruneaux d’Agen, too – only problem is keeping them from gorging themselves — because, well, they are PRUNES.

    I’ll see if I find kumquats again this week — this sounds really nice (maybe with some vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche, too).

  • I’ve always loved prunes – even as a kid. Never understood why so many Americans have an aversion to them, especially since most people I talk to have never even tried one! My mom used to make a delicious pork roast with prunes. The flavors go really well together. Looking forward to giving your recipe a try.

  • I woke up to news about the annual baguette competition, and now I see this and am overcome with a craving for prune and armagnac ice cream. Sigh. I cannot get back to that country fast enough.

  • Beautiful photos! However, it is hard to find kumquats …

  • Thrasso and I had a delightful poached prune and vanilla ice cream dessert (with a hefty snort of Armagnac compliments of the big, burly proprietor) at A la Biche au Bois after our afternoon of wine and gossiping with you last Spring. It was the first thing I thought of when reading your post.

    Where I grew up, there was a kumquat tree in our neighbor’s yard that hung over the wall and dropped its fruit into ours. We never knew what to do with them back then. The dogs would investigate, chew a bit, then spit them out with no appreciation for their exotic tanginess whatsoever. Sadly, the rest of us followed suit.

    Oh, what I wouldn’t give to live in a place where kumquats, loquats, pineapple guavas, and apricots just fell from the sky like mana again.

    Cheers,

    Michael

  • i think prunes just sounds uglier in english than it does in french. that long ugly U.

    not to take this comment into a fifth grade place but aren’t pruneaux also a slangy way to say, ah…shit? appropriate enough i guess…

  • As a child my mother would serve poached prunes with rice custard. Seriously good. David your prunes look amazing. I have never seen ones that look so juicy.

  • This brings back memories! I grew up in southeast Texas, near the Louisiana state line, and had an aunt with a kumquat tree in her front yard. As kids we used to stand next to the tree and gorge ourselves when the fruit was ripe, eating them rind and all (the rind was actually the best part). I’ve never known what else to do with them.
    Beautiful photos, as always.

  • I’ve been “importing” my own pruneaux d’Agen to the US after every trip I take to France, just like you import pecans!
    Luckily in NYC you can find them in some specialty stores, such as Dean & Delucca or in bulk at Fairway, but they never taste as good as the ones bought in France.

  • Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to like kumquats. Prunes, on the other hand, have always been a part of my life. This will be wonderful to make for my prune-loving mum, too – thanks!

  • Wow, this sounds absolutely delicious! In the odd chance that I win the ‘White on Rice Couple’ giveaway, I’ll know just what to do with the kumquats!!! (http://www.whiteonricecouple.com/markets/citrus-fruit/)

  • I love prunes, and this looks wonderful. However, I think it would be a hard sell if I tried to serve it for a dinner party. It’s odd how scary and/or funny prunes are to many Americans.

  • I adore poached prunes. Your photo of these glossy prunes makes me want to make them.

  • I agree the photos are lovely, with the kumquats sliced in little rondelles! Thanks!
    I’m sure this combo can be incorporated into charoset for Passover.Somebody let us know how it turns out!

  • Mmmm, I love prunes and happen to have half a packet in the fridge! No cumquats handy though – wrong season here in Aus!
    Might just have to make do with the poached prunes and some creamed rice – blissful comfort food!

  • I love prunes! I hardly ever take the time to poach them, I eat them dried right out of the bag. Another amazing recipe with prunes is Dorie’s Far Breton – a regular Sunday dinner dessert in our household. Thanks for the recipe David and as always I love your photos.

  • This looks divine!

    Speaking of Passover, my five year old asked me today to be sure to make chocolate caramel matzoh crunch like last year as, she informed me, it is the ONLY way she likes it. I guess you made an impression (and yes, it is on the menu) ….

  • Thank you for the recipe. I had just bought kumquats a day ago and, although I like just snacking on the things, I started looking for some recipes I could use them with. (Today they were just simply added to a salad.)

  • Kumquat is rather a new year citrus in my country. Very interesting to imagine the taste with prunes!

  • Only you could make prunes look this appetizing, David! Thanks for helping me see a stereotype-laden food in a new way!

  • I love poached or stewed prunes and the idea of adding ruby port to the poaching liquid is brilliant. I make a fruit soup with prunes, raisins and apricots that I will add in a splash of port next time I make it. What a great tip!

  • If your dinner guests will cringe at the idea of prunes, you can always serve them “dried plums”!

    The California Dried Plum Board (formerly The California Prune Board) has been attempting to rebrand prunes as dried plums since 2000. They even got FDA approval…

    According to their website: “Research conducted in the U.S. showed that our target audience, women ages 25 to 54, responded more favorably to the name dried plums. It is also more descriptive for people who don’t know that prunes are fresh plums that have been dried. Outside the U.S., the product is still called prunes.” (www.californiadriedplums.org)

    Hmm, I’m an American woman in the target age range, but I haven’t made the linguistic switch…

  • The kumquats look like sliced jalapenos to me! So cute!

  • What gorgeous pictures, David! I tried kumquats for the first time when I was in California last year and have been a fan ever since!

  • i admit that i am not a big fan of either fruit, however, the color contrast so bright & winning, has seduced me into trying them!

  • Mmm, this looks beautiful!

    Both prunes and kumquats bring back memories of summers in France. I remember visiting the Musée du Pruneau near Agen when I was little and falling in love with chocolate covered prunes (they kept me quiet while my parents toured vineyards and armagnac houses!) And, more recently, while renting a gîte in Corsica the landlady delivered homegrown/made kumquat marmalade – delicious spread on bread for goûter. I think I’ll have to try this for nostalgia’s sake.

  • I grew up in Santa Clara Valley back when there were still orchards that had not been turned into housing developments and office parks, and my grandfather grew kumquats and prune plums grew… well… everywhere. I like them very much dried but oh the fresh ones are so delectable too. I also used to eat immature almonds as a child since there were almond trees everywhere and the young seeds have a fascinating jelly-like consistency inside their fuzzy green casings. There were also remnant wine grapes for my foraging.

    I’ve never specifically combined prunes and kumquats before and now I really must.

  • When I was little, my mother used to stew prunes for my dad who loved them – and shared them with me. I have a bag of prunes waiting to be used in your recipe this afternoon. Thanks for the memories!

  • I love prunes! Have you ever tried poaching them in tea? I use a spiced Indian tea mix that I love, but which gives me indigestion if I drink it plain, but it’s perfect for poaching prunes and other dried fruits in!

    Oranges sliced horizontally with the skin left on work very well with prunes, too.

    And I once made a prune and armagnac parfait that was seriously heaven!

  • I love prunes — eat them all the time!

  • mmm, I LOVE prunes! I usually just do a lazy plain ol’ stewed prunes but this sounds like something special. My neighbors toddler loves to drink the prune juice so much she almost hyperventilates trying to suck down spoonfuls!

  • i really don’t understand why prunes get such a bad rap here. sweet, tender, complex, wonderful, if you ask me. love the addition of port in this recipe and can’t wait to get my hands on some quality prunes and try it.

  • I made this last night, except I couldn’t find kumquats so sliced up some blood oranges instead. Probably not the same, but successful. Having the rest tonight.

  • Is it weird that I might just like this better than the banana ice cream? And I was drooling all over the keyboard on that one. This sounds amazing. Port wine? Cinnamon? So simple, but sooo yum.

  • Prunes are my favourite dried fruit ever…they’re delicious, I really don’t get why people wrinkle their noses and shake their heads whenever they see a prune. I’ve been known to eat whole bags of them, the soft, silky smooth, sticky semi-dried ones, straight from the bag. With uh. Interesting side effects. Definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I love them so much, I don’t know what I would do if presented with a bowlful of sweet, spicy, boozy ones. It wouldn’t be pretty.

  • *giggle* @ The Paris Food Blague up there. She’s so funny. :) Also, “kumquat” will forever be a word that can make me laugh, instantly and hard. *snicker*

    Be careful how many you eat (I see Vidya knows about that), but enjoy!

    The photos are magnificent! To think that the humble prune and the ridiculous-sounding but gorgeous kumquat can photograph so well! You are becoming as good of a photographer as you are a chef, m’dear David. Kudos to you.

  • Prunes are now being packaged like candy here in the US. If you look in the dried fruit sections, you will find bags of individually wrapped prunes. I guess prunes have come a long way since the days my Mom would serve stewed prunes for breakfast. I loved them, my brother and sister, not so much.

  • There are times when I need to come up with a dessert that is both dairy and gluten-free. What an inspiration this is, especially as I am also a fan of pruneaux.

  • This looks delicious! I always have prunes in my pantry and I just bought kumquats. A question for you, though – do you think substituting water for the port (yummy, but I can’t have it just now – and for the next six months) makes a significant difference in the flavor of the dish?

    Thanks! I love reading everything here, David.

  • That looks so yummy– I adore prunes, and I’m not afraid to admit it!

    Perfect timing, too, because I just bought a bunch of kumquats without knowing what I’d do with them. Now I know!

  • I’m with Jessica: this would be great to serve on Passover.

  • Beautiful photos.

    I don’t know why we give prunes such a bad wrap in the US. They taste just like candy.

  • My mother-in-law used to make something very similar. She used lemons and walnuts with the prunes. I wasn’t a fan of poached fruit until I tasted that. It was really wonderful. I don’t see kumquats too often. I did try them once and they had the same kind of tartness in a very compact “container”. They could be the tart to the prunes’ sweetness. Sounds good—and very healthy!!

  • Just a quick question. I’ve simmered my lovely prunes, but am I to store them with or without their liquids?

  • Fabulous mix of tastes. Would love to try that.

  • Yes, I store them in the syrup. That allows them more time to steep and absorb the taste.

  • Even prunes look better in France! Now, why is that?

  • Delicious! I stored them in the syrup and even threw the lemon slice in along with the prunes. I just served it over some wonderfully creamy, thick greek yogurt and ate it for breakfast but it felt like dessert. Thanks for a great recipe!!

  • Being in the midst of cooking for the seder tomorrow, my sister and I are knee-deep in dried fruits. The brisket gets cooked in wine and prunes, apricots & raisins and sweet potatoes and carrots flavored with a touch of allspice and orange zest and some beef stock cooked way down from neck bones, marrow bones and then flavored with red wine and shallots, cooked down again and then added to the brisket. The prunes add enormous depth of flavor. I also have a great prune bread recipe with prune butter and prune juice and walnuts (not for passover) but moist and yummy, Yet if I tell people it’s prune bread they’re not interested. If they taste first, they love it. Prunes with citrus are a great combo, but I wouldn’t have thought about kumquats since don’t really see them very often. When I get to France this summer, I’ll seek out the French version of dried prunes. Our passover compote has all the fruits plus dried white peaches and dried mango macerated in peach brandy then cooked down with honey and a cinnamon stick and this year I threw in a little leftover raspberry puree. Super! Thanks, David.

  • i’ve looked many places, but can’t find kumquats right now in in nyc. does anyone have a helpful hint? and david, if i end up using oranges, would you glaze those, too?

  • I don’t cook oranges because it can make them bitter, so I prefer to use the segments fresh, just as is.

  • I never see kumquats here… I think i need to look harder!!

  • I made this (and your caramelized chocolate covered matzoh) for a Passover dessert. I added a sprig of Rosemary into the liquid while cooking the kumquats. Turned out to be a very nice variation!

  • Yum! I love kumquats, especially when I get to take home a giant, free bag of them from my boyfriend’s aunt’s tree. I hadn’t thought of pairing them with prunes – great idea!. But I did recently candy some sliced kumquats, which I later used as a topping on an olive oil cake (along with some of your candied ginger!).

  • Ruby port and kumquats? YES!!!! I love this combo and would not have thought of it myself. Thanks for the great idea.

  • David, you are my hero in so many ways! I came to love poached prunes after trying Suzanne Goin’s recipe from the Lucques cookbook, which steeps them in black tea and honey – so succulent, creamy and not too sweet. Port sounds equally delish! I love the photos in this post, esp. the shot of the kumquats in that yellow bowl. Gorgeous, and so pro! Although I was traumatized by kumquats when I worked at Petite Patisserie (in San Francisco, on Potrero Hill) and had to slice, seed and candy 5 pounds of the seediest kumquats in existence (it took almost my whole shift, and all my willpower not to turn that little paring knife on myself to put me out of my misery), maybe I’ll be able to move beyond that painful memory and try this here recipe. Which looks amazing. Thank you!

  • Pruneaux d’Agen!!!!
    I can eat them like candy…I don’t think they’d make it into the pot-so irresistible.
    Reminds me of The Beard Awards one year – D’Artagnon was the only provider of snacks at the beginning of the show – prunes stuffed with foie gras.
    Everyone was grabbing and stuffing themselves in dire hunger.
    One does not like to think about the after-effects of this gluttony…ahem

  • I’ve been obsessed with prunes and just bought a huge bag of them. I’ll have to try this recipe tonight! Thanks David :)

  • I love prunes and think they’ve just gotten a bad reputation. I’m also a huge fan of kumquats so will have to give them a try!

  • Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to like kumquats. Prunes, on the other hand, have always been a part of my life. This will be wonderful to make for my prune-loving mum, too – thanks!

  • I made this with oranges last night and it was delicious!